Personal motivation, teamwork, performance reviews…oh my! This week’s articles discuss what we can do about them to make magic at work.

1. Progress Is a Greater Motivation Than Money

On Lifehacker, Adam Dachis discusses the results of a study which found that internal motivators – like the sense of accomplishment when you solve a problem – are more powerful than extrinsic forms of motivation, like money:

“When it comes to creative work, external motivations are just not cutting it. Money doesn’t inspire better performance. Personally, while I definitely enjoy having money, I’ve found that it’s an extremely poor motivation to do better work. When I’m not doing something I really enjoy—even in the instances where I’ve been overpaid to do it—money’s never been able to motivate me and no (realistic) amount could. Research is showing that this is actually a pretty normal reaction. (Phew!)”

Phew is right, but don’t tell your boss or you might not get that raise! Just kidding: a sense that we’re making progress can be a huge motivator and help us be better at our jobs. Given the way work works, if we’re better at our jobs we’ll likely get due recognition. So money ends up being the carrot, not the stick.

“When thinking about the work you have to do, consider thinking about the actual task, what you can learn from it, or even how you could do it better. While the worst of tasks are always going to suck no matter how much you’re paid, in some cases the right outlook and reflection might help motivate you to do better.”

You can read more about this study on the 99%. Also check out Dan Pink’s Drive for a similarly inspirational line of thinking.

2. Team Chemistry – It Can Go to Hell Quickly, Even for the Best Teams…

Can we apply this concept to a team? Would a joint or shared sense of progress help teams be great? On Fistful of Talent, Kris Dunn, advises: “Kids – mark my words. You’re going to get old, look up and realize you were once part of a great team. You didn’t know you were on a great team at the time because you were young and dumb. You thought it would always be like that. You were wrong.”

He uses a great example from sports and one from his own experience as part of an awesome HR group to outline how fragile strong teams are, suggesting three reasons why great teams may fall apart:

  1. The world changed and, as a result, the team had to change,
  2. The stars of the team got upset at each other over transgressions – real or imagined, or
  3. You were clueless to how much that team rocked, left the company and then figured it out a decade later.

While extrinsic factors may play a role in breaking up awesome teams, I agree with Dunn that often it comes down to us: “The world can mess it up (war, corporate restructuring), but more often than not, individuals make decisions based on incomplete information, emotions and other factors that collude to separate great friends – and break the teams they’re on.

This article raises an important question: what made these teams strong in the first place and why can’t that be sustained longer?

3. How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Employee

Could performance reviews be the culprit? In Talent Management, Samuel Culbert writes that: “The reality is that performance reviews keep employees from addressing their weaknesses. They prevent them from developing their talents, and they inhibit them from growing as employees.”

Culbert argues that performance reviews put bosses in the unfortunate position of being “fault finders:” “It’s a one-side-accountable monologue: The boss tells the subordinate what he or she is doing wrong. And if the subordinate disagrees, he or she is labeled as defensive, uncooperative or unwilling to learn.”

Frustrate one or two people on a team and risk a domino effect, especially on tight-knit teams (which usually are the most successful). How do we get around this, and set managers and their teams up for success? Culbert offers seven tips:

  1. Make subordinates see that you understand their perspective.
  2. Show subordinates that change is important for the company.
  3. Be willing to make exceptions to the rules.
  4. Show subordinates how making changes to themselves can make a difference for their own future.
  5. Be specific.
  6. Avoid comparisons.
  7. Use “I” speak.

I’d add one more: make sure your people get feedback from each other too, and not just from you.

Photo of Team Win by marfis75 Licensed under CC.


Jesse is responsible for marketing at Rypple. Jesse was one of the early team members at Endeca where he contributed to its growth in a variety of ways, including as co-founder of the EMEA operation and head of retail industry marketing. Jesse plays piano, is an aspiring golfer, and used to play lots of baseball, including for the Canadian Junior champions. Jesse holds a BA from Harvard.