When offered the following list of well-known motivators, most managers choose 3. Recognition for good work as the most powerful motivator.
2.Support for making progress in the work
3.Recognition for good work
Not so, according to Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in their recent book The Progress Principle (2011). Instead, according to their recent research, 2. Support for making progress in the work has the greatest impact on building intrinsic motivation, helping people make meaning in their work life and contributing to positive feelings. Their research also shows that managers don’t know this.
By following 238 managers over 12,000 daily diary entires, they came to the conclusion that the perception of making progress, no matter how small, was the biggest motivator of performance for knowledge workers. Perceptions, emotions and motivation were highest where workers had a strong sense that they were making progress in their work.
Amabile and Kramer look to video gaming as an example of the power of continuous feedback on progress for continued engagement, persistence and performance. Videogames feature progress bars that are constantly on screen and are tangible indicators of what you’ve just achieved and how close you are to reaching the next level, your next goal. These achievement markers are extremely motivating. The best managers orchestrate regular, day to day progress reports for their people and their teams.