Thoughts and ideas from The Physician Executive
Successful Physician Leaders use science’s motivation secrets
July 1, 2019 at 12:00 AM
by The Physician Executive

One of my favorite books is A Whole New Mind.

So it was with delight that I rewatched author Dan Pink‘s TED Talk presentation, after being exposed over the years to several hundred disgruntled physicians who are yearning for Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

In his talk, Pink illuminates the science that has proven repeatedly that extrinsic rewards (think P4P — Pay for Performance) fail to produce the intended results.

In other words, no healthcare organization promising a $10,000 bump in annual take-home pay if the physician performs well is fundamentally going to cheer up physicians and change attitudes or behaviors.

I urge you to watch the 18-minute video above.

I believe it offers a wonderfully clear explanation for why so many of your and my physician colleagues are bailing out of practice. When there is no longer real Autonomy (too many rules and bosses), no opportunity for ongoing Mastery (too little time for any real study and learning) or a diminished sense of Purpose (a disconnect between what doctors went into medicine to accomplish and what it’s really like in practice), it’s not rocket science to see why physicians are disillusioned.

It helps explain why those physician leaders who can get their healthcare organizations to respect a clinician’s deep need for Autonomy, Mastery or Purpose have won the respect of their physician colleagues.

And since Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are three of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s twelve keys to finding happiness in life and on the job, focusing your attention as a physician leader on these motivators makes sense.

Pink concludes:

“There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business doesn’t. Here’s what science knows.

One, those 20th century awards, those motivators we think are the natural part of business, do work but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.

Two, those “if-then” rewards often destroy creativity.

Three, the secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive. The drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.

And here is the best part. Here is the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So if we repair this mismatch between what science knows and what business does, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy dangerous ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe, maybe, we can change the world.

I rest my case.”

What is your organization doing to respect your Autonomy, Mastery or Purpose as a physician leader, and those of your colleagues?