Teresa M. Amabile and Steve J. Kramer in their very interesting article called “The Power of Small Wins” in the May 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review note that after a decade of research, which included a deep analysis of daily diaries kept by teammates on creative projects, they discovered something they call the “Progress Principle.” As they write, “Of all things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.... And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”
As Frederick Herzberg in a 1968 issue of the Harvard Business Review and the author of One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? notes, “People are most satisfied with their jobs (and therefore most motivated) when those jobs give them the opportunity to experience achievement.” Amabile and Kramer in the aforementioned article explain it this way: “The best thing they [managers and leaders] can do for their people is provide the catalysts and nourishers that allow projects to move forward while removing the obstacles and toxins that result in setbacks.” Catalysts are actions that support work and nourishers are acts of interpersonal support such as respect, recognition, encouragement, emotional comfort, and opportunities for affiliation. Overall, the best leaders and managers agree with Amabile and Kramer that “the key to motivating performance is supporting progress in meaningful work.”
Our focus this month needs to be on progress instead of perfection. If every employee in the entire company is getting better at what they are doing, then the individual actions will transform the entire company. And this is something that will be noticed by customers and the market place.