Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Healthy Motivation

Last week I went to the McCarthys' Core Protocols Boot Camp, described by fellow camper Vennessa Miemis in How do we Form Tribes of Greatness?   The experience is designed to teach us to work more effectively in teams. I have to admit that shedding some of my cultural baggage has required quite a few mental reboots--waking up every day with new insight. The question of the day: what is healthy motivation?

The Rescue Anti-Pattern
According to the Core Protocols Boot Camp Manual, a rescue is "when you jump in to help someone who has not asked for it...typically to prevent yourself from feeling discomfort." Coming to the rescue hurts people because they don't get to control when & how they get help, and they don't get to learn from their own mistakes. A rescue may also harm someone by distracting from the negative feelings/grieving that must be done before moving on. All this got me thinking about why we reach out to one another, and how to stay productive.

What is Healthy?
When something we do causes collateral damage, digs us deeper into debt, or is otherwise unsustainable, it is unhealthy. So healthy work must be balanced against long-term effects. As we learn from programming, sometimes what seems like healthy coding practice today still incurs technical debt. We learn from this debt and improve our coding practices. I figure the same must apply to team communication, where unstated resentment or hurt can accrue to the point of explosive drama. Next time you are hurt by someone's words, what would happen if you did an Intention Check to air all the assumptions behind the words? Keeping healthy communication is probably the most important thing we can do in our teamwork. According to Dave Logan in Tribal Leadership, simply changing  our language can move our collaboration to the next level.

Keeping Team Communication Clean
One of the boot camp rules is to keep our emotional communication in check with what we're saying verbally. So when strong feelings come up, we call it out by saying some combination of "I'm feeling MAD/SAD/GLAD/AFRAID". This may be followed by an explanation of why, if desired. Combined with the Perfection Game and the Investigate protocols, we have a complement of rules that keep all our interactions positive, supportive, and productive. There is no permission for judging--instead we help our colleagues get to an answer quicker by becoming collaborators or co-conspirators.

Intrinsic Motivation
Individuals and teams do better work when it is based on intrinsic motivation, and key hygiene factors in support of "autonomy, mastery, and purpose" can make or break a team. What I'm wondering now is whether there's another layer to this--if intrinsic motivation can be broken into healthy and unhealthy categories.  As described by Jim Collins in Good to Great, long-term motivation requires a noble cause. This is some statement about sustainability... I think it's a clue about how to make motivation healthy.

Healthy Motivation

So how do we keep our motivation healthy? Can we ask where the drive comes from? If we're in pain, and we move to reduce that pain, is it sustainable? Or if we're curious, is that sustainable?  Today I'm thinking that pain is fleeting, while curiosity (and love) are durable. Anything that keeps us in the mode of energized work, joy, play, exploration, transparency, and acceptance seems healthy to me. Do you agree?


Rachel Page said...

This happens to me a lot. I usually say I couldn't help overhearing -- you're having a problem with X? I think I can help with that if you like." Usually they say yes.

D. André Dhondt said...

As long as they are comfortable saying no, then this strategy works well. Sometimes, as David Maister says in the Trusted Advisor, we have to work a bit harder to give people an out, for example--do you want a hand with that, or do you already have a hunch about the solution?