Motivational Speakers love cliches.
And they’ll cite cliches like… there’s no i in team. But their logic is flawed, simplistic and counter-productive. It’s the problem, not the solution.
It Pits Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Against Each Other
It means the goal of the individual and the team are competing.
Each of us has an internal war. Religion depicts this as devils and angels on our shoulder. Saint or Sinner.
It’s really a battle between biology and an artificial social environment.
The message is essentially you should sacrifice your personal interests for the team. It’s a manipulative ‘should’ message trying to shame you into doing what someone else wants you to do for their benefit. It says sacrifice what is best for you, for the sake of the group.
The problem is that biology has millions of years of evolution behind it… and will always win.
Biological Instincts Are Hard Wired
There’s a reason why so many of us eat more sugar than we want and spend more than we save. Our biology programs us to prioritise my now… even over my future. And yet we think trite cliches can shame people into acting against every instinct in their body.
Biology has a logic… pure survival.
As Richard Dawkins says, we are selfish genes. Everything we feel is in order to ensure survival. It might not make sense in the world we live in today, but our biology is designed for the world of thousands of years ago.
The social environment will always outpace our biology.
Biology changes incredibly slowly. Society changes all the time. The tension between the two creates a gap between how we feel and what we show.
Blame Or Shame Me And I’ll Game You
When we feel judged for what we feel, we’ve learned to hide it.
When someone implies I’m a bad person for not sacrificing, I’ll probably agree. And inside I might beat myself up about it. But my biological instincts will guide me every step of the way to follow them.
And most people, in most situations, will succumb to their biology.
We only have a limited amount of willpower, so it matters that we are selective on the fights we take on. So you’ll win the argument, but it’s a pyrrhic victory. Because you’ve lost the war.
They’ll nod and agree, but act in their own interests anyway.
Because what you’ve told me is that I can sacrifice everything I want for the benefit of you and others. Or I can act in my own interests. It’s rarely an even fight.
Humans Are Wired To Collaborate
While there isn’t an I in team, there is me.
And if I don’t see the team as an extension of me, you have my social participation, but not my biological investment. When people tell others to ‘be professional’ or ‘leave your personal stuff at the door’, they are in essence telling them to forget their biological and psychological essence. So they get passive resistance.
People will only fully invest when what they do includes their biological, emotional, psychological and social selves.
Without that you are getting a fraction of someone’s effort. We invest our scarce resources in what brings a ROI to us. There are situations where we can force compliance, history is full of them, but that works until we need more of a person.
Work Has Changed From Moving Things To Moving People
Simpler economies were built on logistics.
Moving something from here to there, through a production line. As economies evolve the constraints become getting more involvement and engagement from the person. Creative, intellectually challenging work is only as good as the individual’s ability to produce more and more from themselves.
Where we once mined the planet, we now are mining our inner capacities.
If you are trying to achieve something that needs people to produce more ideas, insight or empathy, your success is in mining to access more capacity. When you blame, shame or game them you are reducing capacity. You are literally throttling their bandwidth.
When We Need More From People We Need To Tap Into Biology
When we need more from people, we need to align the social environment with their biology.
Despite what years of religious and social dogma tells us, people are not savages who need beating and shaming into submission. They are an organism built to collaborate. The secret is to align your goal with their biology.
When you put the ME in team, that’s when everyone propels you forward because you have the momentum of millions of years of biology.