VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
“Work work work work work somethinggottawork work work work work.” Those might not be the exact lyrics to Rihanna’s latest hit, but you get the point. The Air Force has plenty of work to go around, and every day we must find ways to keep Airmen moving, planes in the air, and rockets in the sky.
If we were a private corporation, we might rely on the traditional strategy of commission based rewards to keep Airmen on the grind. I’m sure some of my A1C’s would appreciate some extra side cash, right?
What if I told you that there’s another way to motivate? One that wouldn’t require more carrots and sticks?
I’m talking about intrinsic motivation.
Alright, LT. We understand you earned a degree at THE University Of North Carolina. But why the fancy vocabulary?
Intrinsic motivation is performance that’s driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation comes from within the individual because the task at hand is internally rewarding.
So how do you convince an A1C that their daily grind is internally fulfilling? I went to Greg Guy, the CEO of Air Force One HVAC Solutions to help break down the concept of intrinsic motivation.
“Why does an artist paint? Why does a writer write? They don’t do it to get a commission. When you add an extrinsic motivator, the performance doesn’t improve,” explains Guy.
When you implement an external motivating force, such as money, “what it creates is myopic behavior and people focus solely on what is going to drive their reward.”
Fortunately for us, the only type of commission in the Air Force is the one that puts butter bars on your shoulders. But we do have other forms of extrinsic motivation (external motivators), such as EPR bullets, quarterly awards, and kudos from our commanders.
Guy asks, “is there any opportunity to shift the thinking from individual recognition to team recognition? The power is in creating a truly authentic team.”
“The Golden State Warriors didn’t even have a coach for most of the year, and they were essentially coaching themselves. It makes the wins so much sweeter, and the losses easier to endure,” Guy explains.
So what do we focus on instead?
Goals and growth.
Any team can rally around a common adversary to defeat, or a goal to accomplish. Growth happens when a “bad guy” is defeated, or a goal is achieved. And that in itself, is intrinsically motivating.
I’m not suggesting we eliminate evaluations all together (although it would mean less paperwork for this LT), but simply adjusting the culture of a unit to shift focus. Bottom line, stress the evaluations and the rewards less, and the common challenges and goals more.
So what’s the first move to creating this “intrinsic” environment? Guy states that he would “spend time with each person to understand them and where they came from.” Then find the “common things that bond us together. Look for three or four key fundamentals we can rally around, put those up on a whiteboard, and develop our core mission as a unit. We’d document it, and commit to it.”
“In an individually incented world, you have individuals that may or may not be meeting their individual objectives,” Guy explains. “But when you have team objectives, the manager’s job becomes easier because peers hold each other accountable.”
So what does it take to form an authentic team?
“You have to have a spirit of charity, and you have to believe in the spirit of people,” says Guy. “Them wanting to serve each other. I don’t talk about the clients or money, I talk about serving each other. I come to the table to serve not to be served. And if we all come to the table with that attitude, we stay mission focused, we end up succeeding.”
When asked if he agreed that people are our most valuable resource, Guy responded with “absolutely”.
If you’d like to learn more about intrinsic motivation, look up Greg Guy’s interview with Forbes, or read the book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”. Who knows, it could be the key to getting that 100 on your next PFA.