I spend a great deal of time thinking about ways to motivate people because my position requires that I get work done through others. Fortunately, this is not difficult as it sounds because the majority of police officers come to work and do their jobs because they are service-oriented and consummate professionals.
At home, I am constantly trying to motivate my children to do better and to be better. This is a large undertaking when it comes to matters of household chores. I used to believe that it should be a quid pro quo system — that one should get something as a result of output. I’ve since changed my position and now I believe I shouldn't have to pay my kids an allowance for them to carry out basic expectations.
My original thinking was based on the premise of an occupation. If you have a job, one assumes you are compensated for that job. Food and shelter are basic human needs and in order to pay for those goods and services, we need an income. My children are provided food and shelter so paying them to contribute to the household seems like the wrong message to send. I don’t get paid to keep my house orderly. I do it because I take pride in my home and I want it to be a peaceful sanctuary. If we go through life doing things only to gain something in return, we are constantly chasing validation and we often come up empty.
When I decided to become a police officer, I didn’t consider the salary. Like most who gravitate towards service, I chose it because I wanted to do something meaningful with my life. I knew I would make enough money to meet my basic needs but there are certainly other occupations better suited for chasing a paycheck.
Those who are motivated by making more money and obtaining more things often find themselves unfulfilled in life. We tend to believe that the more money we make the happier we will be and as a result, we are always chasing an abstract idea of success. The problem with that is that we are never fulfilled. It turns out the happiest and most motivated people are those who derive meaning from their lives.
So from where does this motivation come?
Contrary to what we have always believed about a reward system, motivation doesn’t come from external places. In his book, “Drive”, Daniel Pink makes a compelling case against traditional forms of motivating others. He suggests that if you pay people enough that they aren’t thinking about money and they are thinking about work, they will concentrate on the work. This is why salary and benefits are important for security. But once those basic needs are met, Pink suggests that people are in search of three things: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy is the desire to be self-directed. We want to be able to do our jobs without someone micromanaging us.
Mastery is the itch to keep getting better at the things that matter to us.
Purpose is the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful that is bigger than ourselves.
I want our police officers to be self-directed when they do their jobs. Naturally there are expectations of them to enforce the law and keep the peace in our community but they should be able to carry out these duties with autonomy and we should be able to have faith in them that they will fulfill the mission.
As they find their niche in the department, they should never stop striving for mastery. That means that they commit themselves to constant self-improvement by feeding the desire to learn more and get better. A patrol officer has many tasks while on the street while those in specialize units have a more focused job. No matter what the position, every officer must challenge themselves to learn something new every day and move outside their comfort zone so they grow.
But I believe that a person will not feed the desire for mastery if they lack purpose. Without purpose, we are simply carrying out sisyphean tasks. Without believing that the work you do matters and that you are contributing to the greater good, you will lack the motivation to work at all; lest get better at your work.
When you are aligned with a greater purpose, work simply doesn’t feel like work. Appealing to my children by telling them that they are a part of something bigger - a family - and their contribution to the things that need to be done in our home are indicative of what it means to be a family, works better than barking orders. Instead of thinking about the things you have to do, start thinking about them in terms of the things you get to do. Changing that one word can change your outlook.
Yes, people work for a paycheck because they have to support a family and make ends meet. Receiving this compensation means that they will have to carry out tasks that are outlined in the job description. But I have learned that you can buy a person’s back but you cannot buy their heart. People will meet the expectations you set because of fear of punishment but they will meet them minimally. However, if you instill purpose within them (heart), they will exceed expectations. Always.
How we find purpose depends largely on where we look. Sometimes, other people inspire us to be better and do better. It is a gift when someone ignites a flame of inspiration and motivation within us. But more often and more realistically, it is up to us individually to find our own purpose intrinsically. When you align yourself to something bigger and when you begin to believe that what you do matters to the world, the satisfaction of doing well is its own reward and production is a natural consequence.
If you want to be motivated, look for meaning in everything you do. If you want to motivate others, inspire them to find their own meaning.