Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Purpose, not profit, brings the best out of us

This is a fascinating video clip, which needs to be shown to everyone in the bankers bonus debate who squawks about the best talent going overseas if we pay them less.

[Ok, I'll sum up, because 95% of you aren't going to click the little 'play' triangle. There's repeated research that rewarding performance with money doesn't work, once you get past paying folk enough for them to stop worrying about money. Incentives work for 'mechanical' tasks (think piecework in a clothes factory), but once a task involves any thinking or creative skill, results get worse the more you reward them. Why? Because there are motivating factors that outweigh money:
 - Autonomy (being self-directed, in charge of my own work)
 - Mastery (getting better at things)
 - Purpose (making a contribution)
Profit motive detached from purpose tends to make for bad work, workplace, products and customer service.]

For church folks out there, the great thing is that we've always had the purpose thing. It's easy to lose it though, and to settle for a lesser purpose = keeping the show on the road, paying the bills, rather than the Kingdom of God.

But what about the other two. Are we giving people the chance to get better at things, do we give folk autonomy - the freedom to fly and the freedom to fail? Autonomy isn't simply leaving people to get on with a job on their own, that's negligence, and there's too much of that in the church. And we have a big battle on our hands, there are still plenty of churches where the default setting on any decision or action is to check it out with the vicar first.

Autonomy doesn't come naturally when people are afraid of making the wrong decision, or don't get encouraged. Gordon Macdonald (I think) tells the story of a young businessman who lost his company lots of money on a deal. He reported to the company boss, expecting to be sacked on the spot. "why would I want to sack you?" said the boss "I've just spent $3m on your education."

And on this issue have a look at this reflection on the 'flashmob wedding' which went viral last year. "What Kate (the vicar) has done here is to give a couple back some ownership of their wedding from a church that has been used to telling people what they want." Our culture takes 'user generated content' for granted, and we have the demanding but inspiring task of leading the dance between ancient forms and user content so that both are energised by the other.

3 challenges for me here, related to these 3 motivators:
 - how to get better at properly delegating and encouraging, to foster autonomy without neglect (simply leaving people to their own devices) or nannying (constantly checking up)
 - asking people 'what would you like to get better at?' and asking myself the same question. If I spend a lot of time doing something (preaching, leading worship, blogging, organising stuff), then a percentage of that time should go into improving my skills in that area.
 - linking what people do to purpose: e.g. how a well hoovered carpet creates a sense of welcome and care for the visitor, that doing the Sunday morning Bible reading is not a slot on a rota but an opportunity to hear the living words of the living God etc.  Rotas are a great management tool, but if they are all we have, then don't be surprised if it gets more and more difficult to fill them. People need to know why they're doing this task in the first place.

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