Performance Management Progress and Goals

The Power of Progress – Science of Motivation Series #2


In our first post of the series, we discussed the foundation of motivation: your brain. Now that you know how to get sales team motivation revved up with biology, it’s time to shift our discussion to behavioral psychology. But first, a question for all of you sales leaders: what really motivates your teams? Rank the following five in order of importance: 1.Incentives 2. Recognition 3. Clear Goals 4. Interpersonal Support 5. Support for making progress in the work If you’re like the majority of the 700 leaders surveyed by Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, you placed ‘support for making progress in the work’ in last place. In fact, only 5% ranked it first. Well, surprise! “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

In their exhaustive analysis of 12,000 diary entries of creative knowledge workers (like sales people, marketers, scientists, programmers), Amabile and Kramer focused on ‘inner work life’, that combination of emotions, motivation, and perception mentioned above, and how it combined to either drag a person down or propel them to achievement. They found that ‘The Progress Principle’ was the #1 factor in motivation and wrote the book on it. But what implications does this have for you as a manager motivating your sales team?  

Make Work Meaningful

  Your team spends half their waking life at work. Is it any wonder they want their work to mean something? Sure, it may not be creating world peace or solving the poverty crisis – but that’s not what matters. As long as the goal is meaningful to your team and it’s clear how their efforts contribute, progress can stoke your sales team motivation. Here’s what you can do to help:

    • 1. Have a sit down with each team member to delineate how their role contributes to the mission and goals of the organization.

Example: Why is making 60 calls a day important?

      • Do the math. 60 calls has been proven to be required to schedule 2 meetings. You need 2 meetings a day to get to 10 / week / 40 month. 40 meetings equals 30 opportunities which translates to 6 closed deals and at 25k per deal that equals 150k in revenue.

    If everyone did that the company would grow at over 75% and all of our stock ownership will be worth millions more. So 60 calls a day equals millions to the company – and eventually in YOUR pocket. That’s why we ask you to make 60 calls a day. Go make a difference!

    2. Keep the mission and purpose front and center in your organization. (find out how Hoopla can help)  

Be a Catalyst

  According to Amabile and Kramer, a catalyst directly enables progress in the work. Here’s what you can do to earn catalyst status:

  1. Provide clear goals
  2. Break big goals into incremental, achievable goals to maximize the sense of progress 3. Supply sufficient resources to accomplish goals 4. Allow independence and autonomy at work (for more on meaning and autonomy, check out Dan Pink)  

Nourish Your Team

Whether you’re the ‘touchy feely’ type or not, directly supporting your sales team’s inner work lives with emotional support and respect will benefit your bottom line. And here’s why: research has found repeatedly the psychological effect that bad is stronger than good. And ‘The Progress Principle’ found that setbacks have a negative effect on inner work life that’s 2-3x stronger than the positive effect of progress. Now guess what constitutes a setback? You guessed it: being disrespected, working in a hostile environment, etc. SO:  

1. Celebrate Wins even the small ones. Salespeople face rejection on a daily basis, oftentimes many times a day. Talk about setbacks! Creating an established method for your team to record accomplishments and instituting a practice of reflecting on those accomplishments daily will help sustain motivation in the long run. Here’s what else it can do:

  • Build confidence with action, consistency, and results
  • Create good habits with the help of the dopamine spikes they’ll get from regular rewards
  • Break up the long hard work leading to the big goal
  • Bring the focus back to the overall goal, and how far they’ve come

2. Track progress and use even less than positive progress as a learning opportunity – not a chance to give your team a hard time.

3. Create a positive culture of respect   And can you believe after all that, there’s STILL more you can do to create a sales culture that motivates? Stay tuned for next week, when we discuss the role of healthy competition.