Drive and Motivation
Dan Pink, The New York Times best-selling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, provides insights on the aspects of how motivation and drive affect leadership.
Dan, Dan Pink. Welcome to Winston-Salem. Welcome to the BB&T leadership series.
Thank you, Kelly, great to be here with you.
We're really happy to have Dan with us today. He's a famous author of many books, including A Whole New Mind, Drive, and a new book coming out soon called When, which I'm excited to read. So we're elated to have you on our series today because your insights of all of the aspects of leadership are incredible.
And so looking forward to our conversation. So maybe just a start out, I know you're a trained lawyer I saw your Ted talk—by the way, which is one of those famous Ted talks of all time and everybody should watch it. But how did you get compassion about drive and motivation?
Yeah, well, it's a long and winding story. So I actually was a social science major as a linguistics major in college. Love social science but, in part, because I was a middle class kid from Columbus, Ohio, instead of going to get a degree in psychology, or get a PhD, I went to law school because that was a economically secure thing to do. But I ended up, in my early 30s, deciding that I wanted to write, and I wanted to write my own things. And it ended up going back to what my real first interest was which is how people behave, what people do, why they do it. And for me, a lot of what I work on comes down to the issue of work, OK? And that's the lens through which I look at a huge portion of what I write about
And work ends up being this endlessly interesting sphere of activity for human beings. We spend over half of our waking hours in work so it becomes this gigantic laboratory, playground, jungle, for understanding the human condition. As I said, why people do what they do, how they do it, how do we collaborate, where do we have disagreements, how does stuff get done.
So at its root, how does motivation and drive affect a leader's ability?
Yeah, it's a complicated question because human beings are a mix of motivations. So we have biological drives, OK. So when we get thirsty, we drink water, when we get hungry, we eat, we seek food. We also have a very strong reward and punishment drive. Many times, if you reward behavior, you'll get more of it. If you punish it, you get less of it. That's a big part of who we are. But I think what leaders need to understand is that human beings also have another drive, think of it as a third drive. And that we do things because we like them. We do things because they're inherently satisfying. We do things because they help us make progress. We do things because they make a contribution. And what the science is telling us is that that second drive type of motivators, carrot and stick motivators, are very good for simple, algorithmic short-term tasks. They work really well.
But for this other category of work, that is more complex, creative, conceptual, those kinds of carrot and stick motivators, the science tells us aren't that effective. And you need a different motivational regime that draws very much on the third drive. And what's happening around the world, or certainly in the industrial world, is that less and less work is simple, routine, algorithmic, mechanical. More of it is conceptual, creative.
You're really breaking from a lot of the traditional business person's views. You've said that science is saying one thing in business but still doing another, which I actually find in our own companies, though. I'm quite expecting that we're going to learn some things in our company about how to improve. One of the things you've said in drive, I thought was pretty interesting, you said, greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. What does that mean?
Well, I mean, it's like if you want to do something that matters, something that lasts, something that's significant, you gotta extend your—you gotta extend your gaze beyond simply what's right in front of you. And I think what's happened is that a lot of the motivational mechanisms inside of organizations are very much focused on the short-term. So we say to employees, if you do this particular thing, pretty soon, we're going to give you this. And we're getting people to set their sights this way. Same thing is true at the organizational level, especially in any kind of public company. Public companies are just understandably focused on what's going to happen in this 90-day segment, what's going to happen in this 90-day segment, what's going to happen in this 90-day segment. That the incentive system, both at the individual level and at the organizational level, is forcing a kind of myopia that I think is unhealthy in the long-term.
Let's talk a little bit about McGregor's Theory X, Theory Y, which when I started it years and years ago, the simple concept of Theory X people are explicitly rewarded, and they're only focused on doing something that they get paid. And Theory Y was a little more intrinsically. But you've taken it to another level with your theory I or I type of person, tell me.
Well, I mean, what's interesting about McGregor, who was writing in the 1950s, 1960s, is that he was way ahead of his time, that he was more or less right. But what he was doing in some level was—and I don't mean this in a negative way—he was philosophizing. He was basically saying, here's how I think the—this is my observations. This is how I think the world should be. And what I've tried to do, in this one book called Drive, is look at what has science told us, OK, over the last 50 years? There's been an explosion of research, probably triggered, in part, by McGregor's ideas. A explosion of research in laboratory settings, field studies, et cetera, now, more and more big data, taking this very hardheaded, very analytic look at this question of what motivates people on the job.
And it turns out, there's now evidence to support McGregor's instincts. And what the evidence tells us pretty clearly is this. There's a certain kind of motivator that we use in organizations. Psychologists call it a controlling contingent motivator. I like to call it an if-then reward. If you do this then you get that. If you do this then you get that. The science is overwhelming that if then rewards are extremely effective for simple, short-term tasks. They work really well. And the reason for that—and it gets a little bit complicated here, it gets a little bit nuanced here—is that it's not that human beings don't like rewards. We love rewards. We love them to death. They get our attention, but they get our attention in this very narrow way. That's very good if you know what you need to do and the finish line is nearby.
However, if the task requires more creative thinking, more conceptual thinking, problem isn't perfectly phrased, you're drawing from here, drawing from here, putting it together, turning it upside down, experimenting, or the finish line is further off, those if-then rewards just don't work very well. For that, you need this much more expansive view. And so I think that the problem that we have going—I mean, I think McGregor was—as I said, McGregor was ahead of his time. Herzberg was ahead of his time. To some extent, Maslow was ahead of his time. But those guys were not—those guys were not doing experimental research. They weren't doing random controlled trials to test causation, to test what is actually—what the mechanism is driving all of this.
And I think that if you take what the science is telling us, what it shows us is that we're making mistakes. And that if you think about a firm, OK? A firm is a collection of jobs to be done, right? So some of those tasks to be done are simple, algorithmic, mechanical, routine, short time horizons. Use if-then rewards for those. But as we were talking before, a bigger portion of the tasks to be done inside of a firm are much more complicated. And so our mistake is that we're using if-then rewards for everything rather than only that one area where they're effective.
And when we're in the if-then rewards, mundane, robotic-type activities, it seems we're missing out entirely on what you talk about in terms of the third drive that we all have that's an inner drive to do well while we're doing good.
That's part of what it is to be human. I mean, it's a good point because I think that a lot of times we've taken-- I mean, you used the word robotic, and let's stick with that word here for a second. A lot of times, you—think about what a robot is, OK? A robot is something that is essentially programmed, right? It doesn't really have a biological drive, but let's say that the electricity and energy is its biological drive. And then it's programmed to respond to stimuli in certain ways, OK? Now, human beings are somewhat like that, OK? But that's a very two-dimensional view of human beings.
Human beings have another dimension which is exactly what you're talking about. We're interested in stuff. We like stuff. We want to do things that matter. And I think what's essential is that businesses take a three-dimensional view of people. In our family lives, we would never take a two-dimensional view of people we love. We wouldn't say, oh, my wife, she only responds to biological drives and if-then rewards. Or my kid only responds to biological drives and if-then rewards. We'd say, no, it's a full human being. And I think that having a three-dimensional view of human beings is not only the right thing to do, but it's more effective.
So we've talked about some of the '50s, '60s guys the Peales, the Herzbergs, and Maslows, and those guys. Some of the newer thinkers like yourself, and Carol Dweck, I mentioned Carol's work around a growth mindset, and it seems to me—you may disagree—but it seems to me that this I concept, this inner drive is getting at this growth mindset.
Yeah, I think there's I—absolutely, I think that there is—I mean, so Carol Dweck's work on the growth mindset and fixed mindset is remarkable. It's—to my mind, at least—it's historically important that when people tell the history of ideas and our understanding of the human condition, 100 years to now, 200 years to now, they're going to be talking about that as an important moment as a breakthrough. And I think that if you look at what motivates people at the deepest level, part of it is a sense of mastery, sense of making progress. And I think the growth mindset connects very clearly to that, that people want to—by its very name growth, all right—people want to progress. If you have a fixed mindset and every challenge you have is simply a measure of your reservoir of ability then you're not going to grow. But if you have a growth mindset, and you say every challenge is a—is the chance to make progress, grow, learn, develop then I think you become, again, I think it's a double win. You become, I think, a more fulfilled human being, and you're better at your job.
Yeah, so let's talk about the brain a little bit. Somewhere along the way, you've switched from being a lawyer to being almost like a neurosurgeon, learning the brain a lot.
Yeah, well, I learned I—my way of learning about the brain was from the opposite side of that transaction. Not as a neurosurgeon, but I went into the National Institutes of Health, outside my home in Washington DC, and had my own brain scanned to see my own brain in action, to try to understand it a little bit better. Very disappointing experience to see my own brain.
I don't dare look at mine. But out of that, you've wrote a book about the whole new mind. This whole movement away from left brain, right brain. I think a lot of people don't understand that. Could you explain it?
Well, one reason, Kelly, a lot of people don't understand left brain, right brain is that much that's been written about it is complete nonsense. This is one of those ideas where the popularization got way ahead of the science. And it's almost the converse of what happened with some of the motivation stuff. And the science is way ahead but no one really understood what it was really about. And so I use the brain as a metaphor for understanding what's going on in the workplace today. And the metaphor is relatively simple. Our brains are very complex. We use both sides for everything that we do. But over time, thanks to evolution, our brains have parceled out tasks. There is a division of labor. This side specializes in tacit or logical, linear, sequential, analytical. This side, not better, not worse, just a different department, all right? This is like marketing, this—or this is accounting, this is marketing, or, you know.
And it specializes in tasks that are about the big picture, about synthesis, about context, about the symphonic way of thinking. And I think that offers a lovely metaphor for what's happening in the economy today, which is that these kinds of abilities, the logical, linear, sequential. You can call them SAT spreadsheet abilities are necessary. Let's not get that wrong, they're necessary, but they're no longer sufficient. And it's these kinds of abilities that are becoming more important. And again, the reason is not soft-hearted, it's hardheaded. The reason is that these kinds of abilities are easy to outsource and easy to automate which puts a premium on these kinds of abilities.
So some people hearing this may be quickly drawn to—again, tying back to Carol Dweck's growth or fixed mindset—may go back to saying, well, you know, the growth mindset relates to the right side, the left side, not growth. But it strikes me that both can be growth mindset.
Absolutely, I actually wouldn't agree with that because if you think about this, think about at some level, we can—if you think about—the thing about these—let's call them SA—let's forget about the brain and call them SAT spreadsheet abilities. Literacy and numeracy, those are incredibly important. They're urgent. And the thing is we have to believe—and I think when we're our best selves, as a country, we do believe that everybody in this country can become literate. It's not a matter, oh, some people don't have the ability to become—course, they do. They need the opportunity. They need the challenge. Same thing is true with numeracy. And so it's frustrating sometimes to hear kids say, oh, I'm not good at math.
That's nonsense. Everybody's good at math. It doesn't, now, again, having a growth mindset doesn't mean that every kid who is literate is going to become Maya Angelou, and every kid who's numerate is going to become Stephen Hawking. But everybody can make it, but the same thing is true on the other side, too. So if you look at something like the arts. OK, there's some people, lawyers, bankers, engineers, oh, I could never do anything in the arts. I could never paint, or sing, or anything like that. And that is equally wrong.
Again, it doesn't mean that you're going to become, if you learn how to sing, Lady Gaga. And it doesn't mean that if you learn how to paint, you're going to become de Kooning. But it means that, yeah, you, banker, lawyer, whoever, can get a lot better at this more artistic, empathic kinds of things. So to me it's like at some level, you have the left brain and right brain, and that's the SAT spreadsheet abilities and the more artistic, empathic abilities. And if you can take the growth mindset and over arching that and it applies, I think, with equal force to both sides.
Yeah, and I think it helps me and maybe it helps others to realize that our brains—brains, coming back to the left and right—are so powerful. As I understand we have 100 billion neurons, like little wires that can be rewired. They call it, what, neuroplasticity. So, yeah, everybody's got the ability, dramatic, unused ability to change substantially. I think that's an important thing. And I know a lot of people today are beginning to get concerned, I've heard our associates get concerned because a lot of articles, a lot of speeches have been given by some famous people on a debate. One debate is AI, artificial intelligence, robotics is going to wipe out all the jobs. And humans won't have anything else to do. One debate is, I think where you are, which is no, no, no, humans can move to a higher order of activities while the robots do simple things, but if you could explain that, I think it would be helpful.
Yeah, I mean you laid it out nicely. You have this very apocalyptic view that we're going to have widespread unemployment, that there's going to be nothing left for human beings to do. And I'd disagree. I disagree with that deeply. And the reason I disagree with it is not because—again, it's like this other stuff—it's not as if I have a particularly strong emotional stake in one or another, just that, maybe it's my training as a lawyer, I just look at the evidence. And at every juncture in every economic transition, we hear the same thing, oh, there's no way. Economies are about growing things. There's no way we can have an economy that's about manufacturing. Not everybody can do that. There's not going to be enough jobs. There's not going to be enough demand. Lo and behold, that happens.
Then you heard the same thing with the transition from the industrial age to the information age, oh, no, not everybody can you have a high school diploma. Not everybody can even want to go to college. Not everybody can do white collar work. Lo and behold, look what happens. And now I think, we're at the same kind of transition from the information age to, at least, what I call the conceptual age which is where a lot of these routine intellectual skills are being outsourced and automated in the same way that routine physical skills were outsourced and automated a generation ago. And history tells us if you're going to bet, put your money on human ingenuity. Put your money on the fact that this is what's always happened is there's been a hue and cry, and things have actually worked out for the better.
Now, just a couple of things about that. One, it's not a guarantee, OK. It could be that this time is different. I'm always skeptical any time anybody says, this time is different. Because it rarely is, all right? So it could be that this time is different. The other thing that we shouldn't lose sight of is that this is going to be difficult for a lot of people, all right? And that's a big issue here. So I'll give you a couple of examples of this. We talked about self-driving cars, self-driving trucks. In most states in the United States, the most common job is truck driver. And so if you have self-driving cars, basically the most common job in most US states is going, now maybe, not be eliminated but it's going to go-- so we need to have ways to allow people to make this transition.
I think in this country, we haven't done a good enough job of that. We didn't do a good enough job of it from industrial to information. And we're not doing a good enough job of it now. But every single—every single time you hear these predictions of widespread apocalyptic unemployment. And humans left have nothing to do, and it's always been wrong.
Well, fundamentally, many people just believe change is bad and they resist it. So they always come up with a doomsday forecast for the future.
That's part of it but we also—here's the thing I don't want to disparage people with that point of view because, again, I just want to acknowledge that they could be right. So if I have a portfolio of investment and I'm betting on the ideas, I'm going to hedge a little bit, OK? I'm going to put a small portion of my portfolio on the Doomsday scenario because I don't think it's impossible. But I'm going to put the light just as a hedge against this bigger bet where I think things are really going to go. But, again, it's understandable.
OK, I'll give you an example from my own life. So I grew up in Ohio. And I grew up in Ohio during the time that the Rust Belt was rusting. So this kind of idea was in the air, OK? Oh, we're not having a manufacturing economy. We're going to go to a services economy. And my own father, he wasn't a manufacturing worker, he had a college degree, said, that's nonsense. What? Service, that can't work. Economies are about making things. We can't have an economy where people are-- this is his words. We can't have an economy where people are running around giving each other haircuts. That's never going to work.
What happened there? He didn't envision search engine optimizers. He didn't envision data scientists. He didn't envision massage therapists. He didn't envision people coding in Java. And so at the moment, in the present, there's this incredible poverty of imagination. And so again, if you think about this in financial terms and you look at past—past performances, as we know, it's not always a predictor of future results. But if you just look at this analytically, if you look at this as a series of bets and investments, to me, it's not even close that you want to put the majority of your portfolio on the bet that we've underestimated human ingenuity, as we always have done, and not that much on the doomsday scenario because it's almost never been right.
Right, with ingenuity, and hard work, and creativity, we can keep moving up, and up, and up. And I'm like you, I believe we can for perpetuity, as long as, we have a growth mindset, and we're driven, and w—
Yeah, but I also want to emphasize—and we have a set of—I mean, I think one of the questions this country is reckoning with is, we have this divide. So a lot of people are doing fine, and a lot of people—we have this hollowing out of the middle. And that's dangerous. That's dangerous economically. It's dangerous morally. It's dangerous politically. And so we need to make decisions as a country to say, you know what? We're going to make this transition. We always have. You don't win if you make a bet against American ingenuity, however, we're going to take some affirmative steps to make sure that everybody comes along on this. And that's urgent and, again, it's urgent morally. But it's also urgent, again, economically.
But thinking about the future—I haven't read your book, of course, since it's not out—but your new book on when and you may not want—
If you had read it already, I'd be suspicious.
You may not want to disclose any content but I'm intrigued, how does when, timing, how does that tie into left brain, right brain and—
I have no idea how it ties in. But so one of the things-- the reason I wrote this book, no joke, is that I wanted to read it. What I realized was that I was making a huge number of decisions about timing, when to do certain things. When should I exercise during the day? When should I do certain kinds of work during the day? Should I be taking more breaks, fewer breaks? How do I navigate the beginning of a project? How do I navigate the middle of a project? How do I navigate the end of a project? How do I synchronize in time? And I realized that there were huge, huge numbers of how-to books, but no one had really written a when-to book.
And what's interesting about this, again, there's evidence. And so across a whole range of fields, economics, anthropology, but also anesthesiology, endocrinology. There is some very good research on timing. And we can make systematically better when decisions, if we know that evidence.
You're familiar with Shawn Achor, the author of the great book, The Happiness Advantage. He talks about how if we choose to be happy, we are more successful and good things happen in our lives. How does that relate to left brain and right brain?
Yeah, I'm not actually sure exactly how it relates left brain and right brain but his art, I think it relates to a lot of the motivation stuff. And it probably does, in a broader sense relate to the left brain and right brain. What his argument basically is that we've gotten the sequence wrong, that we think that if we pursue success then we'll be happy. And what he's saying is you gotta flip it. If you pursue happiness then you will be successful. And I think it connects to the motivation stuff and the right brain, left brain stuff in two ways.
One is that those old-fashioned motivational mechanisms are not about happiness. They're about more success. They're about if you get this carrot then you will be happy. And it turns out that's not necessarily the case. And we talk a lot about extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Again, like what Sean has found out. There's a little bit of a head fake here in that we think that people who have gotten these external rewards have been pursuing them, but, in fact, many times, not all times, but many times, they've just been pursuing their intrinsic motivation. And the external rewards have come as a consequence of that, not as something they were directly seeking. And there's some very, very good evidence of this.
There's a paper by Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz on West Point cadets. And what they found is they interviewed these students—there's a lot of research done on cadets. They do battery of psychological assessments and things before they go into the military academy. And one of the things that they—in this recent study, they looked at 10,000 cadets—and they found that some of them had a—there was a mix of motivations about why they came to the Military Academy. Some of them came for what Wrzesniewski and Schwartz called instrumental reasons. I want a free college education. This is a good way to get a job, OK. Nothing wrong with that. Some of them had these very internal motivations. I want to serve my country. I want to develop as a leader. And many of them had a mix, all right?
And so they looked at what happened to these folks. Now, perhaps not surprising—and based on how well they did at the academy, how well they rose in the ranks of some of the military, what kinds of awards and things that they got, and how happy and satisfied they were. The worst performing group was the instrumental group, the people who came and said, I want to grab these kinds of rewards. They actually did the worst. Now, the interesting thing is that when people had a mix of motives, instrumental and internal. They didn't do all that much better. The people who soared were the people who had these internal drives. And what's interesting about that is that those are the ones who got the accolades. But there's this weird zen thing going on. They got them in part because they weren't seeking them. They were seeking something else.
And I think that's really the lesson. And when we think about things in terms of the SAT spreadsheet abilities, it's a very mechanical way of thinking. It's sort of Newtonian physics here, and this is quantum physics. Like, whoa, wait a second. The best way to get something is not to pursue it? Huh, it's kind of weird. And so there's—so to me it's like Newtonian has the clockwork. Newton has a clockwork universe and these laws of physics that operate in this very mechanical way. And then 100 years ago, about 100 years ago, we began—so I didn't begin—physicists began understanding the world at the quantum level. And it's a bizarre set of rules. And I think that we're sort of there in our understanding of behavior.
Yeah, and I like your point about the order of things because I find that people think in linear terms way too often. And so in our value system at BB&T, we talk about character leads to good judgment, judgment leads to success, and success leads to happiness. But I always make the point that, well, it's really not that linear because success may lead to happiness but as Shawn showed, happiness may lead to success. It's actually more of an interactive, fluid process.
Yeah, so I'm intrigued about this. I like taking the current smartest thinkers like yourself and contrast back to some of the—one of my heroes Doctor Norman Vincent Peale, in the 50s and 60s, would say if you're a positive thinker, it will cause you to act better and be more successful. Most academicians laughed him out of the room. Now, most people began-- there are many universities now have the positive thinking like Seligman, positive thinking focuses. How do you think about someone like Peale's positive thinking philosophy as it relates to some of your concepts?
Well, I mean, I think what's interesting about that is, again, he's in this exact same era that we were talking about before. And in that era, we didn't have some of the tools and techniques to do real psychological science. So what you had were people who were, essentially, philosophers. I have a philosophy about how this is. And what's happened is that the science has caught up to the philosophy. And so there is a lot of research now on positive affect, or actually even more broadly, I mean, I think Peale at least helped catalyze this, is that, for a long time, the entire field of psychology and behavioral science was focused on what was wrong with people. Here's why they screw up. Here's why they don't do the right thing. It was focused on disorder.
And what Seligman did, perhaps inspired by some of the conversation that Peale started with, he says, well, wait a second. Instead of studying people who have all of these disorders, why don't we look at people who are doing all right and learn from that? And that was this incredible moment about 25 years ago in the field of psychological science, as you say positive psychology. And so what I think is interesting here is that, how do we make progress in the world of ideas? I think the way you make progress in the world of ideas in the way you deepen understanding is you have hunches and that is backed up by evidence. You have to have a hunch and then test it with the evidence.
And I think what we've had is kind of intergenerational hunch and then the test for all the people you mentioned before. So we had all these people with some very, very wise hunches, hey, I think. I have a suspicion. And then fortunately in the last 25 years, there's a lot of empirical evidence to back that up. And so hunches are good, data is better. And now what's interesting, in our world today, so we can take the Peale world. Let's take the Seligman world. Now we extend that over here to this new act and what we have is the ability to share hunches with a lot more people and also to test those hunches empirically, much faster, with much bigger data sets.
And so it's a really exciting time to be in there, but, as in any kind of progress, the people who are doing work today stand on the shoulders of all the people who came before them.
So what I personally like to think about more, and I sense that you do, is it's important to be successful, and make more widgets, and so forth but, philosophically, it's more important to do something that matters, something that makes a difference, something just greater than—as you talked about this in your third drive.
I met, recently, a young man named John O'Leary who wrote a book called On Fire. John, when he was nine years old, burned his house down and got caught up in a fire. 99% of his body was burned. They gave him 1% of living but he made it. And he's written a book called, On Fire, but in the book he talks about a great, great book, Man's Search for Meaning written by Victor Frankl, and a quote in there that says, "When you know your why, you can endure in a how." That's very much what you've been talking about in your third drive, isn't it?
Absolutely, first of all, I wrote about Frankel and The Search For Meaning in at least two of the books. But it's a profoundly important book and his story being in a concentration camp and—it's a really remarkable story being in the concentration camp and, essentially, figuring, how do I survive? And the way that he decided to survive was by having a sense of meaning. And he ended up articulating this whole theory that he wrote on found scraps of paper that he would stick in his pocket. And so, yeah, a lot of this goes—a lot of what we're talking about goes to the core of what it is to be a human being. Are we just robots? Are we just biological creatures, only interested in the next meal? And I don't think so. I think that we have—I think we're more than that. Nobody thinks about themselves in that very constricted way. And I think it's important for all of us to think about other people in that way. If you're motivated by these things, by the sense of meaning, by wanting to make a contribution. Why shouldn't everybody else be, you're not that special?
And what I found in my life is what I care about, what drives me, what is something that I think is greater than me, are the things that I get passionate about. And you talked about the role of passion, in terms of making a difference.
Yeah, I mean, I think that at some level, I think it's somewhat similar to what Shawn was saying is that what really matters more than anything else is meaning. And so if you pursue meaning, you're more likely to be happy and find your passion. I think it's less true if you try to find your passion as a way to get happy. And so we're reading backwards in a way. So we have everybody out there trying to find their passion. But instead, what they should be doing is seeking meaning and from their meaning, from that search for meaning and doing something that matters, their passion will blossom.
I found that we tend to be more passionate when we're working in an area that relates to belief that we hold deeply, the very close relationship between a deep belief and a passion.
Sometimes we think in this very sequential way. And a lot of times the sequence worked back way. But more often, it's a more complex dynamic system where different things are reinforcing the other things. We're about out of time but as a wrap up, I want to get your view on—we have, I think, a very good leadership philosophy at BB&T. And it's one we just developed ourselves. But we show it in circular fashion, beliefs, behaviors, results. And what we talk about is—I think most people get that if you're going to change results, you have to change behaviors.
Although, most people really don't work on that. They just focus on hammering on results. But most people don't get that if you're going to have sustained change in behaviors, you have to have beliefs that align with the behaviors. So we talk a lot about beliefs driving behaviors, creating results, which seems to be very much in sync with all of your concepts. Is that logical from your perspective?
Sure, I mean, and if you think about it from a leadership perspective, the most important decision a leader makes is her starting premise about the people who work there. If her starting premise is, you know what, most people, they're shiftless. They're lazy. They don't want to do anything. They only respond to external rewards. Leave them alone. They're going to shirk. The only way they'll get off their butt is if we give them a big reward. If that's your starting premise, that leads you down one path. If you're starting premise is something different, hey, most people want to do good things. Most people, in most situations, will do the right thing. Most people want to learn. They want to grow. They want to contribute.
And so those beliefs, those starting premises basically dictate which way you go. So if you start with this starting premise here, you're going to go down in a very controlling, short-term environment. If you start with this premise here, you're going to do something that is much more meaningful, much more enriching, much more taking the long view. And so, at some level those beliefs as you're saying, they basically dictate which direction you go in the first place. And so if you have the wrong beliefs at the outset, there's not a lot you can do to course correct.
Well, exactly, and that's why I say to our leaders that basically as a leader, we're a teacher. We are a preacher. We're teaching beliefs which causes people to act in a certain way. So you are affecting millions of people through your writings and through your appearances, and this video will be seen by a lot of leaders. And I want them to have the benefit of your advice, in terms of how we go forward. Could you could you wrap up by, maybe, really emphasizing the issue about being thoughtful about rewards and incentives. I mean, business people, I know, we're really locked in for 30 years of how we gotta incent, we gotta incent. And then maybe any closing advice you have our viewers.
Yeah, so on the incentive part, it's nuanced here, OK? So I'm not saying that money doesn't matter. Money matters. Money matters a lot. But in many cases, it matters as a threshold motivator. If you don't pay people fairly, they're not going to be motivated, OK? So you can't say, oh, let's shortchange people on pay and recompensate them in units of bliss. Not going to work, right? So money is a threshold motivator. We were talking about Herzberg, of course, hygienic motivator, right? But it's really important. And money, for many people, is a proxy for fairness, right? So you gotta treat people fair, you have to treat people fairly. Now, again, treating people fairly doesn't mean treating everybody the same. It means treating everybody fairly. So money matters, I just want to emphasize that. Money matters a lot.
But once you get past that threshold, once you pay people enough, what really leads to high performance on these more complex things is giving people a sense of autonomy and self-direction over what they do, how they do it, who they do it with, helping people make progress, achieve mastery, get better at something that matters, and, as we've been talking about a lot, a sense of purpose. Not only am I making a difference in the world, but I am making a contribution internally. And the thing that I would emphasize more than anything else is that use rewards as a threshold motivator. Use money, especially, as a threshold motivator. But beyond that, if you really want high performance, the science is telling us very clearly you gotta do these other things. It's not that easy.
And I think that one of the dangers is that these if-then rewards are quite easy. You put them in place, people will respond in the short-term, and leaders think they've done a great job. But the task of leadership more broadly is how do I foster an environment where you get to work at your top level? How do I get to foster an environment where she gets to work at her top level? And he gets to work at his top level? How much autonomy does he need? How do I give feedback to him so he can achieve mastery? How do I let her know that she's contributing and that she has a sense of purpose? That's really hard. That's really hard. But that's where all the action is.
Outstanding. Dan, thank you for joining us on the BB&T leadership series. For our viewers, I really encourage you to read all of his books. They are fantastic. I've been studying this for a long time, and I've never found one author that has integrated all of these concepts as well as Dan has. And so I encourage you to read all of those and the outcoming new book, When. I'm looking forward to it myself. Thanks, again. Hope you have a great day.
Thank you, Kelly.
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