TED Talks For Recruiters: Motivation

Welcome back to our TED Talks series. Recently we’ve featured topics including empathy, networking, and mental health.

This one’s on motivation. A subject Ed’s tackled before.

In recruitment, staying motivated when everything’s going your way’s easy. It’s the slogs, the quiet bits, and the runs of bad luck that threaten your motivation.

And often, staying motivated’s the edge you need to push through a tough spell.

It’s one reason “self-motivated” is one of the bullet points under the You Will Be… bit on recruitment job ads.

Thing is, it’s unreasonable to expect anyone’s motivation to be sustained constantly. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s got the whole peaks and troughs, ebbs and flows thing going on.

So you might watch an inspiring commencement speech video or read an empowering article on How To Get Serious About Crushing Your Goals and that’s it. Something clicks. Your life’s changed. Permanently. And for the better. Right?

Except it doesn’t work like that. Motivation needs daily attention. So here are 4 TED Talks designed to get you fired up, anytime you need to be.

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?

Dan Ariely’s a TED Talks veteran, having given six that’ve racked up over 20 million views on the site, more on YouTube and social media.

The talk begins with a mountain climbing analogy: an incredible achievement, but absolutely miserable all the way up.

If I could find a link to recruitment I would, although one key difference is there’s no real peak in recruitment. And if there is someone at the top, they’re probably already planning how to go higher.

But the job’s not always champagne and lunch clubs. A lot of it’s uphill.

It’s a typically brilliant talk from Ariely, who goes from reasonably complicated experiments involving lego to asking the question: “how much would you sell your kids for?”

The point he’s making is that removing meaning from a task kills motivation. Which subsequently lowers productivity, standards, and overall outputs.

In your case, this’ll affect the happiness of your candidates and clients, and the health of your bank balance.

His talk closes on the suggestion that people need more than payment to remain motivated. They need meaning, responsibility, and pride in their work too.

There’s More To Life Than Being Happy

Emily Esfahani Smith’s a writer who compounds the importance of meaning in establishing and maintaining motivation. She argues there’s evidence to suggest chasing happiness actually makes people unhappy.

Does this mean happiness is a poor motivation?

Not really. But finding meaning’s equally important. It’s about achieving a balance.

So what does recruitment mean to you? Or what meaning do you find in it?

Emily argues there are four pillars of meaning:

1. Belonging – being valued for who you are, not what you’re good at

2. Purpose – which is less about what you want, and more about what you give

3. Transcendence – this is like seeing art and being connected to a higher reality, I won’t explain this well but the talk does

4. Storytelling – and tying it all together, the story you tell yourself

If all that sounds too fluffy a concept, there’s some pretty heavy personal anecdotes that anchor the four pillars in reality. Because poor motivation’s not just an existential problem when it has economic consequences for individuals and businesses.

How To Get Better At The Things You Care About

Eduardo Briceño’s big into growth mindsets and would likely introduce himself to you as an Educator and Social Entrepreneur.

His talk seeks to understand how even though you might spend a lot of time working on a particular task, you don’t always get better at it. Which can be a motivational black hole if you get sucked into it.

Top performer’s alternate between two zones: the learning zone and the performance zone.

Probably both quite self explanatory, but the trick’s to invest time into deliberately practicing a skill, so that when you need to use it, you’re better placed to do so with limited mistakes and all manner of high stakes objectives having been smashed.

Look at your day plan, at what’s a learning activity and what’s a performance activity. What’s the balance like?

Recruiters invariably spend a significant portion of their time in the performance zone. Any time they’re on the phone or in a meeting, usually.

Doing so, this talk argues, means you run the risk of learning less, plateauing, and your billings suffering over time.

Briceño spells out what it takes to maximise time spent in the learning zone. So that when it’s time to perform – copywriting, power hour, tricky calls with big candidates – you’re better than you would’ve been otherwise.

Should You Live For Your Résumé… Or Your Eulogy?

David Brooks is an Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times. His talk focuses on the difference between how you want to be remembered: for your work, or for who you are.

Not that those are competing absolutes: you don’t have to pick one or the other. But in the balancing act that is maintaining both work and a life, which do you spend more of your time thinking about and acting upon?

And so which could be argued motivates you more?

Brooks asks some hefty philosophical questions in this five minute bit. Discussing a blueprint for building depth of character, which only really comes from facing challenges and suffering under them. But which is where the motivation you need to get through those challenge is often plumbed.

I’m not sure if this was the point of the talk but if your motivation’s low for whatever reason – a dead market, bad terms, a worse manager – is that a challenge from which depth of character could be built? And could that depth of character then be used as motivation when facing challenges in the future?

I’ve written a fair bit about motivation before. The short version is: “buy a notebook and get chunking“.

The longer version, which makes a lot more sense than that sentence, is here.