Question: “What is the difference between motivation and commitment?”
Answer: “A hen and a pig both contributed to your grill but while the hen was motivated, only the pig was committed.”
I know! It's not new and it is really hardly even funny. But yet it keeps cropping up in motivational talks and seminars. On one level this certainly seems to be a rather facile illustration, rather endorsing my sense of the whole approach to motivation. I mean how would one assess the hen’s motivation, while there can be little doubt it wasn’t the pig’s commitment that saw him end up on your plate! Nevertheless the analogy has staying power because it serves to make a telling point. Motivation is certainly far more transitory and less substantial than commitment.
Given the choice, which would you rather have: motivated people or committed people?
Motivation has shallow roots and is easily dissipated; rapidly eroded by changing conditions and circumstances that somehow derive discouragement. Commitment on the other hand is less corruptible. It is tenacious and bold; the never-say-die attitude that looks upon obstacles as opportunities; challenges that make the cause more worthwhile. Commitment cannot conceive of defeat or, if it does, damns it as a bully and stands defiant. That is why, to truly succeed in anything, we need far more than motivation – we need commitment.
The difference between motivation and commitment is in fact the theme of virtually any romance. The happy-ever-after ending only comes when the commitment is sealed; prior to that it is all about motivation. And the same is true of life. Success derives from commitment.
It thus seems insane that such a disproportionate amount of management time is spent on employee motivation. If employee engagement is a problem, should we not be looking to improve employee commitment rather than employee motivation? And there is no better way to do this than to adopt the Zealise proposition and actually treat people as the human assets they are. Let's stop talking about human capital and human capital management in the abstract and make it a practical reality. It might not guarantee we live happily ever after, but it sure improves the odds of being happier at work and thus in our lives.