Shift to “Get to”

I’ve been curious about what motivates people for a long time.  As such, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out ways to establish the conditions by which team members are inspired.  Incorporating opportunities for team members to link their purpose to their work, providing a degree of autonomy over how they work, and giving them voice are a few strategies that I’ve used.

I don’t want to abandon these strategies.  However, as we near the start of a new year, one of my resolutions is to look for new ways to help others shift their mindset about their tasks, obligations, and responsibilities.  Let me explain.

As is usually the case, the best place for me to start is to look inward.

There are all kinds of obligations written on my calendar and even some just floating around in my head–attending meetings, preparing reports, planning events, and difficult conversations.  I suspect we all have these things on our plate.  And it is easy to fall into the trap thinking these are all things I “have” to do.  

The problem with that line of thinking is that it implies I am not in control, or that I am fulfilling someone else’s expectations of me. That may be the case at times, but it shouldn’t be most of the time.  The key is taking ownership over my attitude, and making a conscious effort to shift my mindset from “have to” to “get to.” 

I don’t have to go to that meeting.  I get to be part of a decision-making process. I get to learn and connect with colleagues. I get to use my unique skills and interests to make a difference. 

Get the idea?  It’s a simple paradigm flip that has a huge effect on whether my motivation is extrinsic or intrinsic.

I started by describing how this affects me because I don’t think it’s possible to help others shift their thinking until they do it themself.  However, once that is done, there are two simple things all of us can do when working with our team:

  1. Frame requests for time as requests to help solve a problem, share an opinion, or utilize a skill to benefit the team.  Instead of “I need you to attend a meeting to talk about [insert topic],” approach it as “I really need your opinion on [insert topic].”
  1. Ask others to be involved in projects and tasks because of the value they add.  Instead of “I need you to develop a proposal for [insert the what],” try “I know you’re passionate about [insert the what], and could really use your help on this project.”

Some people might say that this is just semantics and that in life, sometimes we just have to deal with things about which we might not be personally motivated. However, machines are lubricated, instruments are tuned, and tools are sharpened. I would argue that the same care should be given to the people who drive organizations, and that doing so is something we get to do in order to be part of something that is larger or more important than ourselves.

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