During a recent Leadership programme run as part of a certified Management Development programme, a delegate and I discussed the fact that his children, who were boys of 7 and 6, were obsessed with computer games. They preferred to be in their bedrooms zapping aliens and enemies rather than being outside ‘playing’ in the garden.
Despite repeated pleas, entreaties, threats and bribes, the sons would reappear from outside claiming that they had ‘played outside, now can we play properly on the computer’ after about 5 minutes…!
The delegate decided to deploy a new strategy. He bought a few packs of traditional toy soldiers, toy tanks and vehicles and set out two armies in the long grass in the garden. He then played with the boys for 30 minutes with the armies, fighting skirmishing and blowing things up. 4 hours later they appeared from the garden looking for food after which they vanished for another few hours to be cleaned up…..!
With a sudden realisation he had linked a leadership ‘point of view’, innovation and strategy to generate a different outcome. At the heart of the problem he realised that the boys needed to be taught ‘how to play’ using their imaginations – when they were playing, they were then totally engaged in the task and no threats or rewards were necessary to get them to engage further.
Linking these ideas to a work context and building on the ideas of Daniel Pink, intrinsic motivation is stimulated by the idea of the reward gained from doing a good job – having fun simply completing tasks, sometimes in a novel way which stimulates imagination and creativity.
The nature of management process can lead to over measuring inputs and outputs and then rewarding on that achievement which means that routine tasks are no longer fun – and therefore need increased reward and punishment options to drive performance.
There is increasing evidence that reward and punishment strategies incorrectly applied cost more than relying on intrinsic motivation – and deliver reduced outputs….!
Perhaps we need to think less about reward and punishment at work. Perhaps we should let people have fun – play a little – let them get the job done at the right standard, but in a way which allows them to engage their intellect and passion and reduce the need for extrinsic motivators. Perhaps people need to be taught ‘how’ to play at work. Perhaps that’s part of the role of a real leader….?
On a final note, the delegate tells me that his boys now spend 50% of their free time simply playing – having fun and using their imaginations – he believes this makes them happier, healthier and is equipping them with life skills in building attention and solving problems. It would be a shame if this were then destroyed when they get to work……??
We at QED believe that being a good leader is about learning and deploying a complex range of tools and tactics from personal awareness and resilience to the ability to create and govern a performance culture.
We also believe that leadership is grounded in reality – recent programmes have delivered revenue gains of over 85%, reduced attrition of key people and optimised performance leading to significant shifts in both employee and customer satisfaction.
Why not think again about leadership and talk to us about how we can help you…?
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