“Using Axiology to Motivate Others Better”
The Carrot Principle was a popular book when it came out in 2007. It was a NY Times bestseller. It received rave reviews in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and The New York Times, helped lots of managers with their teams. The book revealed the groundbreaking results of one of the most in-depth management studies ever undertaken. The book showed definitively that the central characteristic of the most successful managers is that they provide their employees with frequent and effective recognition.
Let’s take that a step further because we all know people who don’t like “carrots” or recognition. We’re going to take an axiological approach to accelerating performance.
Let’s recap the 3 dimensions of value:
lowest… Systemic. The reason this is the lowest isn’t because it is worthless but because things in the systemic dimension are worth less than the things in the other 2 dimensions. Systemic things are mentally “made up”. They only exist in our minds. Things like rules, policies, plans, ideas, expectations, goals, categories. Does that make sense? Systemic things aren’t really tangible “things”; they are mental things.
middle… Extrinsic. This is the middle class of value because these things are tangible and measureable. When you take a plan and then create something, you have added or created more value than simply having a plan. A real, extrinsic iPhone is worth more than the systemic ideas or plans to build the iPhone.
highest… Intrinsic. These are infinitely valuable things and concepts. Human beings, for instance, are infinitely valuable. Each intrinsic thing is unique. Other intrinsic “things” include virtues like courage, temperance, peace, love, faith, and hope.
So an explanation goes like this…
Your plans to create some things are worth less than actually creating the real, tangible thing.
The tangible thing is always worth less than how that thing impacts the life of a human being by creating peace or love or hope.
How does this apply to motivating and inspiring others?
Please understand that first and foremost every human being is INTRINSIC. Yet, each person may not be able to see their value in each of the 3 dimensions.
A person can be valued by others systemically for their ideas and plans or for what group they do or do not fit into.
They can be valued by others extrinsically for what they do.
They can also be valued by others intrinsically for who they are.
When a person feels valued, they are also motivated to perform. Or, you may see this better from the negative side… when you are not feeling valued you are not motivated to perform.
Expressing Value in All 3 Dimensions
So, if you are trying to show a person that you value them, you could value them in each of the dimensions of value.
To value someone systemically, you would say something like “That was a great idea!”
If you want to show them you value them extrinsically you could say “You did a great job!”
And, if you want to show them you value them intrinsically, you might say “I really admire your courage.” Can you see and feel the differences from those 3 statements? Which one might resonate best for you?
Why Our Motivation Doesn’t Work (sometimes)
Now, we have all tried to motivate someone in one or more of these ways and it didn’t seem to work. That’s because we’ve only looked at one side of the picture… our side. You see, in every communication there is a mind that creates and gives or sends, and there is the mind that receives and processes. If the person receiving your message and you aren’t on the “same page” axiologically (how you each perceive value), you will miss the mark.
So, here’s an example… If you try to motivate me extrinsically and in my mind I don’t see my extrinsic value very well (it’s blurry in the image below), it would sound something like this.
You say, “Traci, you are doing a fantastic job. Your work is exemplary.” (This focuses on the extrinsic dimension.)
What I hear (because I don’t acknowledge my talents and may even devalue them) is, “Traci, blah, blah, blah BUT…” Then, I fill in the rest with what my mind believes. So, it may be something like, “BUT… you must want something from me because any monkey could do what I do. Hmmmm… wonder what you are going to ask me to do for you this time?” Instead of feeling motivated, I will feel like I’m being manipulated.
Let’s say that I also devalue myself intrinsically (in terms of my infintie worth and uniqueness). If you say to me, “Traci, you are a terrific person.” and think that it will motivate me, you may be wrong. What I may conclude from your remarks is “He’s not very perceptive. I’ve really got him fooled.” because we are on two very different wavelengths. You think I’m wonderful and I don’t and I’m right. 🙂
Think of it in similar fashion to colorblindness…
You are trying to show me something that is purple but I don’t see any red tones, so what you are showing me looks blue, yet you are saying that it’s purple. Again, rather than being motivated by you, I’m actually starting to distrust you because you are telling me things that aren’t “true” about me.
Motivating Across the Dimensions
Here are some suggestions that may help you connect better when it comes to recognizing, motivating, and inspiring others:
- I: To see if a person values themselves from the intrinsic perspective, you may want to say things like:
- “It is a joy to work with you.”
- “I can always count on your integrity.”
- “You are always so bold and courageous and I truly enjoy working with you.”
- “You are a terrific person.”
- E: If a person sees and values their extrinsic nature, you may want to say things like:
- “You are doing a great job.”
- “You really are a dedicated worker.”
- “I can always count on you to get the work done.”
- S: If your team member sees their systemic value, you will want to use words like:
- “That was a fantastic idea.”
- “You are so creative.”
- “I can always count on you to come up with a great plan of action.”
Are you able to see the difference in each of those approaches? Which one(s) do you respond best to? Here’s a hint: it’s probably the one that you also use the most. 🙂
Try this out on your team members and people that you relate with on a regular basis. Be mindful and aware of the words that elicit a positive reaction from them. Then, rather than using YOUR primary dimensional language, start to use THEIRS. You will begin to see them trust you more because your words will be congruent with their beliefs about themselves.