We often display a natural tendency to put our own needs before others.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. As Psychology Today's Lisa Firestone notes, "Maintaining a certain regard for ourselves and engaging in self-compassion and self-care are actually fundamental to creating a good life for ourselves and the people who matter most to us."
Focusing on our own needs can protect us from burnout and other negative consequences. However, from a leadership perspective, this focus often crosses into a decidedly more selfish territory. In today's complicated workplace, if you don't put the needs of others before your own, you will lose in the long-term.
If losing in the long-term isn't big enough, when you put the needs of others before your own as a leader you do two big things.
1. Create an inspiring place to work
A leader who puts others first creates an uplifting, motivating culture that inspires confidence among their employees.
These leaders maintain a high view of their people, show them respect, and listen receptively to their needs in a nonjudgmental way. This is powerful for a team’s positive performance environment as it instills a trust in the employees’ strengths, abilities, potential, and commitment to the job.
This doesn't mean that you're going to become best friends with your employees.
What it does mean, however, is that you will be continuously engaged in making sure that each team member has the resources they need to perform their job effectively. It means you will create a safe environment where everyone feels valued.
When you show genuine care for your employees' needs, as opposed to an obsession with the bottom line, you will enjoy better retention rates and productivity as everyone buys into the company culture.
2. Improve the potential for widespread impact
When a leader focuses on their own needs, they limit their influence. Focusing on the needs of others is just good business sense.
Additionally, leaders who put others first want to see them succeed. They understand that an employee's success doesn't threaten or diminish their position.
Instead, it creates new opportunities for growth. Taking on the role of a coach or mentor may not directly benefit your career, but it can help a new employee improve their skills so they can become a stronger contributor to the team.
When you focus on fulfilling employees' needs, they will be better able to meet their responsibilities toward your customers, putting your brand in a better position to reach its goals.
Instilling Intrinsic Motivation
Adapting to a "people-first" mindset may be a bit of a challenge, but it can be done.
Start by getting to know your employees. Understand their challenges and concerns, as well as the things they're excited about. The better you get to know your team, the easier it will be to identify ways you can improve their experience in the workplace.
The leaders of people-centric companies understand that it’s people who make their company successful. These companies realize that when people feel valued and cared for, they do their work with stronger intrinsic motivation, a deeper sense of meaning, and a greater level of engagement. They go the extra mile simply because they want to contribute to an organization that cares about them.
The more you do to foster a positive, supportive atmosphere, the easier it will be for employees to feel like they can bring up concerns or new ideas. Giving everyone a voice by prioritizing their needs will cultivate a productive environment that allows everyone to succeed.
Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is behavior driven by internal or intrinsic desire.
In other words, it’s the motivation to engage in behavior that arises from within the individual rather than from without. This means that the motivation comes solely from oneself and not from external forces such as incentives like compensation or praise.
This is connected to the social psychology and self-determination theory, which is a framework for the study of motivation and suggests people become self-determined when their needs for competence, connection, and autonomy are filled.
Intrinsic needs, like job satisfaction and human connection, stem from the self-determination theory and often drive us to do our best work. Intrinsic motivation can also improve team engagement, because it involves seeking out activities that bring us internal joy and help create purpose.
Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards or punishment rather than internal desires. This means external motivation can be both rewards-based and fear-based, as long as there is an external force driving the motivation.
Let’s break down the differences between the two:
● Intrinsic motivation is the means of finding satisfaction within yourself. Intrinsic motivators might include curiosity or taking on a new challenge.
● Extrinsic motivation involves avoiding external punishment or seeking rewards. External factors that motivate team members can include extrinsic rewards—such as sales incentives or performance merits.
Human motivation is inherently different from person to person, which means the types of effective motivation will also vary from team to team. While one person may respond better to intrinsic factors, another might respond better to extrinsic factors. The key is to consider your team's needs and what’s best for their well-being.
Building a better tomorrow
Putting others' needs ahead of your own may feel counterintuitive. But to become a successful business leader, it is a crucial trait that you will need to develop. By focusing on the needs of your employees, you can inspire better performance.
When you focus on people, rather than numbers, you will be far better positioned to achieve the desired results.