What is motivation?

  • Published
  • By Capt. Willie Cooper
  • 22nd Mission Support Squadron commander
Papers are written about motivation almost on a daily basis; "Motivational speakers" make good money energizing a company's employees to work harder, faster or more efficiently. New programs and motivational theories are explained and dissected.

Motivation is typically defined as the forces that account for the arousal, selection, direction and continuation of behavior. It is common knowledge motivation is the key to success. After all, motivation is the trait that drives you into action, and without action you will never accomplish anything. With this in mind, motivation is a popular but complicated subject.

In the Air Force, we are always looking for ways to motivate individuals; whether it is recognition, such as awards, financial, with pay increases or an increase in responsibility, through promotion.

All of us were motivated to join the Air Force, whether that motivation was to serve our country, to make a better life for our selfs or to be a part of something bigger.

However, many of us have at least one major misconception about motivation; one being that some Airmen are unmotivated. Strictly speaking, that is probably not true. As long as an Airman chooses goals and expends a certain amount of effort to achieve them, they are, by definition, motivated.

What some of us really mean is that a few Airmen are not motivated to behave in the way we would like them to.

When trying to figure this out, ask yourself a couple of questions:
· Do you personally thank people for a job well done?
· Is feedback timely and specific?
· Do you make time to meet with and listen to members on a regular basis?
· Do you share information about your organization with your Airmen on a regular basis?
· Do you ensure you have tools in place to get information to the lowest level?
· Do you involve members in decisions, especially those that will affect them?
· Do you reward members based on their performance or because you had to fill a quota?

Naturally, there are a number of other external variables that may cause Airmen to lose motivation. External issues that may affect them include divorce, parenthood, overwhelming debt, extended family issues or weight control; you do have the opportunity to learn from that information.

Knowing these other "variables" can increase your chances in the work area because it will allow you "situational awareness."

So, the next time you are pondering how to motivate a member of your section, flight or squadron, stop and ask yourself, "What changed to de-motivate that person?"