April 11, 2008

I blog, therefore I am ... (bored)

I have often been referred to (with varying degrees of fondness/condescension/annoyance) as a "magpie", due to my attraction to anything Shiny! or New! in terms of my interests and activities, and the speed with which I become bored. To be honest, I have always seen myself more as a grown-up toddler: I frequently rush between one activity and the next, falling over now and then, and becoming instantly frustrated if I can't understand something. 

Today it occurred to me what an under-utilised resource we "toddler-type personalities" often are, in any organisation. Exasperating and exhausting? Certainly. And like all toddlers we can get into an awful lot of trouble in a very short while. But surely if our boundless enthusiasm could be channelled safely and effectively, everyone could benefit.  
Not surprisingly, this reminded me of the research I presented last week on motivating and retaining volunteers, because it is a truism of any volunteer organisation that
"10% of the people do 90% of the work"

So once again I went looking for other opinions on the subject, and almost immediately found a guide called "Managing High Achievers" which explains how to make the most of those who fall at the upper end of the performance curve:
"Actions to motivate a person with high need for achievement are:
  • Keep job tasks interesting and challenging
  • Stress concern for realistic goal setting and the value of goal achievement
  • Demonstrate an appreciation for careful planning and anticipation of obstacles
  • Provide enthusiastic and constant feedback on progress
  • Provide rewards and recognition for achievement, which the person values.

    Actions that de-motivate a person with a high need for achievement are:
  • Fail to keep score and provide feedback
  • Setting low level goals
  • Allow little opportunity for independence and initiative - keeping the person on a leash.
  • Failing to delegate effectively for a high achiever."
  • It is simply common sense to make the most of what those 10% (the "high achievers") can offer as volunteers, and to try and avoid the demotivating factors listed above.
    For example, during my years as a volunteer in the Open Directory Project, I was fortunate to be able to indulge my toddler tendencies by gradually gaining permissions to edit anywhere in the directory, and that freedom and variety is something that appeals to many editors, I know. So the "motivating actions" quoted above are more than just theoretical, and it's a shame they are not more widely applied.

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