Management MCO101 – Unit 8B – Motivation, Leadership, Groups and Teams

What Is Motivation?

In the most general of terms, motivation is the psychological feature that arouses an individual to action toward a desired goal. Motivation can also be the reason for an individual’s action or that which gives purpose and direction to behavior. In other words, motivation is an incentive that generates goal-directed behavior.

The four elements of motivation

Motivational Theory for teams

Motivation comes in many forms and what motivates one individual is not necessarily the same for others. We can consider related aspects of how effort, performance and motivation work towards goal achievement. First some definitions:

Job performance
: how well someone performs the job
Motivation: effort put forth on the job
Ability: capability to do the job
Situational Constraints: external factors affecting performance

It is important to understand how motivation differs among individuals and how these differences affect the overall drive and determination of a team toward achieving a goal and objectives.

To better understand the complexities of motivation researchers over the years have developed a number of theories to try to explain why people behave in the ways that they do and to try to predict what people actually will do, based on these theories. These theories, called motivational theories are often split into two categories –content theories and process theories.

Content theories

Content theories are centered on finding what makes people tick or appeals to them. These theories suggest that people have certain needs and/or desires which have been internalized as they mature to adulthood. Human needs are an important part of human nature. Values, beliefs, and customs differ from country to country and group to group, but all people have similar needs. The purpose of behavior is to satisfy needs. A need is anything that is required, desired, or useful. A want is a conscious recognition of a need.

It’s said that people have unlimited wants, but limited supplied resources. Thus, people can’t have everything they want and must look for the best alternatives sometimes that will cost them less. A need arises when there is a difference in self-concept (the way I see myself) and perception (the way I see the world around me). The presence of an active need is expressed as an inner state of tension from which the individual seeks relief. Needs drive people to seek out and do things.

There are two major groups of human needs: basic needs and meta needs.

Basic needs are physiological, such as food, water, and sleep; and psychological, such as affection, security, and self-esteem. These basic needs are also called deficiency needs because if they are not met by an individual, then that person will strive to make up the deficiency.

The higher needs are called meta needs or being needs (growth needs). These include justice, goodness, beauty, order, unity, etc. Basic needs normally take priority over growth needs. For example, a person who lacks food or water will not normally attend to justice or beauty needs.

As a leader you must understand these needs because they are powerful motivators. These theories look at what it is about certain people that make them want the things that they do and what things in their environment will make them do or not do certain things.

A site which discuses ‘needs’ in relations to product and interface design can be found here.

Process theories

Process theories focus on how and by what goals people are motivated. Process theories of motivation look at what people are thinking about when they decide whether or not to put effort into a particular activity. There are of a number of this type of approach to motivation theory one of which is Adam’s Equity Theory.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Industrial psychologists have used these ideas on motivational theory to develop management theories based on what we have learned motivates individuals. Nearly all motivational theory, regardless of the approach outlines significant differences in how individuals are motivated on their own [intrinsic] and how they are motivated when being part of a team [extrinsic]. Team motivation tends to be much more difficult. There are more possibilities to motivate a team, yet at the same time there are more motivational factors to fulfill for a team in order to gain motivation.

Intrinsic motivation, deriving from within the person or from the activity itself, positively affects behavior, performance, and well being (Ryan & Deci, 2000). But externally administered consequences, or extrinsic behavioral contingencies, also are powerful determinants of motivated behavior.

A paper on intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors can be found here.

Maslow and Herzberg

Two popular content theories are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory and Hertzberg’s Two Factor Theory.
Abraham Maslowis regarded as one of the founding fathers of the humanist approach to management due to his lifelong study of motivational psychology. In 1943, he wrote a seminal paper in which he identified five basic types of human need, all of which act as drivers of behaviour. Each person’s personal circumstances will naturally force them to focus on their immediate needs and it is these requirements that are the basis of human motivation. What was particularly significant about Maslow’s theory was that he ranked these in a hierarchy, stating that the basest needs in the pyramid (see figure) had to be satisfied before an individual could progress to focussing on needs of the next type.

The structure of the Needs Hierarchy, in sequence, is as follows :

1. Physiological needs

This covers the function, comfort and maintenance of the body on its most basic level: our primitive survival requirements of air, food, drink, heat, shelter, sleep, light, water, health, etc.

2. Safety needs

Safety refers not just to our own physical safety and protection from harm but also to our continued well-being. This level therefore covers our financial security (employment, pension, savings) as well as insurance, access to medical help, law and order, limits, stability – all the infrastructure that keeps us secure.

3. Belonging needs

These refer to our various needs for human contact : family, friends, relationships, love, acceptance, teams, a social life and society generally.

4. Esteem needs

These recognise the need for status, power, prestige, acknowledgement, respect, responsibility, mastery or dominance – the sort of attributes that can elevate individuals in some way, giving them a higher position within a social group.

5. Self-actualisation needs

The final set of needs deals with each person’s desire to become the best that they can be through personal growth and by achieving their potential; to be fulfilled by living out their individual destinies.

Abraham Maslow felt that human needs were arranged in a hierarchical order (Maslow, 1954). He based his theory on healthy, creative people who used all their talents, potential, and capabilities. At the time, this methodology differed from most other psychological research in that it was based on observing disturbed people.

Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Row.


Frederick Herzberg, U.S. clinical psychologist, first published his hygiene-motivation theory in The Motivation to Work in 1959. Herzberg’s work focused on the individual in the workplace and emphasized the importance of management knowledge and expertise for increasing employee productivity. Traditionally, work has been regarded as an unpleasant necessity, rather than as a potential motivator. Herzberg’s assertion that work itself can be a motivator represents an important behavioral science breakthrough. When a job provides an opportunity for personal satisfaction or growth, a powerful motivating force is introduced.

The term hygiene is used to describe such things as physical working conditions, supervisory policies, the climate of labor management relations, wages and various fringe benefits. Hygiene factors are essentially preventative actions taken to remove sources of dissatisfaction from the environment, just as sanitation removes potential threats to health of the physical environment. When any and these factors are deficient, employees are quite likely to be unhappy and to express their displeasure. Even though hygiene factors cannot motivate, they are an endless responsibility of management that cannot be avoided.

Management should recognize that money (pay and benefits) is only performing a hygiene function and cannot expect to be sufficient in itself for the attainment of effective motivation. The principal effect of money is to create dissatisfaction when pay is perceived as inequitable. The principal effect of pay increases is to remove dissatisfaction, not to create satisfaction. It is a temporary decrease in satisfaction, not a long-term increase in motivation.

The term motivation is used to describe feelings of accomplishment, professional growth and recognition, which are experienced in a job that offers sufficient challenge and scope to the worker. Motivation factors increase sustained satisfaction, which in turn increases productivity.

Herzberg recommends job enrichment as a means of introducing more effective motivation into jobs. Job enrichment is the deliberate enlargement of responsibility, scope and challenge. Job rotation is the movement of an individual from job to job without necessarily increasing responsibility at all. Job rotation is unsatisfactory as a motivating tool.

The Leadership Motivation Assessment

How motivated are you to lead?

The first and most basic prerequisite for leadership is the desire to lead. After all, becoming an effective leader takes hard work. If you’re not prepared to work hard at developing your leadership skills or if, deep down, you’re really not sure whether you want to lead or not, you’ll struggle to become an effective leader.

Are you motivated to lead? This assessment helps you find the answer.

How to Use the Tool:

To use this tool, show the extent to which you agree with each of the following statements on a scale running from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree).

Take the leadership motivation poll here.

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
10 – 19 This implies a low motivation to lead
20 – 39 This implies some uncertainty over your motivation to lead
40 – 50 This implies a strong motivation to lead.

Clayton Alderfer’s ERG theory

ERG theory was developed by organizational behavior scholar Clayton Alderfer to everyone the problems with Maslow’s needs hierarchy theory. ERG theory groups human needs into three broad categories: existence, relatedness, and growth. (Notice that the theory’s name is based on the first letter of each need.) As Exhibit 5.1 illustrates, existence needs correspond to Maslow’s physiological and safety needs. Relatedness needs refer mainly to Maslow’s belongingness needs. Growth needs correspond to Maslow’s esteem and self-actualization needs.

Existence needs include a person’s physiological and physically related safety needs, such as the need for food, shelter, and safe working conditions. Relatedness needs include a person’s need to interact with other people, receive public recognition, and feel secure around people (i.e., interpersonal safety). Growth needs consist of a person’s self-esteem through personal achievement as well as the concept of self-actualization presented in Maslow’s model.

ERG theory states that an employee’s behavior is motivated simultaneously by more than one need level. Thus, you might try to satisfy your growth needs (such as by completing an assignment exceptionally well) even though your relatedness needs aren’t completely satisfied. ERG theory applies the satisfaction-progression process described in Maslow’s needs hierarchy model, so one need level will dominate a person’s motivation more than others. As existence needs are satisfied, for example, related needs become more important.

Unlike Maslow’s model, however, ERG theory includes a frustration-regression process whereby those who are unable to satisfy a higher need become frustrated and regress to the next lower need level.

For example, if existence and relatedness needs have been satisfied, but growth need fulfillment has been blocked, the individual will become frustrated and relatedness needs will again emerge as the dominant source of motivation.

Although not fully tested, ERG theory seems to explain the dynamics of human needs in organizations reasonably well. It provides a less rigid explanation of employee needs than Maslow’s hierarchy. Human needs cluster more neatly around the three categories proposed by Alderfer than the five categories in Maslow’s hierarchy. The combined processes of satisfaction-progression and frustration-regression also provide a more accurate explanation of why employee needs change over time. Overall, it seems to come closest to explaining why employees have particular needs at various times.

You can explore more on ERG here

David McClelland’s Learned Needs

David McClelland is most noted for describing three types of motivational need, which he identified in his 1961 book, The Achieving Society:

* achievement motivation (n-ach)
* authority/power motivation (n-pow)
* affiliation motivation (n-affil)

Needs-based motivational model

These needs are found to varying degrees in all workers and managers, and this mix of motivational needs characterises a person’s or manager’s style and behaviour, both in terms of being motivated, and in the management and motivation others.

The need for achievement (n-ach)

The n-ach person is ‘achievement motivated’ and therefore seeks achievement, attainment of realistic but challenging goals, and advancement in the job. There is a strong need for feedback as to achievement and progress, and a need for a sense of accomplishment.

The need for authority and power (n-pow)

The n-pow person is ‘authority motivated’. This driver produces a need to be influential, effective and to make an impact. There is a strong need to lead and for their ideas to prevail. There is also motivation and need towards increasing personal status and prestige.

The need for affiliation (n-affil)

The n-affil person is ‘affiliation motivated’, and has a need for friendly relationships and is motivated towards interaction with other people. The affiliation driver produces motivation and need to be liked and held in popular regard. These people are team players..

More on McClelland’s model here.

J Stacey Adams’ equity theory

John Stacey Adams, a workplace and behavioural psychologist, put forward his Equity Theory on job motivation in 1963. There are similarities with Charles Handy’s extension and interpretation of previous simpler theories of Maslow, Herzberg and other pioneers of workplace psychology, in that the theory acknowledges that subtle and variable factors affect each individual’s assessment and perception of their relationship with their work, and thereby their employer. However, awareness and cognizance of the wider situation – and crucially comparison – feature more strongly in Equity Theory than in many other earlier motivational models.

The Adams’ Equity Theory model therefore extends beyond the individual self, and incorporates influence and comparison of other people’s situations – for example colleagues and friends – in forming a comparative view and awareness of Equity, which commonly manifests as a sense of what is fair.

When people feel fairly or advantageously treated they are more likely to be motivated; when they feel unfairly treated they are highly prone to feelings of disaffection and demotivation. The way that people measure this sense of fairness is at the heart of Equity Theory.

Equity, and thereby the motivational situation we might seek to assess using the model, is not dependent on the extent to which a person believes reward exceeds effort, nor even necessarily on the belief that reward exceeds effort at all. Rather, Equity, and the sense of fairness which commonly underpins motivation, is dependent on the comparison a person makes between his or here reward/investment ratio with the ratio enjoyed (or suffered) by others considered to be in a similar situation.


Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory

This assumes that behavior results from conscious choices among alternatives whose purpose it is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Together with Edward Lawler and Lyman Porter, Victor Vroom suggested that the relationship between people’s behavior at work and their goals was not as simple as was first imagined by other scientists. Vroom realized that an employee’s performance is based on individuals factors such as personality, skills, knowledge, experience and abilities.

The theory suggests that although individuals may have different sets of goals, they can be motivated if they believe that:

* There is a positive correlation between efforts and performance,
* Favorable performance will result in a desirable reward,
* The rewardwill satisfy an important need,
* The desire to satisfy the need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile.

The theory is based upon the following beliefs:


Valence refers to the emotional orientations people hold with respect to outcomes [rewards]. The depth of the want of an employee for extrinsic [money, promotion, time-off, benefits] or intrinsic [satisfaction] rewards). Management must discover what employees value.


Employees have different expectations and levels of confidence about what they are capable of doing. Management must discover what resources, training, or supervision employees need.


The perception of employees as to whether they will actually get what they desire even if it has been promised by a manager. Management must ensure that promises of rewards are fulfilled and that employees are aware of that.

Vroom suggests that an employee’s beliefs about Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence interact psychologically to create a motivational force such that the employee acts in ways that bring pleasure and avoid pain.

The expectancy theory of motivation has become a commonly accepted theory for explaining how individuals make decisions regarding various behavioral alternatives. Expectancy theory offers the following propositions:

1.When deciding among behavioral options, individuals select the option with the greatest motivation forces (MF).

2. The motivational force for a behavior, action, or task is a function of three distinct perceptions: Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valance. The motivational force is the product of the three perceptions:

MF = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valence

1. Expectancy probability: based on the perceived effort-performance relationship. It is the expectancy that one’s effort will lead to the desired performance and is based on past experience, self-confidence, and the perceived difficulty of the performance goal. Example: If I work harder than everyone else in the plant will I produce more?

2. Instrumentality probability: based on the perceived performance-reward relationship. The instrumentality is the belief that if one does meet performance expectations, he or she will receive a greater reward. Example: If I produce more than anyone else in the plant, will I get a bigger raise or a faster promotion?

3. Valence: refers to the value the individual personally places on the rewards. This is a function of his or her needs, goals, and values. Example: Do I want a bigger raise? Is it worth the extra effort? Do I want a promotion?

Because the motivational force is the product of the three perceptions, if any one of their values is zero, the whole equation becomes zero.

Expectancy theory generally is supported by empirical evidence and is one of the more widely accepted theories of motivation.

Reinforcement Theory

The one theory of influence almost everyone knows about is this one. And if you know only one approach, this can be good candidate. It works in a variety of situations, it can be simply applied, and it has just a few basic ideas. In fact, reinforcement theory boils down to a Main Point: Consequences influence behavior.

Think about that for a moment. Consequences influence behavior. It means that people do things because they know other things will follow. Thus, depending upon the type of consequence that follows, people will produce some behaviors and avoid others. Pretty simple. Pretty realistic, too. Reinforcement theory (consequences influence behavior) makes sense.


There are three basic principles of this theory. These are the Rules of Consequences. The three Rules describe the logical outcomes which typically occur after consequences.

1. Consequences which give Rewards increase a behavior.
2. Consequences which give Punishments decrease a behavior.
3. Consequences which give neither Rewards nor Punishments extinguish a behavior.

These Rules provide an excellent blueprint for influence. If you want to increase a behavior (make it more frequent, more intense, more likely), then when the behavior is shown, provide a Consequence of Reward. If you want to decrease a behavior (make it less frequent, less intense, less likely), then when the behavior is shown, provide a Consequence of Punishment. Finally, if you want a behavior to extinguish (disappear, fall out of the behavioral repertoire), then when the behavior is shown, then provide no Consequence (ignore the behavior).

Now, the Big Question becomes, “What is a reward?” or “What is a punishment?” The answer is easy.

What is a reward? Anything that increases the behavior.

What is a punisher? Anything that decreases the behavior.

Yipes, is this circular reasoning or what? Rewards increase a behavior and anything that increases a behavior is a reward. What is going on here?

What’s going on is this: Reinforcement theory is a functional theory. That means all of its components are defined by their function (how they work) rather than by their structure (how they look). Thus, there is no Consequences Cookbook where a teacher can look in the chapter, “Rewards for Fifth Grade Boys,” and find a long list of things to use as rewarding consequences. Think about this a minute.

Many kids find candy to be rewarding. If they sit quietly in their chairs for five minutes and you give them each a sweet, those kids will learn to sit quietly. The candy (Consequence of Reward) is used to increase the behavior of sitting quietly. So, we have discovered a Reward and can put it in the Consequences Cookbook, right?

And then the next time your spouse spends the afternoon cleaning up some grubby corner of the basement all you have to do is give them a candy bar and next week you’ll find ’em in the bathroom scrubbing out the tub, right? Of course not.

Candy functions as a reward in some circumstances, but candy has no effect in others. (If there was a Consequences Cookbook, don’t you think the School Board would pay teachers with Smiley Face stickers instead of money?)

The functional nature of reinforcement theory is important to understand. It explains why the theory sometimes appears to be incorrect. An example: when Sally Goodchild interrupts the class, Mrs. Reinforcer stops the class, tells Sally she’s a naughty girl who broke Rule 24 and now must leave the classroom and go to the principle’s office. Ouch! That really hurt Sally Goodchild. And Mrs. Reinforcer knows that when Sally returns, she will not interrupt. Mrs. Reinforcer then goes to the teacher’s lounge and sings the praises of this really great theory.

Well, don’t you know that the other kids in the class watched this event with great interest. And when Bad Bill interrupts the class, Mrs. Reinforcer stops the class, tells Bad Bill he’s a naughty boy who broke Rule 24 and now must leave the classroom and go to the principle’s office. Ouch! That really hurt Bad Bill. And Mrs. Reinforcer knows when Bad Bill comes back to class, he will not interrupt, because he will want to avoid that wicked punisher.

Well, we all know what happens next. Bad Bill comes back to class, immediately interrupts the lesson, Mrs. Reinforcer whacks him with the Consequence of Punishment, and Bad Bill keeps on interrupting, so he gets out of class. Mrs. Reinforcer is totally confused at this point and she goes back to the teacher’s lounge complaining about this stupid reinforcement theory.

To understand if you have a Reward, you must observe its effect. If the Consequence increases the behavior you want to increase, viola, you have a Reward. If the Consequence decreases the behavior you want to decrease, then you have a Punishment. Most teachers have had the unfortunate experience of Mrs. Reinforcer. They have persisted in giving a Consequence of Punishment and lo and behold, the kid keeps doing the bad thing. If the behavior does not increase or decrease the way you want it to, then you need to rethink your rewards and punishments.

In summary, the main point of this theory is that consequences influence behavior. Rewarding consequences increase behavior. Punishing consequences decrease behavior. No consequences extinguish a behavior. Finally, a consequence is known by its function (how it operates).

In the next section we consider how to put the Rules into effect. Here we learn how to apply the Rules.


The Rules of Consequence are used in a three step sequence that defines the process of reinforcement. We can call these steps, When-Do-Get.

Step 1: When in some situation,
Step 2: Do some behavior,
Step 3: Get some consequence.

According to Reinforcement Theory, people learn several things during the process of reinforcement. First, they learn that certain behaviors (Step 2: Do) lead to consequences (Step 3: Get). This is the most obvious application of the Rules of Consequence. A student realizes that if she does well on an assignment (Do), then she will get a Rewarding Consequence of a pretty sticker (Get). Another student discovers that if he speaks out inappropriately (Do), then he will receive the Punishing Consequence of reduced recess time (Get).

But second, and as important, people learn that the Do-Get only works in certain situations (Step 1: When). For example, a child may discover that when she is with her parents (When) and she throws a temper tantrum (Do), she embarrasses them and they give her Rewards such as attention, toys, candy, or whatever (Get). Now when this child hits school and tries this trick, she is cruelly disappointed when the teacher provides a Punishing Consequence rather than a Rewarding Consequence. She soon learns that Tantrum —> Reward only works When she is with Mom and Dad.

This is simple. When in some situation-Do some behavior-Get a consequence. And there are only three consequences, Rewarding, Punishing, and Ignoring. Let’s look at some examples in action.


One of the best examples of reinforcement I’ve ever heard came from an assistant football coach at a college. A little background: Some football players have trouble getting to team meetings. When this happens the coaches want to Punish the players so they will be on time. What to do?

The standard answer is extra exercise. When the team is in a workout, at the end of the session the coaches identify the tardy players and make them run extra laps or do more pushups, right? (When on this team, Do miss a team meeting, Get extra laps).

Well, this coach had a better idea. At the end of the workout he called everyone together, identified the tardy players who missed the team meeting. Then he made the rest of the team run extra laps while the tardy ones sat and watched. The coach claimed that this application had to be given only once a year. And I believe it.


One teacher developed an excellent and memorable system of reinforcement. During tests in her mathematics class, she would quietly patrol the room, carefully observing the children. If she saw that one was in trouble, she would ease over to the child and scan the test, looking for mistakes. When she found an error, she would quietly take her pencil, tap it beside the mistake, so that the child knew there was an error on the test and where the error was. Then the teacher would take the pencil and whack it on the kid’s nose. (When you are taking a test, Do make a mistake, Get a rap on the nose).

Certainly an excellent application of the reinforcement paradigm and I would have to give it an “A” for correctness and an “F” for effectiveness.

Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory

Goal setting is a powerful way of motivating people. The value of goal setting is so well recognized that entire management systems, like Management by Objectives (MBO), have goal setting basics incorporated within them.

In fact, goal setting theory is generally accepted as among the most valid and useful motivation theories in industrial and organizational psychology, human resource management, and organizational behavior.

Many of us have learned – from bosses, seminars, and business articles – to set SMART (goals. It seems natural to assume that by setting a goal that’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, we will be well on our way to accomplishing it.

Is this really the best way of setting goals?

Dr Edwin Locke’s pioneering research on goal setting and motivation in the late 1960s. In his 1968 article “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives,” he stated that employees were motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback. Locke went on to say that working toward a goal provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the goal – which, in turn, improved performance.

This information does not seem revolutionary to most of us some 40 years later. This shows the impact his theory has had on professional and personal performance.

In this article, we look at what Locke had to say about goal setting, and how we can apply his theory to our own performance goals.

Goal Setting Theory

Locke’s research showed that there was a relationship between how difficult and specific a goal was and people’s performance of a task. He found that specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals.

Telling someone to “Try hard” or “Do your best” is less effective than “Try to get more than 80% correct” or “Concentrate on beating your best time.” Likewise, having a goal that’s too easy is not a motivating force. Hard goals are more motivating than easy goals, because it’s much more of an accomplishment to achieve something that you have to work for.

A few years after Locke published his article, another researcher, Dr Gary Latham, studied the effect of goal setting in the workplace. His results supported exactly what Locke had found, and the inseparable link between goal setting and workplace performance was formed.

In 1990, Locke and Latham published their seminal work, “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance.” In this book, they reinforced the need to set specific and difficult goals, and they outlined three other characteristics of successful goal setting.
Five Principles of Goal Setting

To motivate, goals must take into consideration the degree to which each of the following exists:

1. Clarity.
2. Challenge.
3. Commitment.
4. Feedback.
5. Task complexity.

Let’s look at each of these in detail.

1. Clarity
Clear goals are measurable, unambiguous, and behavioral. When a goal is clear and specific, with a definite time set for completion, there is less misunderstanding about what behaviors will be rewarded. You know what’s expected, and you can use the specific result as a source of motivation. When a goal is vague – or when it’s expressed as a general instruction, like “Take initiative” – it has limited motivational value.

To improve your or your team’s performance, set clear goals that use specific and measurable standards. “Reduce job turnover by 15%” or “Respond to employee suggestions within 48 hours” are examples of clear goals.

When you use the SMART acronym to help you set goals, you ensure the clarity of the goal by making it Specific, Measurable and Time-bound.

2. Challenge
One of the most important characteristics of goals is the level of challenge. People are often motivated by achievement, and they’ll judge a goal based on the significance of the anticipated accomplishment. When you know that what you do will be well received, there’s a natural motivation to do a good job.

Rewards typically increase for more difficult goals. If you believe you’ll be well compensated or otherwise rewarded for achieving a challenging goal, that will boost your enthusiasm and your drive to get it done.

Setting SMART goals that are Relevant links closely to the rewards given for achieving challenging goals. Relevant goals will further the aims of your organization, and these are the kinds of goals that most employers will be happy to reward.

When setting goals, make each goal a challenge. If an assignment is easy and not viewed as very important – and if you or your employee doesn’t expect the accomplishment to be significant – then the effort may not be impressive.

It’s important to strike an appropriate balance between a challenging goal and a realistic goal. Setting a goal that you’ll fail to achieve is possibly more de-motivating than setting a goal that’s too easy. The need for success and achievement is strong, therefore people are best motivated by challenging, but realistic, goals. Ensuring that goals are Achievable or Attainable is one of the elements of SMART.

3. Commitment
Goals must be understood and agreed upon if they are to be effective. Employees are more likely to “buy into” a goal if they feel they were part of creating that goal. The notion of participative management rests on this idea of involving employees in setting goals and making decisions.

One version of SMART – for use when you are working with someone else to set their goals – has A and R stand for Agreed and Realistic instead of Attainable and Relevant. Agreed goals lead to commitment.

This doesn’t mean that every goal has to be negotiated with and approved by employees. It does mean that goals should be consistent and in line with previous expectations and organizational concerns. As long as the employee believes the goal is consistent with the goals of the company, and believes the person assigning the goal is credible, then the commitment should be there.

Interestingly, goal commitment and difficulty often work together. The harder the goal, the more commitment is required. If you have an easy goal, you don’t need a lot of motivation to get it done. When you’re working on a difficult assignment, you will likely encounter challenges that require a deeper source of inspiration and incentive.

As you use goal setting in your workplace, make an appropriate effort to include people in their own goal setting. Encourage employees to develop their own goals, and keep them informed about what’s happening elsewhere in the organization. This way, they can be sure that their goals are consistent with the overall vision and purpose that the company seeks.

4. Feedback
In addition to selecting the right type of goal, an effective goal program must also include feedback. Feedback provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goal difficulty, and gain recognition. It’s important to provide benchmark opportunities or targets, so individuals can determine for themselves how they’re doing.

These regular progress reports, which measure specific success along the way, are particularly important where it’s going to take a long time to reach a goal. In these cases, break down the goals into smaller chunks, and link feedback to these intermediate milestones.

SMART goals are Measurable, and this ensures that clear feedback is possible.

With all your goal setting efforts, make sure that you build in time for providing formal feedback. Certainly, informal check-ins are important, and they provide a means of giving regular encouragement and recognition. However, taking the time to sit down and discuss goal performance is a necessary factor in long-term performance improvement. See our article on Delegation for more on this.

5. Task Complexity
The last factor in goal setting theory introduces two more requirements for success. For goals or assignments that are highly complex, take special care to ensure that the work doesn’t become too overwhelming.

People who work in complicated and demanding roles probably have a high level of motivation already. However, they can often push themselves too hard if measures aren’t built into the goal expectations to account for the complexity of the task. It’s therefore important to do the following:

* Give the person sufficient time to meet the goal or improve performance.
* Provide enough time for the person to practice or learn what is expected and required for success.

The whole point of goal setting is to facilitate success. Therefore, you want to make sure that the conditions surrounding the goals don’t frustrate or inhibit people from accomplishing their objectives. This reinforces the “Attainable” part of SMART.

Key points:

Goal setting is something most of us recognize as necessary for our success.

By understanding goal setting theory, you can effectively apply the principles to goals that you or your team members set. Locke and Latham’s research emphasizes the usefulness of SMART goal setting, and their theory continues to influence the way we set and measure performance today.

Use clear, challenging goals, and commit yourself to achieving them. Provide feedback on goal performance. Take into consideration the complexity of the task. If you follow these simple rules, your goal setting process will be much more successful . and your overall performance will improve.


Why not integrate aspects of all these theories?

Why not integrate aspects of all these theories?

To view slides full page or to download them click HERE.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Nicoll’s, Derek. (2013). Motivation, Leadership, Groups and Teams. Management MCO101 – Unit 8B. Accessed April 1, 2013 from […]

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inputs equity
dependent on comparing own ratio of
input/output with ratios of ‘referent’ others
Inputs are typically:
effort, loyalty, hard work, commitment, skill, ability, adaptability,
flexibility, tolerance, determination, heart and soul, enthusiasm, trust in our
boss and superiors, support of colleagues and subordinates, personal sacrifice,
People need to feel
that there is a fair balance between inputs and outputs. Crucially fairness is
measured by comparing one’s own balance or ratio between inputs and outputs,
with the ratio enjoyed or endured by relevant (‘referent’) others.
Outputs are typically
all financial rewards – pay, salary, expenses, perks, benefits, pension
arrangements, bonus and commission – plus intangibles – recognition,
reputation, praise and thanks, interest, responsibility, stimulus, travel,
training, development, sense of achievement and advancement, promotion,
July 2017
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  • Recommended Reading

    Williams, C. (2007) Management (4th Ed.) Mason, Okalahoma: South Western

    Hill, C.W.L. & McShane, S. (2008) Principles of Management New York: McGraw Hill

    Kinicki, A. & Kreitner, R. (2008). Organisational Behaviour, Key Concepts, Skills and Best Practices, New York: McGraw Hill

    Robbins, S.P. & Decenzo, D (2005) Fundamentals of Management (5th Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

    Goodman, Stephen H. and Fandt, Patricia M. (2007) Management: Challenges for Tomorrow’s Leaders (4th ed.). Mason, Oklahoma: South Western

    Robbins, S.P. & Coulter, M. (2005) Management (8th Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

    Dessler, G. (2003) Management: Principles and Practices for Tomorrow’s Leader (3rd Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

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