While studying Organizational Behaviour during the first semester of our M.B.A class, I was impressed by Frederick Herzberg’s motivational theory; I particularly noted his conclusion that money is not as much a motivator as achievement and appreciation. He had observed in his research that ‘respect for me as a person’ is the top motivating factor at any stage of life. Research studies over decades have repeatedly shown that money is usually fourth or fifth when it comes to motivating employees. The top motivators have been challenging work, appreciation, and a feeling of sense of worth and accomplishment.
Limitations of financial incentives
Yet ironically enough most managers repeatedly list money as number one factor that they believe motivates people. A good pay packet certainly is needed, for ‘if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’. Good money may help an employee report to work but it won’t motivate him to go beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary realm of performance. After all ‘you can pay people to perform but you can’t pay them to excel’.
A spiritual leader (a leader guided by spiritual principles) is aware that resorting to financial incentives is like bribing the team members; it makes people feel they are being manipulated and increases their consciousness of ‘what’s in it for me’; the whole purpose of the leader to motivate is then defeated. Canadian management guru, Jim Clemmer noted, “Money doesn’t provide deeper meaning and inspiration for a bigger cause and purpose.”
‘Intrinsic’ and ‘Extrinsic’ motivators
A close friend I knew in college embraced spiritual principles as his guiding light. The meditation practices and study of scriptures helped him discover internal peace and happiness. Slowly he volunteered to offer services to our community in Mumbai, and then took up a job with our projects. The salary now was lesser than what his previous employer paid but he confessed the ‘intrinsic’ rewards here were higher, and the cause was worthy, and fulfilling.
There are ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ motivators at work. The former is the inner drive of the individual and refers to the interest and enjoyment he experiences by the act itself. The latter refers to motivation coming from outside of the person like money, grades or other fringe benefits. A spiritual leader isn’t attracted by a routine ‘job’; rather his work is congruent with his sacred inner values and the timeless principles revealed by the wisdom of holy books and saints.
While a spiritual leader personally focuses on ‘intrinsic’ rewards at his work place and home, he’s careful to use ‘extrinsic’ motivators with his team members; he judiciously uses recognition and praise, but with the intention of making his team members feel good about themselves. As people bathe in the warmth of appreciation and a feeling of sense of self worth, they feel inspired to also go deeper in life and seek ‘intrinsic’ rewards for their pursuits.
Motivated by spiritual principles
As a leader if your cause is weak and purely material, you can only offer money to get people to cooperate. Since the team members find the work unfulfilling, they’d prefer some other work, and therefore demand more money to continue working for your ‘meaningless’ purpose. However if a leader’s purpose is deep and coupled with motivating with love and appreciation, we get team members to give in more than hundred percent.
In Mumbai, the community members have been performing an annual drama festival since 1994. Over three hundred members come together in four to five groups and practice a drama on some devotional or scriptural theme. The practice lasts over three months and on two fixed days, in a packed auditorium, the groups perform for the pleasure of all the other community members and guests. Although the performance blends devotion with professionalism-high tech visual effects and well researched props add up to the show- it’s a one off performance; the show is neither repeated nor are the members remunerated monetarily. That’s quite a level of detachment by the artists considering the huge effort, time and money invested in the shows; all those involved in the dramas- from the director to the spot boys- are professionals working outside to make a living. Yet they leave no stone unturned to dish out a breathtaking performance each year, most often bettering their own previous year’s rendition. The driving force behind these shows is the camaraderie spirit amongst the members; the community comes together as one big family. Later the spirit of love and sacrifice imbibed in the dramas translates into cooperation on the various social initiatives of the community.
Rewarding with appreciation
However the best part of the drama festival comes later one evening when all the actors and workers of the four shows get together for a celebration. During this get together Radhanath Swami personally hears the realizations and experiences of many of the participants; he then appreciates the team spirit and inspires them to be united. One striking feature that I noticed in all these post drama meetings is that the appreciation showered is not just for the big performances; even the small and apparently insignificant incidents are highlighted. For instance in one such meeting, I heard Radhanath Swami appreciate how some women who had worked hard for their show on the first evening could have relaxed and enjoyed the performance of the other groups the next evening. However they preferred to be on the back stage the next day and help the other groups get their show in order. They sacrificed their enjoyment so that the other groups could perform well.
William James, the leading American psychologist of the nineteenth century observed that the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. By genuinely appreciating and recognizing incidents such as these, all the members get fired up for the next challenging project or services to the community.
Radhanath Swami has shown by his example that when you recognize sincerity and reward the spirit of service, the members are more inspired. He often quotes Mother Teresa who said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread” However it needs to be clarified that the spiritual method of encouragement is not to get people to do something else; the attempt is to create a culture of respect and human dignity. A spiritual leader also emphasizes on a devotional and prayerful mood during all services and projects, including dramas. The culture of prayer and selfless service offers deep inner peace and satisfaction, and thus these intrinsic rewards motivate the members to stretch longer and work harder. This approach is also more sustainable. Therefore even though Radhanath Swami’s appreciation of members is lavish, it’s honest and more importantly it’s to encourage a person to eventually derive satisfaction through intrinsic motivators.
If the leader rewards only the results, the team players may be inspired to follow the maxim, ‘ends justify the means’. However when the sincere efforts are also recognized, the message sent by the leader is ‘we value you and your efforts because you are sincere.’
In The Simple Truths of Appreciation Barbara Glanz reveals a simple, yet most often ignored universal truth; we all have a need of ‘appreciation’ and if we offer personal and sincere appreciation to others from our hearts, we will receive more than we give; maybe not material benefits- which defeats the purpose of appreciation- but the joy and contentment is far richer for the person showering kind words than the one receiving it. “Appreciation is a wonderful thing” declared the French philosopher Voltaire, “It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
In another post drama meeting, Radhanath Swami appreciated an actor who had caused great laughs during the show. The audience roared in laughter not at the histrionics but at a clumsy mistake during a critical scene. The actor’s royal robes got stuck on a chariot wheel and as he spoke his punch lines, he was desperately pulling his lower cloth and attempting to set it right. Some members including the actor felt that was an embarrassing moment and they wished to forget the fiasco. However during the meeting Radhanath Swami elaborated how the actor is sincere and the cloth getting stuck was an arrangement of the Lord to make the drama sweeter and simpler. This time again everybody laughed but now it was out of love, in appreciation of the simplicity of the actor who works as a senior president in a large multinational company. Rather than an embarrassment, the incident now embellished his personality; besides he was happy and inspired.
Having witnessed many times Radhanath Swami’s stroke of genius in encouraging people at all situations, I remembered Ms Dona, my project leader in school who often shared her realization that encouraged people achieve the best; paid people achieve the second best; dominated people achieve the least and neglected people nothing.