Proactive Employees - 7 July 2009
Two decades ago Maggie Crewes, pictured left, departed the comfort and peace of Australia to live with the world’s poorest people. Her travels led her to Ethiopia where she dedicated her life to educating orphaned street kids. Amongst the extreme poverty, dirty shanty towns, and dilapidated streets, Maggie built a drop-in centre, changing forever the futures of these children.
In an interview, Maggie shared the story of Dereje, a young boy who’d been living on the streets for four months. Dereje was partially blind. He’d travelled to Addis Ababa on his own from his faraway village because his school didn’t have Braille textbooks. Dereje left for Ethiopia’s capital, a city of 4 million people, trying to find his uncle who he hoped would get the books for him.
We'll get back to Maggie and Dereje in a moment. In the meantime, there are six reasons why we achieve goals. As you read the following, think about which of these compel employees to not just be motivated, but to take initiative and be proactive.
Incentives: Employees can be stimulated to attain a goal because of the reward you provide, such as a salary, bonus, commission, gift voucher, or any other tangible prize.
Penalties: Employees can strive to meet targets out of a fear of punishment. This might be the threat of a written warning, termination, lost pay, or any negative consequence.
Honour: This is all about pride and self-worth. Employees can be driven to perform due to recognition, status, or power of which they’d be the recipients upon reaching a milestone.
Dishonour: This category incurs feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Employees desire to excel because they want to avoid looking bad in other people’s eyes.
Importance: Closely aligned to employees’ personal values, if they perceive the goal as being significant, vital, and worthwhile, then in their minds, it must be done.
Pleasure: This is when employees carry out a task for the sheer enjoyment of it. Immense joy is derived from the job’s completion and it fuels positive emotions within them.
It is the last two reasons, importance and pleasure, that get employees to do more than what’s required. These are the drivers of proactive employees. The other four causes help them to some degree, but they’re not enough to inspire ‘above and beyond’ performance.
The daring actions that Maggie and Dereje took rest in the ‘importance’ category. That’s why they were influenced to do what so few others would ever contemplate. And your employees, too, will be inclined to do more when the goals set for them are important and pleasurable, or at least, linked to other goals that are.
Astonishingly, one of Maggie’s colleagues was sitting on a bus when she struck up a conversation with a lady next to her who happened to be the neighbour of Dereje’s uncle. Within a few days, Dereje had his beloved Braille textbooks and was on his way home. Last year, he graduated from grade six. That’s the value of importance and pleasure.
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