Magazine article Training & Development

The Motivational Magic of Values

Magazine article Training & Development

The Motivational Magic of Values

Article excerpt

Would you like to know the secret of motivation? It may not be what you think it is. Here's a metaphor I discovered for understanding the process:

I have a beautiful, hand-crafted brass kaleidoscope. It's a metal tube about 10 inches long with a lens at either end. Attached to one end is a wire frame in which I can place a marble. Not just any marble, though; it has to be a semi-transparent one, which as children we called a "boulder."

Boulders have swirls of bright colors trapped inside and each one is different. When I place the marble in the wire basket, hold it up to the light, and look through the lens, I see an explosion of color in a symmetrical design. By rotating the marble, I can create what seems to be ever-changing patterns.

If I play with it long enough, I discover that what I thought were limitless designs are restricted by the swirls of color in the marble. The designs shift and change but only within the limitations of the marble. If I want to create more designs, I have to change the marble.

New marble, new colors, new possibilities. But even with the new marble, I find limits of perception. I view the marble as a representation of personal values.

What are values anyway? Values are your personal beliefs about what is important. Values are the mental maps of the way you think things should be. They are your deepest convictions, and they are the primary filter through which you view reality.

Imagine that the marble represents the sum total of your values and the marble cannot be replaced. You can rotate the marble to form different perceptions of your reality, but the basic color and design - your values - remain the same.

Our values began to develop at a very early age. Our parents told us what to do and not to do, say and not to say, believe and not believe. If we did as we were expected, we were rewarded; if not, we were punished.

As we grew up, this input extended to our peer groups, teachers, and religious mentors. Then the media began to play a role. We learned from newspapers, magazines, television, and radio programs.

TV presented heroes and role models. For example, my heroes were Rin Tin Tin, The Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, Hoppalong Cassidy, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Wrongs were righted. Good conquered evil.

To this day, my personal values, such as honesty, loyalty, and integrity, reflect the values of these early TV role models as much as the values I was taught at home or at church.

It may appear that influences on our lives are too complex to understand, but they aren't. The trick is to uncover your basic values and the values of others.

Values are the key to motivation. Let's suppose that I am a manager who wants to motivate my employees. Let's further suppose that my number one value in life is money, so I offer bonuses and cash rewards for higher productivity, promptness, and client satisfaction.

If I had taken the time to talk with my employees, I may have found that Employee A wants to be home early so he can be there for his son when he comes home from school. Employee B prefers to work alone and would like to have a quiet office away from the corridors. Employee C wants a promotion with a title. However, I assumed that everyone is motivated in the same way I am. And when I didn't get the results I wanted, I assumed that my employees are lazy. I call this attitude "The Arrogance of Assumption. …

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