There are many variables in the world around us. From the social and interpersonal to the physical and environmental, there are thousands of factors that we keep balanced throughout every day of work and life. If, for even a minute, we stopped to consider all of the variables we are juggling, we would become unstuck, so our brains do a good job of hiding all of the calculations and action-reactions going on all the time.
I think that one part of why I enjoyed working at camp so much is that the number of variables shrinks so much that we are able to control more of what goes on around us and choose consciously what we want to do.
For children (who are by necessity discovering the world around them and placing themselves one lego block at a time into an unfamiliar and scary world of variables) there is often little control over most environmental and social aspects of their lives. They don’t get to choose their classmates, classes, classrooms, meals, homework, or often much else at all in a normal day.
At camp we let them choose, for hours a day, what to do. Obviously we are limited in some things based on the number of campers and sandbox property. However, the self exploration embedded in our mission statement and daily living provides a great guidepost for how you can motivate your employees in a non-camp setting.
As a manager it is important to give your employees a chance to do meaningful work with people they like. Sometimes there are jobs and chores that have to happen regardless. But there is almost always something for which it makes sense to give latitude to employees for how they pursue the ultimate goal. I would recommend using this type of framework to figure out if something can be made into an insulated work space for self-exploration, realization, and ultimately motivated accomplishment:
- Agree on the starting point – meet or brief working group on where you are now.
- Give benchmarks that you require, whether timetables for completion, details about reporting progress, or important components that are required for completion.
- Agree on the substance of the final goal.
Make steps 1 and 3 as specific as possible. The more latitude you can give your employees in proceeding in between, the more empowered to explore how they work want to work. When they feel that they are responsible for a meaningful task and have the agency to make decisions within a framework that is provided, they will respect your authoritarian outline whilst working to keep pace with peers and impress their superiors with the product.