The heart of motivation

October 1, 2002
Orlando Ceaser
Orlando Ceaser

Orlando Ceaser is president & CEO of Watchwell Communications. He was formerly the senior director of diversity for AstraZeneca. He is the author most recently of “The Isle of Knowledge.”

Pharmaceutical Representative

Pharmaceutical Representative-10-01-2002,

Looking inward for motivational inspiration.

Much has been written about motivation, employee performance and how to help people reach their maximum potential. Finding the secret of motivating employees is a key driver, because this secret has a profound effect on productivity and the bottom line. Motivation is a seminal element of peak performance. Improving both internal and external facets of motivation is undeniably a prerequisite for success.

Corporations have invested millions of dollars on employee improvement plans. We are constantly reviewing the body of evidence in search of the heart of motivation.

People who believe in motivation struggle to answer the following questions:

•Â What does it take to motivate? How can you motivate and make the motivation habit-forming? What tools are required (people, places, things, environment, circumstances or processes)?

•Â Is it possible to really motivate an unwilling participant?

•Â How do you know if motivational techniques work? What is the specific evidence?

•Â Wouldn't it be nice to develop an early motivation test to detect where someone falls on the motivation meter?

The debates spawned by these questions are endless, but it's clear that how you hire and inspire in the workplace influences your chances of having a motivated organization.

When I started my career as a pharmaceutical representative, I was required to read a cardiovascular training program as preparation to sell a drug for heart disease. The program mentioned four main aspects of the heart, which have stuck with me for many years.

•Â Automatism: the ability of the heart to generate its own impulse (to initiate the heartbeat).

•Â Conductivity: the ability of the heart to conduct, and therefore sustain, electrical impulses.

•Â Contractility: the ability to contract (to do work).

•Â Compensatory mechanism: the ability to produce alternate circulation to increase flow to an area of the heart that has insufficient blood flow.


We want employees to be self-starters, to have automatism built into the fabric of their personality and value system. People with automatism not only compel themselves to do their best; they seem to instinctively adjust to stimuli and changes in their environment.

The best workers are those who love their job. They are using their talents and skills in a career suited to their interests and passions. Individuals in the right job utilize their values, beliefs and purpose to propel themselves to higher levels of performance. They have the spark that provides their own ignition. We can capitalize on their automatism through these factors:

•Â Environment.

- The day-to-day environment should be respectful and, when appropriate, fun.

- Celebrations should be built into the workweek.

- Employees should be treated with respect, dignity and fairness.

- Leadership should be trustworthy.

- The manager should provide leadership, direction and resources to make a difference.

- The workplace should be open, a place where people feel valued and included.

•Â Rewards and recognition.

- Achievement should be appreciated and celebrated.

- Both team performance and individual performance should be recognized.

The heart has a node that is the network of nerves responsible for the impulse that triggers the heartbeat. Each employee has his or her own hot button or motivational node. How do you determine what motivates an individual? What triggers the motivational spark in each employee? We can find out by asking each member of our team; they may know what motivates them. The spark shows itself when they are doing something they enjoy. Other methods of determining motivational automatism are surveys, questionnaires and other instruments employees can complete to determine the ranking of various motivators or stimuli. These are helpful and frequently enlightening to both employer and employee. The goal is to find people with their own pilot lights or develop a program to bring out the fire if it lies dormant within them.


The heart is like a battery. It can distribute power that is stored inside. Likewise, conductive people are enthusiastic and able to transmit this enthusiasm to others.

Workers with conductivity are usually positive role models. They are the ambassadors of the purpose and goals of the group. They help advance corporate programs and grow the business constructively. We can cultivate conductivity in employees by providing:

•Â Productive relationships.

- Teamwork should be encouraged.

- Employees should be driven by a common, meaningful cause or objective.

- People should be taught to manage conflict and accept diverse people and ideas.

•Â Purposeful work.

- Employees should feel that their work matters.

- They should be shown the big picture and their place in it.

•Â Advancement opportunities.

- Developmental opportunities should be discussed with employees.

- Mentors and coaches should be selected.

•Â High levels of communication.

- People should be kept informed on company actions.

- They should be involved in decisions that affect them.


When faced with increased demand or workload, the heart will beat faster to meet these challenges. People endowed with contractility expand their level of output to meet the demand. We need employees who will work smarter and harder when the challenges are greater. We need people to spend the time, effort, stamina and energy to reach their potential.

Occasional crises of morale are commonplace, but these are usually temporary and should not happen often. If an employee routinely requires a motivational defibrillator or pacemaker, over time he or she can drain the organization's time and resources. These individuals may become addicted to motivational techniques and, eventually, may only be effective if a motivational stimulant (such as a manager or the threat of disciplinary action) is present.

You can promote contractility by:

•Â Providing challenging work.

- Making sure that development occurs on the job.

- Ensuring that skills are tested and enhanced.

- Giving your employees the flexibility to minimize routine, dull and repetitive actions.

Compensatory mechanism

Compensatory ability in the heart creates new arteries to deliver oxygen to a region of the heart that is not getting enough blood flow. We need employees who can compensate by adjusting and adapting to forces within their environment. When barriers confront our employees, we need them to think of creative measures to work around those obstacles. Innovation and flexibility are requirements in these changing times, and versatile employees are in great demand.

To build compensatory ability, we need environments where:

•Â Risk-taking is encouraged.

- Setbacks aren't punished, but are analyzed and used to enhance performance.

•Â Problem-solving skills are developed.

- Objection-handling skills are cultivated.

•Â Strategic thinking is a part of training and coaching.

- Employees are taught to anticipate the unexpected.

- Tactics are formulated around crisis management through simulations, role-plays and what-if scenarios.

We must be heart-smart in driving the business and developing people. Leadership must reward and recognize performance in a positive developmental environment. Workers must ensure that their communication and career arteries aren't clogged with bad habits or unhealthy attitudes.

We need more employees who demonstrate automatism, conductivity, contractility and a compensatory mechanism. These attributes should be identified and fortified to create a corporate culture that is compatible with people who have a heart for motivation. PR

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