In the movie, Groundhog Day, actor Bill Murray plays Phil, a weather forecaster who spends the night in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he is to do a broadcast the next day (February 2), broadcasting the annual ritual of the coming out of the groundhog. He wakes up the next morning, does his story and is annoyed to discover that he is trapped in Punxsutawney for a second night because of a snowstorm that comes in after the groundhog ceremony. Then the nightmare begins. Day after endless day he is faced with the very same scenario and can’t change it.

When it comes to managers discussing how to motivate people, I often feel like poor old Phil. I am stuck in an endless loop of repetition over and over and over again.

Here’s a typical e-mail I received on this topic:

I’ve just finished reading your article, “Weak Leaders Try to Use Money as a Motivator” which I think is very helpful.

I would really like your input on the following questions:

  1. How important is money?
  2. In addition to money, what else motivates people to work hard?
  3. When is money likely to be one of the most important motivators (if not the most important) and when is it likely to finish way down the list? Based on your answers, what conclusions can be drawn regarding the use of money as a motivator?

Here’s my response:

I am glad you found my article useful. I addressed your questions in my most recent book, The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success. Here’s an excerpt I pieced together addressing your question:

Beyond Manipulating and Motivating, to Leading and Inspiring
When confronting morale problems, managers will often succumb to the Victimitis virus and blame the declining work ethic, or any number of societal factors. But these factors are more imagined than real. Studies show that people’s real needs are much less mercenary than most managers believe.

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