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George Reed
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George Reed

A retired U.S. Army Colonel, George Reed is an associate professor in the Department of Leadership Studies within the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego.

The magic of fellowship

In response to this week's On Leadership question: Last year was a tough one for many organizations, with fewer employees required to do more with less. How can leaders of such organizations motivate their people as they head into 2010?

I recommend thinking about motivating others in terms of the "Four Fs." They stand for funds, fun, fellowship, and feeling. Most people are motivated by some combination of the four but the combination that promotes the highest motivation may not be the same for every person.

Funds include tangible economic incentives like salary, bonuses, and perquisites. This category attracts talent in a competitive talent pool, but is insufficient to assure exceptional performance over the long term. Economic incentives are an important motivator that should not be overlooked, but the best employers do not put all of their eggs in this basket even if they have the personnel budget to do so. Some who are highly compensated are not that motivated, and as I will point out below, some in low paying positions make extraordinary contributions.

Fun is often overlooked, but is an important factor in retaining quality employees. Think about the job you enjoyed the most: You probably laughed a lot. Talented people will sometimes join or stay with an organization where people are having fun, even if the economic inducements are better elsewhere. Here I am reminded of an employee in one of the world's top design firms who reportedly declined acceptance to medical school three times because he was having too much fun at his job.

Fellowship refers to the sense of camaraderie that exists among members of a team. It should not be underestimated. Sometimes people forge deep bonds with their colleagues, either borne out of a shared sense of trial and hardship, or affinity for a task or mission. We know that soldiers do not fight and die for abstract concepts, but will go to extraordinary lengths for their buddies. When Staff Sergeant Lincoln Dockery's convoy was ambushed in Afghanistan he charged into almost certain death to save his fellow soldiers. Although wounded he did survive and was awarded both the Purple Heart and Silver Star. At the award ceremony he was quoted as saying, "My only concern was for the guys who worked under me."

Feeling refers to the sense of accomplishment that results from making a difference. Some people derive a strong sense of self-worth and identity from contributing to others. Some might call it a sense of stewardship or a desire for legacy, but most human beings want to leave a mark that lasts longer than their presence on this earth. Not everyone requires a monument, but people like to believe that they are making a contribution to a worthy endeavor.

The best leaders strive to invoke all of the above sources of motivation. Where one aspect is lacking they will strive to augment with another. Employers should not be surprised if they suffer high turnover and low motivation from low-paying, joyless positions with high levels of conflict where workers do not feel a sense of purpose. Where intangible source of motivation such as fun, fellowship and feeling are present extraordinary effort and achievement often result.

By George Reed

 |  January 4, 2010; 2:29 PM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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