Organizations need some form of coordination of effort. Managers are typically supposed to be providing that coordination to achieve the organization’s goals. But people are not motivated the same way.

People want what they do to be meaningful and toward some purpose, albeit a noble purpose. We seek development, growth and novelty. Focusing our effort merely to achieve some goal set by management is, at best, coping. Then, in frustration leaders and managers who are somewhat out of touch decide to impose more goals, enhance the dashboard, and use this to “motivate” people. It backfires. Except for sales people who often are motivated by Need for Achievement in David McClelland’s terms, enjoy pursuing and striving toward specific goals. The down side here is that they love the game and do not typically really care what it is for, like clients. And we wonder why engagement scores for people with full time jobs in Europe in 2016 were reported as 83% were NOT engaged in their work!

Not too long ago, a survey of 1.800 European MBAs with jobs 18 months after graduating showed that salary and bonuses were the seventh reason they took the job and stayed in it. The first six reasons had to do with development, opportunities for new and innovative activities, novelty and so forth.

In a recently published study of engineers at a major international manufacturing company, we found that the perception that their peers in the project team had a shared vision (i.e., sense of purpose) accounted for 27% of the variations in the engineer’s engagement in their work. That is HUGE! Most scholars drool over a 3-5% unique variance. We know that Millennials in many countries including throughout Europe believe that it is essential that they are working toward a purpose and mostly a noble purpose.

The difficulty is that when executives emphasize numeric targets and financials, they create the impression that making money is the purpose of the organization. Everyone knows that is ridiculous. The purpose is to serve customers, innovate and contribute. Making money is the measure of how well you are doing—not the purpose. Our brains have two major neural networks, the Task Positive Network (TPN) and the Default Mode Network (DMN). The TPN enables us to solve problems, make decisions, do analysis and focus our attention. The DMN enables us to be open to a new idea, be open to other people and engage in moral concerns (i.e., is it fair and just). The dilemma is that these two networks are both necessary for management but suppress each other. So when you over emphasize financials and specific measures, you suppress people’s ability to be open to new ideas, adapt, learn and innovate as well as being open to others. The appeal here is to do BOTH. The research suggests cycling back and forth in thousandths of a second is the most effective process. But when the leadership in an organization only talks about numbers, it is difficult to change focus. Focus on the customers and their needs and you will activate the DMN!

We need to pay attention to performance management AND engagement. They need different brain networks. So we need to manage them differently. We need to have performance to coordinated targets. But we also want the whole person to show up at work, not just their unengaged body!

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