Charging up at the end of summer
I read a great article in Fortune magazine entitled How to Recharge if You’re Losing Motivation by Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, in which she contends that there are five components to staying motivated at work. At this time of year, I find myself needing a little more motivation.
Summer is my favorite season and with the calendar pages flying, it appears that summer may be over too soon, and the impending cooler, then colder weather is just on the horizon. Wet leaves, followed by frozen sidewalks and grumpy dogs who refuse to go outside in anything less than balmy weather, render me less than motivated both personally and professionally.
The personal motivation is something I know I need to work on, but the professional component of motivation was rather intriguing.
According to Blount, the academic and applied research suggests that there are five things you need to stay motivated at work. Four of these she contends are about context, the situational aspects of your work and how you leverage them to show and measure your own achievement.
The four contextual aspects of professional motivation are: The Right Mission, the Right Job, the Right Boss and the Right Team. Blount said, “These are the fundamentals—it’s that simple.” But the fifth aspect is all about you – having the Right Attitude.
Sure, she says, you need to work for an organization you believe in and where you can grow and where the mission is something you believe in. You also need to be in the right job – the right seat on the proverbial bus – so you can thrive and contribute and you need to work with and for folks who engage you and whom you trust, teammates who challenge and celebrate what you bring to the table.
As you work through these four situational issues, the other aspect of motivation is looking at yourself in the mirror. Once the four factors are in place, the job swings back to you to focus and stay motivated over time.
And that’s where the article got really interesting. Blount asserts that people who are following a leadership path and are pretty good at the first four need to pay particular attention to the fifth motivational aspect – the Right Attitude. It turns out, surprisingly, that people don’t particularly like to work with and for leaders who “look/act stressed out, self-indulgent or self-satisfied.” So Blount thinks that, “It’s up to you to make sure that you reset, renew and/or refresh your focus and energy level when you sit in the top job” or are headed that way, and she believes that there are two important types of recharging to keep you in the “Right Attitude.”
Here, I need to just quote the article from Fortune:
“The first I’ll call the micro-charge—making sure that every three months, you get three to four days where you are really away. When I do a micro-charge, I do very little email and no phone calls, if possible. Instead, I take long walks (in addition to other forms of exercise) and try to read a full book from cover to cover (no jumping around to absorb only the key facts). I relish my meals with family and friends and actually sit down to eat each one.
The second, the mission-charge, is about going the distance—the soul-searching work you need to do every two to three years to make sure that things aren’t getting rote, to make sure that you really understand your marketplace and are challenging your team to perform and deliver. This recharge requires at least a week, but two is better. I like to go to one place where I stay put—with great views, good food, and a lot of walking trails for thinking. The desert is perfect for me. The mission-charge is all about deep reflection—analyzing your performance and your organization’s, asking yourself the hard questions, and plumbing the depths of your own mind. You have to make sure that you really know what you’re thinking and feeling.”
I’m still dreading fall and the snows of winter, but I’m finding ways to look forward to “charging-up.” I’d love to hear from you and how you micro- and mission-charge your attitude.
Suzanne T. Allen