Leadership Studies Assignment


Assignment 2: Using Motivation to Improve Performance<br /> BUS520029VA016-1156-001 Leadership And Organizational <br /> <br /> Due Week 5 and worth 220 points<br /> <br /> Motivation is a complex subject, but its understanding and application is central to the success of management and organizational success. Imagine that you have been tasked by the CEO of your organization (current or past) with recommending actions to improve the motivation of the organization’s employees. The CEO has requested that you prepare a talking paper explaining to management what motivation is, the factors that influence motivation, the role of the leader in motivation, and ways the organization can inspire motivation. The talking paper should not be a reiteration of motivation theory, but should provide succinct points that cover the key topics of motivation and provides a road map that management can implement to improve motivation within the organization. Note: You may create and / or make all necessary assumptions needed for the completion of this assignment.


Assignment 2 Using Motivation to Improve Performance

Information for Public: Using Motivation to Improve Performance

The company selected as a basis for this talking point is American Express (Amex), an American multinational corporation specializing in financial services. At Amex, like in other companies around the world, managers are experiencing serious problems in their efforts to motivate employees. This is because motivation is a complex subject, and there are several substantial reasons why it is difficult to understand. The following are the reasons for the complexity:

It requires both training and experience. Managers need to be trained otherwise they will not understand the concept. They also need experience because they must go through trial and failure to see what motivates different employees. It is also through trial and failure that success is felt.


Trainers have greatly contributed to current difficulties in the contemporary understanding of motivation; this is because they anchor it on an individual theory of their choice instead of using different theories so that they can complement each other in providing the most ideal explanation (Isaac, Zerbe & Pitt, 2001). Due to this multiplicity of theoretical approaches, there is confusion on how motivation influences organizational behavior, performance, engagement, and satisfaction.

In today’s economic environment where employers are under pressure to reward employees less for more work done, it has become extremely difficult to motivate employees.

Contrary to popular belief, motivation calls for more than rewards. Some people derive motivation from a sense of autonomy and self-determination as opposed to better pay or job promotion.

Managers are faced with a growing need to motivate employees, and part of what it takes to motivate them is to include them in all decisions that have a direct impact on them. Yet it is not practicable for managers to do that at all times.

It is extremely difficult to measure “motivation”.

  • The model positioning of motivation is based on the idea that the job that an employee does triggers motivation, which in turn triggers behavior. Thus, managers tend to measure behavior as an output generated through the job-motivation-behavior mechanism. This model is potentially effective because it enables managers to infer the presence of employee motivation as long as performance occurs. Measuring performance seems the ideal way of assessing motivation because motivation entails processes that an employee initiates to allocate the appropriate resources to specific tasks in order to bring about behavior change.
  • Simply put, feedback control loop encompasses causal relationships that link the behavior, performance, the job done, and motivation (Berry, 2014). An organization can use the feedback control loop to determine the level of motivation arising from management’s actions by simply studying those causal relationships. The most important initiator of action in the loop is leader action, whereby the manager simply fiddles with a predefined set of variables within the employee “system” before observing the changes that occur in terms of output and performance. Some of the variables that a manager can fiddle with to influence motivation include significance, autonomy, feedback, job variety, identity, and significance.
  • Through goal-setting, leaders essentially shed light on the path that leads towards that goal. They also keep removing barriers to effective performance of different tasks that can contribute to the achievement of that goal; through impression management, leaders come up with creative strategies of making employees feel that they are able to achieve the intended goal; through encouragement, the leaders simply urge the employees to keep working towards the achievement of the stated goals despite the challenges they may have (Berry, 2014).
  • The job that I set to redesign at American Express is that of a call center operator. Under its traditional structure at Amex, this job has been accorded a basic structure that makes operators demotivated along three spheres: needs, job characteristics, and growth levels.

Needs are the foundational initiators of the operator’s longing for work. Until that need is satisfied, the operator will continue working. Some of the most common needs include achievement, power, and association with/affiliation with an entity. Some people want personal power while others want social power. Many call center operators are frustrated about their work because their need for social power is not being satisfied. I recommend that such employees should be mentored to become call center supervisors and middle-level managers within different call-center departments. On the other hand, those employees who are more interested in personal power should be mentored to take up promotions in job positions that do not require them to be the center of social dynamism/discourse/attraction but rather enable them to exploit their need for personal power.


The characteristics of a job are perhaps the most important source of motivation (Humphreys & Einstein, 2004). Call center operators are known to perform highly repetitive, monotonous tasks that leave them demotivated. To motivate them, I recommend a redesign of job characteristics around three realms, namely knowledge of results, experienced responsibility, and meaningfulness. Knowledge of results entails informing them how a specific action contributes to the realization of the company’s goals while experienced responsibility entails empowering them to the point where they feel that the success of their organization depends on their minute-by-minute, day-to-day efforts. On the other hand, meaningfulness should entail being to derive satisfaction from every task by explaining in graphic and statistical terms how it contributes to the intended performance level as well as the operator’s individual objectives. For example, I may explain that hitting an 80 percent performance score on the day’s calls not only increases prospects of promotion and pay increase but also represents an award-winning performance by any professional call center operator.

Growth levels differ from one call center operator to the other. Some employees have high growth needs and others have low growth capabilities. In the job redesign, I recommend that managers should allocate call center operators with high growth capabilities those tasks that help them realize high growth by the time the job is done. Conversely, operators with low growth capabilities should be assigned to work on those tasks that will enable them to maintain their low growth status at the end of the job.

  • The theory of motivation that I choose to integrate into American Express is expectancy theory. The integration plan comprises of three steps, which include:
  • Training employees on how to perform tasks in the appropriate way in order to achieve the intended performance levels.
  • Changing organizational culture and making employees believe that a specific outcome in the form of a reward will be realized once they reach a certain level of performance.
  • Reorienting the company’s employee compensation scheme such that it portrays spirited efforts by the company to match rewards with employees’ personal goals.
  • I recommend that the key to success in the implementation of this plan of action is the embracement of the idea that linkages between effort and performance as well as between performance and rewards are not anchored on idealistic tenets.


Berry, J. (2014). Revolutionizing motivation. Training Journal, 10-13.

Humphreys, J. & Einstein, W. (2004). Leadership and Temperament Congruence: Extending the Expectancy Model of Work Motivation. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, vol. 10, no. 4, 58-79.

Isaac, R., Zerbe, W. & Pitt, D. (2001). Leadership and Motivation: The Effective Application of Expectancy Theory. Journal of Managerial Issues, vol. 13, no. 2, 212-226.

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