Ever wonder why it’s so hard for people to change, follow directions, achieve desired outcomes, or avoid behavior that is not desired?
If so, you’re not alone. And, if you manage people, or are asked to manage the behavior of people who do not report to you, it helps to have more tools in your kit-bag to motivate others to “do the right things.” One such tool is the self-efficacy theory of motivation.
What’s this Self-Efficacy Theory of Motivation?
The self-efficacy theory of behavior, from psychology, describes people’s willingness to try behaviors to achieve or avoid outcomes based on a belief (disbelief) in their own competency.
A brief explanation
Have you ever wondered what it takes to get to work?
Let’s assume you drive to get to work (those taking trains, planes, trolleys or horses can try another time). You walk out to your car, unlock the front door, get in the front seat, insert the key in the ignition and turn the key to start the car.
From experience you know that if you turn the key, you will start the engine in the car, which will allow you to drive to work. The objective you have is getting to work. But, you have a lot of learned behavior you’re executing to simply get there.
What would happen if the engine did not turn-over after you turned the key; do you think you’d turn the key again? For most of us the answer is obviously, “yes, maybe four of five times or more.”
Factors Influencing People’s Willingness to Act to Obtain/Avoid Outcomes
The act of placing and turning that key in the ignition to start the engine in the car is one of the factors affecting someone’s self-efficacy and it’s known as the “Experience” factor. You’ve turned the car on in the past with the ignition-key, and this was but one-step in a long set of procedures that got you to work. The success you had in the past is the “experience” that tells you it will work again.
In addition to “Experience”, other factors influencing whether people will undertake a behavior to achieve or avoid an outcome, include: “Modeling” through vicarious behavior, “Persuasion” where the opinion of others influences you, and “Physiological” factors that are common in stressful situations.
An example of “Modeling” might be a person who needs to take the MCAT exams to gain entry into Medical school, convincing herself that because others her age had previously passed the exam, she will also. An example of “Persuasion” might be your boss telling you “it has to be done this week”, while a “Physiological” factor might be the cold-sweats you break out into when you realize you have to tell your family that you have to miss your son’s little league baseball game to get work done that week.
Use the self-efficacy theory of behavior to motivate your teams to achieve more that they thought possible. Use it to modify behavior of others at work, but remember the four factors:
Example of Using Self Efficacy to Motivate People and Teams
An interesting example of persuasion is a program implemented by a leading CISO with the use of a “wall of shame” that he pushes to all of the business stakeholders in his company. Because none of the business stakeholders of IT want to see their business unit and he personally does not want his name associated with being on the “wall of shame”, the persuasion is very effective at motivating employees to think about the “rules of the road” when it comes to information security. Getting on the wall of shame changes from time-to-time, and in this way, accommodates a gradual changing of employee behavior and the achievement of conformance with policy.
What have you got to lose by learning about and using the self-efficacy theory of motivation?
See the ways that self-efficacy is used when communicating and reporting about IT, and how this is having an impact on outcomes in the latest research report, Data Driven Reporting and Communications about IT
Additional sources on Self Efficacy