Getting the best out of people – thoughts from Riverford founder, Guy Watson

The best thing about getting a weekly vegetable box delivery from Riverford – aside from the yummy fresh organic veggies of course – is the short letter included in the box from founder Guy Watson. This week, writing in response to the General Election result in the UK, he shares some thoughts on motivation and management and hits the nail on the head in his usual eloquent style:

What I find so depressing about modern post-Thatcherite Conservatism (and only marginally less so about post-Blairite Labour) is the apparent ubiquitous cynical belief that appealing to personal greed is the only way to get anything done… In the real world, where businesses have to compete by getting the best out of people, it has largely been abandoned as a piece of failed, ideologically driven dogma.

… Ultimately we all want to feel good about ourselves and at work this falls broadly into three areas: feeling we are learning and getting better at stuff, feeling some control over our lives and feeling a sense of purpose. To believe that ‘carrot and stick’ management is why a nurse will care for a patient, a parole officer will struggle to support a young offender or why a programmer would write exceptional code is crass to the point of incredulity.

I couldn’t agree more. My only hope is that more and more businesses, and leaders and workers within them, wake up to this realisation and we can build a better society that way, nevermind who is in government.

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What is the point?

Ever have one of those days when your work seems to be utterly meaningless? Believe me, I’ve been through spates of those, caused by a myriad of reasons. But what to do when that feeling strikes? Isn’t it just the worse feeling when for one reason or another you’re sitting at work thinking ‘why am I here?’

Here’s a reminder of the importance of PURPOSE in motivation, a  video condensing Daniel Pink‘s book on motivational theory Drive down to a 10-minute animation.

I hope it provides some inspiration! If you’re a manager or supervise another, it may surprise you to know that you can have a lot of influence over how motivated your staff are, just by providing or encouraging a sense of purpose in your team. For the rest of us the question remains over how you can find purpose yourself in your work?

How do you motivate yourself when it all seems a bit meaningless?

Meaning in Work

Here’s a wonderfully interesting TED talk from Dan Ariely, Behavioural Economist, on ‘What makes us feel good about our work?’. He explains various experiments that reveal a lot about what motivates us to work, and our need to find meaning and a sense of purpose in what we do.

I can relate to examples he gives about when work becomes demotivating; when we cannot find a reason why we are being asked to do certain tasks, or when our efforts seem futile or go unacknowledged.

The good news for managers and business leaders in the evidence he presents is that motivating people requires some very simple tools: things such as recognition and acknowledgement. Most of us just want to know that our work has meaning, and that need shouldn’t be underestimated.