The importance of recognition in driving personal motivation and satisfaction

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Three weeks ago I shared the 12 Characteristics of Self Actualised People. In recent work we completed with a client we applied a number of self-actualisation principles in a cultural context to improve the sense of personal achievement in a sales team.

Before I share with you what we did, let’s recap what is meant by self-actualisation. Maslow defines self-actualisation as the desire to become more and more of what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” In practical terms it is about talking responsibility for your own growth so you have a sense you are moving towards working to your full potential, hence self-actualised people tend to have higher levels of self-worth.

As a result of mapping the culture for this organisation it was clear that motivation and satisfaction in the sales team was below average, and intention to stay with company was low. Working with the sales team we found that like many sales teams it was a mix of long serving and newer less experienced team members. Further we found that it was the newer members that were more vocal in expressing their lack of motivation and dissatisfaction.

We took a look at how the sales team was remunerated and incentivised and found the classic “sale league table’ model in use where the team were assigned sales targets and each month sales were published in a league table in descending order. It was this ‘league table’ that held strong focus as it culminated in a sales person of the year award.

What the newer and less experienced sales people reported was that as they were building their client base and developing knowledge, skill and experience they rarely outperformed the longer term sales people who had built and maintained strong client base and relationships. The general feeling among the newer and less experienced sales people was “Why bother? “

We recommended the current league table be retained, however a second table was added which provided recognition and reward each month for the sales team member who achieved their personal best sales figures ever. This addition of this second table produced some interesting outcomes.

  • Newer and less experienced team members had renewed motivation as they had the opportunity to be recognised for contribution and achievement each month;
  • These same team members reported greater levels of satisfaction as they were competing against themselves and as a consequence took responsibility for their own growth by taking every opportunity to expand their knowledge, skill and experience;
  • This growth extended into self-setting their own sales targets. Previously targets had been set for them. Now, as their confidence and self-worth grew, they set their own targets which in the majority of instances were higher than those set for them;
  • It prompted the sales director to review personal best figures for those who were sitting at the top of the original league table and to her surprise she found that for those team members who had won sales person of the year in the last five years it had been over two years since they recorded their personal best sales performance. Maybe they were too comfortable.

The addition of the two tables changed the dynamic of the team as the opportunities for recognition were viewed by the members as being much more fair and equitable. As a team the level of discretionary effort (willing to go the extra mile) increased as did overall sales performance and customer satisfaction.

While this is related to sales there are wider points all leaders need to consider. How well do you know your team members and when were they recognised by for delivering their personal best achievement? What difference would it make to their levels of motivation and satisfaction if they were?


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