Tasks can vary vastly in difficulty and importance. From everyday issues to crucial tasks that our job performance depends on, we have to solve problems constantly. In the workplace, your answer to those problems can influence your professional trajectory and can either lift your team and company up, or drag them down. This is why it is important to understand how to best deal with problems and difficult tasks, and how to put yourself in situations that bring out your true potential. This article will explore how your work environment, support, and mental frameworks can make or break a great path to development.
Mental frameworks & feedback
Motivation comes from within. It can take many forms and come from various sources. Regardless of where your motivation comes from, it is important for it to be present, and well-directed. Without channeling your energy and resources into the right actions, it becomes increasingly harder to perform well as the time passes. But how do you know where and when to use your resources? Besides self-awareness and the old-school trial and error, an important part is feedback.
Great feedback should check two important boxes: it should acknowledge what a person does well, and why, and it should be future-focused in order to help the receiver perform better after integration.
To understand how important acknowledgment is, we should explore a simple psychological experiment. Two groups of children were invited to solve problems. After their first performance, the first group was told that their innate ability and talent led them to success, while the second group was told that specific parts of their work and their dedication have helped them to achieve the results. Even though initially the performance level of the two groups was similar, after receiving feedback the first group was more likely to solve fewer problems, perform poorly after a failure, and misinterpret how well they did on a task, while the second group was more likely to solve more difficult problems and to persist until they achieved better results. This suggests that the way we receive feedback about what we do can alter our mental framework, and that positive reinforcement is only as good as it is targeted. More so, recent studies on feedback indicate that future-centric feedback which includes prospective thinking and collaboration in generating ideas, planning, and problem-solving is substantially more effective in motivating team members and in helping them achieve the wanted results.
So, when looking for a place to shine and develop in, make sure that your manager and team members are ready to acknowledge what you are good at, and to help you achieve better results by giving relevant future-centric feedback.
Self-efficacy, management & support
Another crucial dimension of motivation is self-efficacy – the perception of an individual that they are equipped with the necessary resources to achieve their goals. Multiple studies have shown that low self-efficacy decreases motivation and can lead to more procrastination and poorer results, while increased self-efficacy helps people shine and perform at their true potential. But how can you increase your efficacy, and how is it affected by your work environment?
When it comes to doing your part, it is important to break down your goals into SMART tasks – they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
Only by doing so, you can make sure that you know what you have to do, you can constantly measure your progress, and you can increase your motivation by feeling that you can complete an important task on time. But what can you do when you don’t have the resources to do so? Here is where the environment and your team members and manager come in. If a task feels overwhelming in terms of lack of knowledge or time, or you simply cannot find the relevant course of action, it is important to have a support system that can guide you. This can immediately set you on the right course, increase your self-efficacy, and with it, your motivation and results.
Last but not least, your work environment should recognize your work for what it’s worth. Let’s say you have managed to tackle an important task and you came up with a great solution, you have integrated all the feedback, presented your ideas, and your output is ready to be implemented. Now it is important for your team to recognize your work.
If the business world has taught us anything is that an idea is only as valuable as people find it. You can have the greatest idea, but if it’s presented to the wrong people, it might not make it through. In a famous social experiment, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell was asked to give a live representation which was advertised to classical music fans, and the seats sold for about 1000$. Before the concert, Bell was also asked to give the same representation at the NY subway during rush hour. In this instance, out of the 1100 people who passed by during the 50 minutes he played, only six stopped to listen, and he made a total of 32$. He was obviously disconcerted and lost his motivation by the end, and the experiment validated its premise – even the best performer can go unnoticed in the wrong crowd.
To sum up, the path to self-development is complicated and it is not only dependent on yourself, but also on the environment that you find yourself in. Great feedback can help you better channel your resources, support can help you increase your self-efficacy and motivation and perform better, and, last, recognition is needed for your ideas to be seen, appreciated, and implemented. So, when searching for a place to work, make sure you can check as many of the boxes, in order to be able to be your best self and to excel at your job.