What motivates you more, the demands of others or desire for achievement? My own response to the question goes back to my experience working for Bobby Fuller, the supervisor where I was employed part time during my last two years of college. The job itself was more or less an assembly line operation that required only a moderate amount of skill all of which was learned on the job. It was Bobby who taught me everything, how to operate all the machines in the plant and how to perform every job function, so that in a short time I became fairly proficient at most of them. It was, however, boring work for the most part, not exactly what I wanted to do the rest of my life. Yet, I can’t remember a single day I did not look forward to going to work. Bobby was the kind of guy who just made you feel appreciated, and I worked hard for him. Everybody did.
At the same time I was working part time for Bobby I was spending the rest of my days across town on the campus of The University of Texas in Austin completing my degree in business and finance. And it was, coincidentally, during those same years when Theory X and Theory Y management styles happened to be getting a lot of attention in business academia and corporate circles. They were fairly new concepts back then (by that name at least) having been developed by Douglas McGregor of MIT’s Sloan School of Management in the 1960’s. Essentially what the two theories suggest is this: Theory X, which assumes people are inherently lazy and hate work, requires that managers must rely heavily on threat and coercion in order to motivate employees. Theory Y, on the other hand, assumes people are naturally ambitious and actually enjoy work, thus respond well to positive motivation. Using the metaphor of either the carrot or the stick, in other words, Theory Y might represent the carrot and Theory X the stick.
I’m pretty sure Bobby Fuller never heard of Theories X and Y, maybe not even in the context of the carrot-or-the-stick. What he did seem to instinctively understand, though, was the power of positive motivation, through which he became quite effective in raising the level of productivity even in that rather mundane assembly line operation. I loved working for Bobby Fuller. Everyone did. He instilled in all of us a desire for achievement, which would one day influence my own management style. Like I said, I can’t remember a single day I did not look forward to going to work. That says a lot!