Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Journey Towards Self-Actualization

For a majority of my healthcare career, I have worked in academic medical centers. More recently, I have moved into community settings. Once thing that I enjoyed in the academic settings was the constant push to better the medical center along with our own professional and personal development. It has been good to see a shift over the past several years for community settings as well...the academic mindset in a community setting.

There are constant challenges with increasing the percent of people engaged in the workplace. An old friend, Alan, told me years ago that he had very engaged employees. He would share with them, "Whether you are here by choice or necessity, you are here, and I am glad you are here. You will enter people's homes while they are in a state of panic and frustration. When you leave their home, it will be a better place for them to live.

Note: Alan ran a Pest Control Company.

I was reading some theories on motivation and came across a classic we all know... Maslow: Theories of Motivation
(Source: http://www.analytictech.com/mb021/motivation.htm)


At a simple level, it seems obvious that people do things, such as go to work, in order to get stuff they want and to avoid stuff they don't want.

Why exactly they want what they do and don't want what they don't is still something a mystery. It's a black box and it hasn't been fully penetrated.

Overall, the basic perspective on motivation looks something like this:

Needs ---->Behavior---->Satisfaction----->Needs

and so on.

In other words, you have certain needs or wants (these terms will be used interchangeably), and this causes you to do certain things (behavior), which satisfy those needs (satisfaction), and this can then change which needs/wants are primary (either intensifying certain ones, or allowing you to move on to other ones).

A variation on this model, particularly appropriate from an experimenter's or manager's point of view, would be to add a box labeled "reward" between "behavior" and "satisfaction". So that subjects (or employees), who have certain needs do certain things (behavior), which then get them rewards set up by the experimenter or manager (such as raises or bonuses), which satisfy the needs, and so on.

Classifying Needs

People seem to have different wants. This is fortunate, because in markets this creates the very desirable situation where, because you value stuff that I have but you don't, and I value stuff that you have that I don't, we can trade in such a way that we are both happier as a result.

But it also means we need to try to get a handle on the whole variety of needs and who has them in order to begin to understand how to design organizations that maximize productivity.
Part of what a theory of motivation tries to do is explain and predict who has which wants. This turns out to be exceedingly difficult.

Many theories posit a hierarchy of needs, in which the needs at the bottom are the most urgent and need to be satisfied before attention can be paid to the others.


Maslow's hierarchy of need categories is the most famous example:


Specific examples of these types are given below, in both the work and home context. (Some of the instances, like "education" are actually satisfiers of the need.)

Self Actualization
Home: education, religion, hobbies, personal growth
Work: training, advancement, growth, creativity

Home: approval of family, friends, community
Work: recognition, high status, responsibilities

Home: family, friends, clubs
Work: teams, departments, coworkers, clients, supervisors, subordinates

Home: freedom from war, poison, violence
Work: work safety, job security, health insurance

Home: food, water
Work: Heat, air, base salary

We have many employees looking to advance themselves personally and professionally. Many of our Emergency nurses are getting their Certification as an Emergency Nurse. Cynde, our CNO, is getting her PhD and Jane (#6), our Executive Assistant (both are pictured at right) just passed her certification exam and became a Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) through the International Association of Administrative Professionals, a test which looks harder than sitting for the Bar as a lawyer.

I would like to host a lunch in February with 10-15 people who are advancing themselves personally and professionally. Please let me know if you are interested. You can contact my office at 816.943.2680.

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