Everyone wants to lead a motivated team. The work is better, people are happier and are more likely to hold each other accountable. There are fewer issues in a motivated team because people tend to “rise above” the problems and work together to overcome them.
In this post I’m going to do something a bit different – talk about some motivation theory. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a Professor.
And the best part is, you’ll be able to use this theory in practical ways to improve motivation in your team.
Introducing the Expectancy Theory of Motivation
In 1964, Professor Victor Vroom from Yale University developed the Expectancy Theory of Motivation. The thing I love about this theory is that I find it easy to break down and use in a practical way.
Let’s take a look at the theory and step through it. The images below are mine. Professor Vroom may be appalled at the simplicity of how I’ve represented all this, but hey, let’s keep it simple and practical.
Part 1: Effort to Performance
The first part deals with Effort. To be the most motivated, a team member must believe that if she puts in the effort, she will achieve the desired level of performance.
In other words, the team member feels as if what they are trying to do is achievable. As leaders, how can we support our teams to feel like they can achieve an outcome?
There are several ways. First, we can improve motivation by ensuring that our team members have the right skills and experience to do the job.
Then, we make sure that we give people enough time to complete the work.
Last, we ensure that our expectations of quality are clearly communicated, so each team member knows what they are aiming for.
What we want to avoid is people feeling like they are spending effort on a hopeless task.
Part 2: Performance to Outcome
The second part of the theory deals Performance and achieving an Outcome. For a team member to feel the most motivated, he must feel as if achieving the desired level of performance will result in the desired outcome.
Put in another way, he must feel like he will get what he was promised for performing the work well. This can work on multiple levels.
One example might be for setting performance goals. Let’s say your team member has a goal and is told that there will be some sort of bonus pay for achieving it.
When they achieve that goal, they expect to receive the bonus pay.
The key aspect here is that the team member believes that achieving the goal will result in the bonus. When they start doubting this, motivation will suffer.
Note: The Outcome is not always completely in our control, but we must do our best to make sure it is actually able to be achieved.
Outcomes Are Not Just About Rewards
However, it’s not all about pay or rewards. Another example might be James, who is tasked to write a report which will help senior managers make an important decision. In this case, James believes that if he writes a great report, the senior managers will make the best decision.
Now, if the management team receive the report and ignore it, or simply make no decision at all, this is going to destroy James’ motivation. “What was the point?” he’ll say.
Next time, he won’t feel motivated to complete the task at all.
How Leaders Can Improve Motivation With Performance to Outcome
So, what can leaders do to improve motivation in this part of the theory?
First, leaders can do what they say they will do. Or, “walk the talk”. In other words, try not to make promises that you can’t keep.
Second, we can make sure our teams are focusing on useful work, that will be used. If work is done which never goes anywhere or helps anyone, this will damage motivation.
In summary, a key component of this part of the theory is about building trust in leadership.
To learn more about building trust, read this post: Is a Lack of Trust Ruining Your Team? Here’s 3 Ways to Fix It.
Part 3: The Value of the Outcome
The last part of the theory is about the Outcome itself. If we’ve done a great job motivating our team, so far we have:
- Made sure our team member is able to complete the task to the desired level of quality; and
- Delivered on the outcome that the team member was expecting.
So, the last part is about the value of the Outcome. The question to ask is, “Is the Outcome valuable to the team member?” If not, then it’s likely that overall motivation will suffer.
This will obviously differ for each team member. James might really love to have more time off, to spend on his interests outside of work.
Whilst Evelyn is more interested in money because she is saving for a deposit on a new house.
Once again, don’t fall into the trap of thinking of outcomes only as rewards like bonuses. These aren’t always available and can’t be used to improve motivation all the time.
Instead, outcomes may be opportunities to work on new and interesting projects, or to learn new skills. The key is, they must be valuable to the team member.
How to Improve Motivation Using This Theory
If you are noticing motivation issues in your team, try looking at the work more closely. Step through each part of the theory and see where the motivation might be falling down.
Hopeless tasks, work that is never used or outcomes that aren’t important to team members are key things to watch for.
Don’t forget, you can also download the Motivating Your Team Audiobook for more great ways to motivate your team!
What do you think about the Expectancy Theory of Motivation? Useful or not? I’d love to read your comments, so leave one below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help on this topic, you can send me a private message through my contact page.