Have you ever observed someone getting ‘lost’ in what they’re doing? People get so enthralled in what they are doing, time and space cease to matter.
And if you notice, these people are excellent at what they do.
Watch the video to learn how to promote an environment that allows team members to immerse themselves in the pursuit of mastery.
This lesson is in a video format
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People have an inherent need to continuously learn, grow and get better at an activity that matters to them. The more skilled a person gets, the more value they are able to offer and demonstrate to employers, friends and family. And that demonstrated value is inherently motivating to people.
You will find the best professionals gravitating towards workplaces that allow for them to grow in mastery and achieve ‘flow’ states.
Consider the events that unfolded at Yahoo and Google in the early 90s.
One of the reasons Yahoo! a tech colossus in its heyday, wound up a subsidiary of Verizon was because they didn’t take programming seriously enough. Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have all had hacker-centric cultures. But Yahoo began treating programmers as production units, not intellectual assets.
What added to the problem was that Yahoo! hired bad programmers. The leadership team at Google, Yahoo’s chief nemesis at that time, had been obsessed with hiring the best programmers. Yahoo wasn’t. They didn’t have the kind of single-minded, elitist focus on hiring the smartest people they could.
Google on the other hand had about 500 people at the time but was very much a hacker-centric culture. They worked simply to be the best at what they did in Silicon Valley.
Now, it’s well known that great programmers want to work with other great programmers. So once the quality of programmers at Yahoo began to drop, the existing great programmers jumped ship to work with other great programmers, mostly at Google. Yahoo soon entered a talent-death spiral from which it never recovered.
And what must be noted that it wasn’t necessarily for better pay. Yahoo was as good a paymaster at the time as Google. People left because they wanted to work with the best. Because this would enable them to be the best.
Bottom line: People desire mastery, and will move to environments where they can
Good people prefer working in environments that cultivate expertise, a point that all leaders would do well to acknowledge.
When people grow in mastery, and begin to excel at something worthwhile, they experience that phenomenon called ‘flow’ states, a phrase we had encountered under ‘vision’ in this lesson.
As you might remember, in a flow experience, people get so enthralled in what they are doing, time passes quickly, and self-consciousness dissolves. Like painters, lost in their craft, contemplating and improvising on the accuracy of their colours. Or a gem cutter, working a diamond to reveal its perfect form. The activity is its own reward.
They work not for extrinsic rewards, but because the work itself is the reward. They are intrinsically motivated.
But as we had seen earlier, for people to enter this state, mastery at the task is required. It is only the most skilled that can experience flow states.
The best leaders promote a learning environment that provides team members with the opportunity to grow in mastery.
Now, it’s true that mastery is a powerful motivator. But boundaries are required to this endeavour too. For instance, employees cannot spend most of their time in learning new skills and neglecting their work. Also, the skills being acquired by employees must be related to assigned tasks or projects. Else, these news skills might just be a waste of the organization’s time and money.
Enabling an environment that encourages growth in mastery is a powerful motivator. It allows people to enter flow states in their work. The best leaders facilitate this.
So, how will you facilitate mastery for your team?