September 18, 2023

History, desire, ability, initiative and joy


How do you find the right person for the job?

Simple. Filter for the five motivational indicators.

First, there’s the history. Someone who has done the work before.
Second, there’s the desire. Someone who wants to do the work.
Next, there’s the ability. Someone who can do the work.
Fourth, there’s the initiative. Someone who will do the work.
And last but not least, there’s the joy. Someone who likes doing the work.

Now, what’s important to know about this framework is, not all motivators are created equally. Some elements carry more weight than others.

Take history. If you have no background with a certain task, that’s not necessarily a disqualifier of involvement. Because what you lack in experience, you make up for in desire and ability. Someone with ambition and skill has assets that can be channeled into pretty much any task, given the right leadership.

What’s more, not having experience might be an advantage. If you’ve never done something before, that means there’s no baggage, expectations or limitations. It makes the possibility of novel solutions more likely.

At the same time, experience is no guarantee of repeat success. For all we know, someone could have spent ten years doing their work wildly inefficiently. And that doesn’t help us today. They might even be over experienced. They know too much. Which means they’re trapped in stale thinking.

Moving away from history, now let’s talk about the motivator of initiative.

This is the will do something, and it’s a must have.

There’s no substitute for this critical force. Someone can have all the ability in the world, but if they’re not inclined to take action, then it doesn’t matter. Any number multiplied by zero is still zero.

Movies and television shows often characterize this person as the brilliant but lazy character. Someone who is more capable of taking care of any situation that the heroes have to deal with, but they simply don’t care. What a waste. All those skills and no agency.

If it’s true that where there’s a will there’s a way, then without will, there’s inertia.

Shifting gears to another motivator, what about desire and joy? Is wanting to do something and enjoying the process of doing, a prerequisite for effort?

It certainly helps. Any human endeavor is less of an uphill battle when there’s a baseline of enthusiasm. Showing up with at least some degree of interest helps build momentum, navigate rejection, overcome resistance and power through the mundane.

Optimizing for energy can often compensate for lack of experience or skill.

But lest we forget, these motivators are still luxuries. Work is still work. And considering eighty percent of life is doing things we don’t want to do, and don’t like doing, then we shouldn’t lean too heavily on desire and joy.

They’re both powerful sources of fuel, but they’re also luxuries. Sometimes the work is dreadful, absurd, complicated and stupid. There’s no way around it. And all you can do is embrace the suck and try to survive the workday without throwing yourself out the window.

As a reminder, here are the five motivational indicators.

History, desire, ability, initiative and joy.

Do you know where you stand on each one? How are you using them as filters for your behavior?

Motivation is a highly nuanced equation. Human beings are vehicles of multiple fuels.

But you’re intentional and honest about where people sit on that spectrum, then there’s no reason almost anything can’t get done.

And who knows? Maybe your team will find that with a certain project, nobody has done it before, nobody wants to do it, nobody can do it, nobody will do it, and nobody likes doing it.

That’s okay too.

Maybe there is no right person for the job because it shouldn’t even be a job in the first place.

Are you honest with yourself and your team what really motivates you?