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We have been examining the ideas in Daniel Pink's book, "Drive", because it is a book about motivation. To say that the topic of motivation is important to real estate companies, brokers, managers, and agents would be a massive understatement. The amount of money spent by those entities on motivational programs, seminars, books, and tapes probably totals in the millions. People in the real estate business – especially owners and brokers – could do well to reflect on the ideas in "Drive".

Pink refers to types of motivations as human "operating systems". The elemental 1.0 was all about survival. Its successor, Motivation 2.0 is built around external rewards and punishments. Motivation 2.0 works just fine for the kind of work that is routine, repetitive, or reducible to a set of rules – the kind of work that has been automated or outsourced. But Motivation 2.0 doesn't work very well for work that calls for creativity and novel problem solving. Which is to say, it doesn't work very well in a real estate brokerage setting.

Pink introduces the idea of Motivation 3.0 –intrinsic motivation – which is made up of three elements:

  1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives;
  2. Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and
  3. Purpose – the desire to be a part of something that is worthwhile and larger than ourselves. Earlier we discussed the ways in which autonomy and mastery might be engendered in a real estate setting. Today we turn to the topic of purpose -- and speak primarily to owners and brokers.

Pink writes this: "Humans, by their nature, seek purpose – a cause greater and more enduring than themselves. But traditional businesses have long considered purpose ornamental – a perfectly nice accessory, so long as it didn't get in the way of the important things. But that's changing … In Motivation 3.0, purpose maximization is taking its place alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle."

How might this apply to a real estate business?

It is true that many, many real estate companies support and involve themselves with a number of good causes and charities. What is also true, though, is that such activities may frequently be one-time-only, seasonal, and/or generally disconnected from the on-going activities of the company. This is not to denigrate the time, effort, and money that may go into such activities, for they are indeed commendable. But, it is to suggest that a company that seeks to encourage intrinsically motivated agents is one for whom socially beneficial activities are not just an "ornament" but are an integral part of a company's purpose.

Do you want agents who are motivated? Then give them an opportunity in their work to be a part of something larger than themselves. But, of course, to do that you – your company – must be a part of that something too.

None of this suggests that you become a non-profit! Of course you need and want to make a profit. So, presumably, do your agents. But, take seriously what Pink says: "A healthy society – and healthy business organizations – begins with a purpose and considers profit a way to move toward that end or a happy by-product of its attainment." Profit is not the end in itself; it is a means to an end.

If an agent is to feel that he or she is really a part of a company that has a purpose beyond profit, then give the agent an opportunity to participate in the accomplishment of that purpose. Suppose, for example, that the company gives n% of its profit (or a specific dollar amount) to the ABC charity, you might give agents the opportunity to direct certain amounts from their commissions (even from the company split!) to that same charity.

Don't know what charity or good cause to support? Solicit input from your agents. Indeed, do that first. After all, they are the ones who will generate the income to fund it.

Finally, assuming you are a company that has made a worthwhile purpose an integral part of its operations, if you want motivated agents, then work hard to make them feel they are a part of the company. What you say and how you say it are beyond measure. Pink speaks of "the simple and effective way Robert B. Reich, former U.S. labor secretary, gauges the health of an organization. He calls it the 'pronoun test.' When he visits a workplace, he'll ask the people employed there some questions about the company. He listens to the substance of their response, of course. But most of all, he listens for the pronouns they use. Do the workers refer to the company as 'they'? Or do they describe in terms of 'we'? 'They' companies and 'we' companies, he says, are very different places. And in Motivation 3.0, 'we' wins." Number 3 in a series of 3.

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