Motivation Theories 101 for Parents

You are a Middle Manager. You lead big teams, manage difficult people, and resolve conflicts every single day. You have this amazing Emotional Intelligence (EI). So proud you are!

You think you have the knack:

  • I can feel their pulse. They bare open their hearts in front of me!
  • We are a team of high achievers. Work is made enjoyable for all through collaborative problem solving!

While you’re at it, your wife’s anger and 9 year old son’s retaliation catches your attention. She’s manages the kids. You don’t interfere with how she approaches their studies or behavior management.

Except that there’s one rule in the house- Anger is unacceptable, come what may! And in all shapes and forms – no personal attacks, back biting, shaming, shouting, and if you’re thinking spanking, well the rule on that is- Don’t even think about it!

But this Friday, when you’re thinking you’d chill on the weekend. You’ve got work to do. Wife’s out of bounds. She is fed up and tired. You know that there’s is a lot of talking coming your way when she says “Don’t talk to me!” or “Leave me alone!

And that’s exactly how it unfolds..

  • He doesn’t sit down to study. He just doesn’t listen to me
  • I need to check his chat messages on Clash of Clans. He could be in bad company!

You were at the receiving end of all this in more ways than one – Apparently, just a little while back, this out of control situation had led your son to hitting his football so hard in the study room that it hit your dearest, beloved bookshelf’s glass window! And yes, it broke.. along with a piece of your heart. You got to know about this after all the other so called important details. (All that really mattered to you in all these details was that your bookshelf glass broke!)

Well, but perhaps it was the broken glass of your bookshelf that brought the message home for you that you need to take the ownership for next few days. Otherwise, you would have laughed the matter off.

You use the opportunity to take this on your shoulders when your wife says “Okay fine, you do it. Try it just for two days and then we’ll see! It’s easier said than done.”

Being a great believer of Douglas McGregor’s Theory Y of Motivation, you decide taking that approach in the situation.

Douglas McGregor’s—Theory X and Theory Y:

Theory X: assumes that people need supervision and need to be pushed into doing something.

Theory Y: on the other hand is where you assume people are self-motivated and you just need to motivate them so that they pull themselves towards the goal.

Wifey dear, remember the boss with whom interactions were no less than interrogations, the daily grilling, cursing people for not completing an assigned task, and the threat to throw them out! So theory X’ish!

It’s not saying that it didn’t work – It did, at least for the time being, but didn’t it make us feel miserable, worthless and like slaves and that too every single day! Going to work was a pain in the wrong place.

We don’t want anyone to go through that. Definitely not our children.

You sense that it is your son’s over confidence bordering on complacency that’s causing this.

“Complacency is the enemy of success” – Jeff Sutherland, Co-creator of Scrum

You offer to play a game of football with him in the backyard. An offer you know he will never refuse. You usually lose to him but today you play harder and eventually beat him (well.. in order to bring his over confidence under control)

You hand him a leaf out of the daily planner you got from the US. He knows it means a lot to you. After a bit of coaching, he is able to jot down his priorities for next two days and his plan for the day (no questions asked). Surprisingly, he has included time to study for his Hindi and GK tests on Monday.

He followed the plan. Not perfect but definitely to his satisfaction and yours (and your wife’s)

You tell him about checking off the planned tasks that are done. He does that and is kicked about it. You are carried away and tell him about deriving your happiness score based on how much you got done!

The journey has been good so far on Day 1 and Day 2. However, the outcome is yet to be seen after the Monday’s test results. You are pretty confident though about the outcome too.

By the way, even offering rewards for doing something will fall under Theory X. The rationale being that it’s like bribe and makes people do things only as long as they get something in return. Theory Y is about internal motivation. People naturally like contributing and creating things even if its without a direct reward.

So, if the journey matters to you, then you better make it enjoyable. Results will ensue. Amen!

Congratulations! If you have read so far, you have understood the following concepts of Project Management:

  • McGregor’s theory of motivation– Difference between Theory X and Theory Y
  • Pop the Happy Bubble – Don’t be so happy (complacent) that you start believing your own bullshit!
  • Quantify Happiness : Happiness Score – It’s the Journey, not the Destination!
  • Happiness is a future looking metric – Get Better Every Day and Measure it! (.. the Monday test results will prove!)

The “Happiness” concepts have been referenced from SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland, Co-creator of Scrum.

Some questions you should be able to answer:

  1. Name one future looking work metric which can be a great indicator for successful outcomes. (Bonus question: Can you think of another one?)
  2. Theory Y works by addressing which type of human need from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (Tip: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a five-stage model – i. Physiological needs ii. Safety needs iii. Love and belonging needs iv. Esteem needs v. Self-actualization needs)

Please do share your thoughts and any questions you may have regarding the Motivational theories. Until next time, Adios!