The posting below looks at several motivational theories as they apply in educational settings. It is from Chapter 6: Motivation, in the book, Educational Leadership Simplified: A guide for existing and aspiring leaders, by Bob Bates and Andy Bailey. Published by SAGE Publications Ltd, 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1SP. Copyright © 2018 Sage Publishing. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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Education Leadership - Motivation
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, ‘leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it’. While we’re on the theme of great American generals, how about George S. Patton’s belief that you ‘Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results’. What enlightened leaders realise is that people are motivated by their own needs, expectations and interests but that they still have overarching tendencies and values that impact on their motivation to do things. Tapping into these values and knowing what they want and how they expect to be treated is what managers need to do to motivate their staff.
There are some really fascinating studies of motivation. We have chosen a theory that relates to motivation as a force that satisfies people’s needs and two that examine how the way in which we treat people will motivate or demotivate them.
Arguably, the most influential and often used theory relating to motivation is Abraham Maslow’s(1987) hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s theory is usually presented in the form of a pyramid or series of steps that represents needs that must be satisfied in a sequential order from bottom to top (see Figure 6.1). He suggests that failing to satisfy a need at any level will prevent progression through to the next level.
The needs can be summarized as:
Physiological: These are basic to our individual and collective survival – food, water, warmth, rest.
Psychological: What we need to feel free from fear, to have certainty, stability and organisation.
Affiliation: To be a part of a relationship and to have a sense of belonging, affection and love.
Self-esteem: Self-belief generated through achievement, reputation and the respect of others.
Fulfillment: Reaching full potential.
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Physiological Psychological Affiliation Self-Esteem Fulfillment
Figure 6.1 The hierarchy of needs model
The needs are divided into two categories: basic needs (physiological and psychological) and growth needs (affiliation, self-esteem and fulfillment). Maslow argues that we die if we fail to satisfy our basic needs, we feel inferior if our affiliation and esteem needs are unfulfilled, whereas self-fulfillment is our ultimate goal.
As a team leader you have a responsibility to ensure that your team’s basic needs are met and to create a proper climate in which they can develop their full potential although establishing conditions to make this achievable may be challenging. Your responsibilities here are clear: make sure your team’s basic needs are being met. These are broadly good working conditions and a safe working environment within the team, free from physical and psychological harm. Make sure that the school is an attractive place to work in and that heating, lighting and ventilation in classrooms meet the required standards. Compare working conditions with what goes on in other schools. If team members aren’t dropping around you like flies or leaving in droves to join another school, then you can start working on satisfying some of their higher level needs. Start by encouraging social interaction and team spirit.
People are now feeling happy and content with life in your school. They are well-thought of members of a family with a good sense of security and belonging. Now comes the difficult bit. This is where you build up their self-esteem by designing challenging but meaningful tasks, giving positive feedback and praise, delegating responsibility and offering developmental training opportunities. Contentment now becomes excitement as people start to feel valued.
By now the model is nearly complete but putting the final touches to it may be beyond even the best of leaders. You can take people so far to reaching self-fulfillment by providing challenges and encouraging creativity but the motivation to get there may require a super-human effort. Both of us have known people who got within a whisker of reaching self-fulfillment only to self-destruct, and others that got there without realising it.
It is important that you realise that the final step depends on the individual’s desire to want to get there and whether the environment in which they operate supports or hinders them. All you can do is make sure the foundations are solid enough to help them reach the peak. Without Sir John Hunt’s meticulous planning and management, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay may not have had physical or mental strength to have carved a place in history.
Few would have disagreed that Maggie was the very effective leader of a successful school. Her nurturing development of staff was recognised in her school’s last two ‘good’ Ofsted judgements. Staff, parents and pupils liked and respected her and morale was high. Now was the time Maggie felt to move the school up to the next level. Unfortunately, due to a mixture of over-expectation, misjudgment and bad luck this never happened. Rather the reverse occurred, threatening much of what had been accomplished.
In many respects Maggie was a victim of her past success. In taking staff to the level that she had, it had stretched some to their very limits. Consequently, higher expectations and increased demands proved too much for some. Two hard-working teachers simply did not have the skill-set to cope with additional demands. One integral middle manager could not balance increasing family commitments with increased responsibility, whilst Tom the assistant headteacher was going through a ‘messy’ separation from his partner.
Not long into ‘the great push forward’ cracks began to appear in morale and Maggie herself was aware that relationships with some staff were becoming more emotional and surprisingly on occasions even confrontational. Staff absence which used to be minimal began to become an issue and two long-term absences, one ending in a resignation, led to inconsistencies in teaching, resulting in dips in pupil achievement and behaviour and eventually a fall-off in parent satisfaction.
Maggie had the good sense to take stock and reflect on the evolving situation. She was able to draw upon the store of goodwill and respect that she had built over previous years to adjust course, trim demands and stabilise the school before the damage became permanent.
Hot Tip: Don’t think about your staff members’ growth needs until you have satisfied their basic needs.
Motivating staff is simple to achieve but many leaders fail. This is because they think that it is their responsibility to constantly motivate staff when in fact all they have to do is create the environment in which staff can motivate themselves.
Frederick Herzberg et al. (2011) identified two groups of factors that cause either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. He called these motivators (job content) factors and hygiene (organisational context) factors.
Motivators are generally concerned with the content of the job or nature of the work performed. In order to feel fulfilled, employees need to believe that their work has meaning. Motivational factors include: achievement, advancement, recognition and responsibility.
Hygiene factors are usually associated with the context or environment in which the work is carried out. In order to feel content, but not necessarily fulfilled, the employee needs to be satisfied with general working conditions. Hygiene factors include: pay, company policy, status and security.
Herzberg refers to some of the erroneous beliefs that some organisations have about what motivates their employees as KITAs (kicks in the ass). These are defined as: negative physical KITAs (the literal kick up the backside); negative psychological KITAs (emotional games and manipulations) and positive KITAs (bonuses, pay increases, promotion). Herzberg argues that regardless of how good the KITAs were they will not on their own generate positive motivation. If they drop below an acceptable level, however, they will be the cause of demotivation.
If you want to give Herzberg’s idea a chance, try the following:
· Make your staff’s work interesting for them. Redistribute what may be considered the more mundane tasks between members of staff and impress on them the importance of their job to the organisation’s overall performance.
· Give each member of staff the necessary resources and training to complete their job effectively. Make it clear that they are responsible for the quality of their work within their designated area of responsibility in the delivery and accomplishment of the school improvement plan, then give them the authority and autonomy to get on with it. Do this and they will see work as their responsibility and not something they have to do for the boss.
· Set challenging but realistic tasks which will give them a feeling of achievement and then recognise this publicly. Simply saying ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ within earshot of as many staff as possible will do wonders for commitment and productivity.
· Provide opportunities for advancement and personal development for all staff. Promote from within the organisation whenever possible but remember that providing a new challenge or more interesting tasks can be just as strong a motivator as increasing pay or promotion.
· Although Hertzberg argues that factors such as pay and working conditions are not the main motivational factors, if they are unacceptable they can be serious demotivators. Compare working conditions and pay scales with other schools and ensure yours are comparable.
· Maintain good communications with staff and listen to what ideas they may have about their work.
As the time for Jim to transfer to his ‘new’ school came ever closer, he began to fret about whether he had done the right thing in leaving the safety of a ‘comfortable’ if rather modestly performing school. The move would give him the first taste of middle leadership, but at what cost? His ‘new’ school had a history of poor performance, not to say ‘difficult’ pupils and parents. Would he be forsaking the enjoyment he had in his job?
As it turned out he need not have worried. Despite a tricky transitional first term of adjustment Jim could look back a year into the ‘new’ job with a considerable degree of satisfaction. It was a fact that some of his fears were realised; for example, the pupils did provide an additional degree of challenge to those he previously had to deal with. However, the additional commitment which it had been necessary to make was more than rewarded by the satisfaction that he felt from his new job. Like other staff, he was given a considerable degree of responsibility and though parameters and targets were always clear, the degree of autonomy allowed appealed to his creativity.
Jim had been challenged way beyond what had previously been asked of him but the buzz that he felt with the sense of achievement, not to mention the recognition from senior leaders, had added greatly to his sense of job satisfaction.
Hot Tip: Motivation is not always about pay and working conditions, very often it is about enrichment and fulfillment.
It is useful to have an understanding of the impact of Herzberg’s KITAs. Equally important is the perception that you have of your team’s motivation and what management style you adopt in dealing with this.
Douglas McGregor’s (2006) Theory X and Theory Y sets out theories by which managers perceive employee motivation. Each theory represents an extreme form of behaviour and can be summarised as the following:
Theory X suggests that most people:
· are driven by monetary concerns;
· will avoid work whenever possible;
· lack ambition and dislike responsibility;
· are self-centered and indifferent to organisational needs;
· have little aptitude for creativity and are resistant to change.
Theory Y suggests that most people:
· are driven by job satisfaction;
· actively seek work;
· show ambition and thrive on responsibility;
· are committed to achieving organisational objectives;
· have the capacity for creativity and welcome change.
McGregor proposed that all management practices stem from managers’ perceptions of the basic nature of their team, thus creating Theory X and Theory Y managers. For example, a Theory X manager who believes employees will avoid work whenever possible will attempt to exercise control through close supervision, demands for strict adherence to rules and threats of punishment. A Theory Y manager, however, who believes employees actively seek work will create an environment where effort is recognised and rewarded.
Assuming that Theory Y managers are the ideal and that there is no place for Theory X managers is wrong. It sounds perfect being a Theory Y manager with Theory Y employees but let’s be honest, this is the real world and we may have to deal with people whose motivation to work is purely to earn as much money as they can for as little effort as possible.
Under Theory X you can adopt either a hard or a soft approach to management. If you choose a hard approach then it will essentially be a command and control environment where you rely on coercion, implicit threats and tight supervision. If you choose a soft approach then cooperation, rewards and relaxed working conditions become the preferred working practices.
The optimal approach probably lies somewhere between ‘command and control’ and ‘cooperation and collaboration’. Be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances if necessary, but be consistent in how you deal with people. Don’t be the sort of manager who has one rule for one and another rule for another – this will get you into all sorts of trouble.
If Theory Y holds true then management becomes easier – wrong! If anything, managing becomes more challenging because you now have to deal with people with higher-level needs such as esteem and self-actualisation. In these circumstances use the employee’s needs for fulfillment as the motivator by broadening the scope of their work, giving them added responsibility and involving them in decision-making. Foster creativity and ingenuity in Theory Y employees and delegate responsibility to them, but make sure they keep their feet on the ground as too much ambition and drive can be damaging to you and the organisation
Hot Tip: How you come over as a manager and react to your staff will have a massive impact on motivating them.
The final word on motivation:
· Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want because they want to do it.
· Don’t think about your staff members’ growth needs until you have satisfied their basic needs.
· Motivation is not always about pay and working conditions, very often it is about enrichment and fulfillment.
· How you come over as a manager and react to your staff will have a massive impact on motivating them.
· Make your staff’s work interesting for them.
· Give each member of staff the necessary resources and training to complete their job effectively.
· Make it clear that they are responsible for the quality of their work within their designated area of responsibility then give them the authority and autonomy to get on with it.
· Set challenging but realistic tasks which will give them a feeling of achievement and then recognise this publicly.
· Simply saying ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ within earshot of as many staff as possible will do wonders for commitment and productivity.
· Provide opportunities for advancement and personal development for all staff.
· Increased pay, promotion and improved working conditions on their own are not motivating factors.
· Although factors such as pay and working conditions are not the main motivational factors, if they are unacceptable they can be serious demotivators.
· Maintain good communications with staff and listen to what ideas they may have about their work.
· Progression to self-fulfillment depends on a stable foundation where lower-level needs are satisfied.
· Find out what makes people tick and develop strategies to get the best out of them.
· Motivating employees to achieve the best results for your organisation is about finding the right balance between command, control and cooperation.
· Motivation is all about matching effort to results, promising to reward people for the effort they make and never breaking your promises.
Herzberg, F., Mausner, B. and Snyderman, B. B. (2011) Organization and
Business – Vol. 1: The Motivation to Work. New York: Transaction.
Maslow, A. H. (1987) Motivation and Personality (3rd ed). New York:
McGregor, D. (2006) The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.