Want motivation? Keep progress visible - Michelle Gibbings

When you’re making a change that is complex – either at a personal or organisational level – it can feel like one step forward and then one step backwards.  It’s certainly never just a straight line to the finish.

As Harvard academic, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, said: “Everything can look like failure in the middle.”

Persevering despite set-backs and pushing through the hard middles isn’t easy.  It’s much easier to lose focus, and to divert your attention to something else that looks easier to achieve.

However, change that is hard to achieve is worth striving for.  If it was easy, everyone else would have already done it.

If you want to stay the course, there’s a critical factor you must consider – finding ways to show progress.

It’s demoralising when you think progress is stalled.  However, when you check your progress you may be surprised at what you see.  You may have progressed further than you think.

If you want to see how important a sense of progress is you only have to look at a very useful 2010 study reported in the Harvard Business Review.

The researchers, Amabile and Kramer, asked leaders and employees what they thought motivated employees. There were five options:

  • Recognition for good work
  • Incentive and rewards
  • Sense of progress
  • Clear goals and targets
  • Inter-personal connections.

The managers thought the answer was recognition for good work. But for the employees it was progress.

The researchers found that when workers thought they were making headway in their jobs, or when they received support that helped them overcome obstacles, their emotions were the most positive and their drive to succeed was at its peak.

In contrast, on the days when they encountered roadblocks and setbacks their motivation was at its lowest.

It’s incredibly demotivating when progress is impeded.

Everyone wants to see that they are making headway, and that their contribution is making a difference.   Make the progress visible.  Celebrate the achievements. Keep moving forward.

Change happens.  Make it work for you.