What do people want?

At work we have recently completed the annual trama of performance reviews and transitioned into the annual trama of goal setting. One thing that impresses me about my managment is that they actually sent down a list that you might call “what the firm wants.”

Meanwhile I’ve been carrying around a scrap of paper – well after a while I moved the scrap into my PDA. I copied this scrap off a sheet that was pinned to somebody’s office wall. So, I’ve totally lost this lists’ provance, and since I tend to rewrite as I copy I’ve probably lost the original content as well.

My list is titled “what people want.” It has three subheadings: competence, community, and control.

People want to be competent, good at what they are doing, proffesional, successful, clever, etc.

People want to be part of a community (or more likely a few communities). Communities give one that degree of the stablity and safety that comes from durable longterm ties, improved performance from the synergies of complementary talents, the warmth of emotional ties, a narative, a common cause, a certification of self.

People want to feel in control, to be free to act in ways they think are best, to be empowered to take risks and the safety to know they can screw up. This is very similar to people’s strong preference for intrinsic motivation.

These three are all matters of degree, role, and temperment. Consider the cartoon versions of various roles. The artist is often assumed to being all into that freedom thing, control is his thing, community ain’t, self actualized, intrinsicly motivated. The judge on the otherhand is expected to be highly professional, competent, and to supress his tendency to creative interpretations of the law. I guess that’s the old Quaker/Puritan dialectic again.

The challenge for an institution is to bridge between what the firm needs, and these three. That is a bit-o-work! It’s worth getting right.

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