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Lab Manager Academy: Big Motivation

Are you motivated? Is everyone motivated? Yes or no? Take a look around your lab.

by Al Walker
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“I don’t know how to motivate anybody. I just know that when a person has a genuine burning passion to do something, they’ll give it all they have.” —Al Walker

Are you motivated? Is everyone motivated? Yes or no? Take a look around your lab. The truth is, you and everyone around you are motivated in one way or another. Even someone frozen in place, not doing one single solitary thing, is motivated to do just that—absolutely nothing.

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Exactly what is motivation? Where does it come from? What causes one person to be what we all call “motivated” and another person to seemingly just plod through life, doing only what needs to be done to keep their job, stay in school, maintain a marriage, etc.? What does it mean to be self-motivated (beyond the obvious) and how do we do that? Why is it that no matter what we say or do to motivate people, some folks just never seem to have the “get up and go” we would like for them to have?

I don’t know of many other words that have been as misunderstood or misused as the word “motivation.” When most people say they motivated someone, they mean they said or did something that caused that person to move forward at a little faster pace than they had been. People aren’t really motivated by what we do or say. They are motivated by what they think about what we said or did. They (we) always have a choice.

They decide, usually in a matter of seconds, that it would be in their best interest to do or not do whatever it is you want them to do.

In other words, what you said or did was simply the stimulus for them to make a decision. AND…I promise you, everyone usually makes the decision they feel is in their own best interest. So, we can say people do whatever it is they do for their reasons, not ours.

For example, we have a person in our community I’ve known since we were children. His father died when he was in his early 20s and he was an only child. He received a small annuity from a policy his dad had bought for him which was just enough to exist on…not really live, just exist. He lived with his mother until she died about five years ago and he continued to live in the house he was raised in. This person has only had two jobs in his several decades on the planet. They both lasted just a few months. He married young and his wife left him after about a year. That was when he had his first job, which he quit going to after a couple of months, yet he would get up every morning, tell his wife he was going to work, then go to a restaurant and sit there until he knew she had left for work and then he’d go back home. Once she found out, that was just one more straw that broke the camel’s back of their marriage.

His mother was a hard worker and head buyer of cosmetics in a large department store. She got him the only other job he ever had selling men’s cologne. It came with a salary, a company car and other benefits. Three months into the job, his manager walked up behind him at a college baseball game on a weekday afternoon and told him he had been following him around the past few days and was very unhappy about the lack of effort, energy and results our friend had been getting. He then told him, either go get in your car and go make some sales calls or give me the keys. Our friend, very nonchalantly pulled the keys out of his pocket, gave them to the manager and said, “I quit.”

The manager thought he’d motivate our friend to do what he wanted to do, but our friend surprised him and did instead, what he wanted to do—just get by— and he has done just that—barely gotten by—for a long, long time. Are your people just getting by?