Mental Math for Motivation

Leverage Expectancy To Drive Action

Do you ever find yourself running some quick calculations in your head when you boss asks you to take on a new project or you are considering whether to get off the couch and head for the gym? Most of us do a bit of mental math to decide whether to take action – something Victor Vroom of Yale University outlined in his Expectancy theory of motivation.

One of the many topics Accelerate Institute trainers cover in our Motivational Drivers module is the management application of Expectancy theory. Here are a few tips:

Expectancy Theory

  • Understand the drivers. Expectancy theory combines three elements in the motivation “equation”. Each factor can be influenced by leaders to increase the end product – motivation.

Expectancy - will my efforts be successful?

Valence – will success actually lead to rewards?

Instrumentality – are the projected rewards desirable to me?

  • Manage expectancy. A low expectancy factor often has to do with low self-efficacy. As a leader, working to boost your team member’s confidence in a task can help correct for this barrier to motivation. Refer to our discussion of SLT here.
  • Build Valance. A low valence factor typically comes down to trust. If team members don’t believe the organization (or you) will deliver on the promised outcomes they are unlikely to drive ahead.
  • Fine Tune Instrumentality. A low instrumentality factor may be an issue of targeting. It is critical to remember that individuals respond differently to a variety of rewards based on their personality. One team member may love public praise, while another may dread it.

We can’t stop ourselves from doing the mental math of motivation, but forward-thinking leaders can manage the factors to move the needle towards action.

To learn more about this and other essential skills of business leadership, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training.