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Better Report, Better Manager - The Assumption of Motivation

Published 4/4/2022

We all have some kind of motivation. But in error, we assume we know the motivations of others, and we also assume that our future selves will act in alignment with well-intentioned motivations. Both of these assumptions can lead us to poor decisions about our career. For managers, that assumption can lead you to making decisions for others that are suboptimal to their goals.

In this episode we talk about the importance of alignment and clarity for those motivations.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
We tend to operate on the assumption of motivation. This is the idea that everyone always has a reason for doing what they're doing and that they're doing it intentionally. That means they've thought about it, they've thought about the pros and cons, they've thought about the goals and they're doing the thing they think will achieve those goals. If you were to imagine yourself as the subject of this scrutiny that everything you do is always intentioned, you can see how absurd this is. That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and my goal on this show is to help different developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. When you think about your future, when you think about what you're going to do today, or this week, this month, this year, for your whole career, you imagine that the actions that you're going to take are all well-intentioned. Certainly, you may not know exactly the path that you're going to take, but you probably have some idea of what you'd like to accomplish. That idea is likely informed by yourself, your experiences, what you enjoy, your tastes, your hopes and dreams that are unique to you, but also by your family, your culture, the company that you're in, this particular situation that you find yourself in. Things that are not necessarily intrinsic to you, but are still nevertheless impactful on what you care about. In this series, we've been talking about how you can become a better report and how that will lead to your manager becoming a better manager, particularly a better manager for you. This specific skill of being able to uncover your own motivations or, importantly, a lack of motivation with relation to what your manager assumes about you, this could change the path of your career forever. We're going to talk about why in just a minute, but I want to give you something to contemplate in the next few minutes, and we're going to talk about our sponsor as well. The question is simple, though the answer is difficult. What was your primary motivation in choosing the career path that you're currently on? Whether you're an engineer now, maybe you're a product manager, maybe you're not even in this field, you're listening to this podcast on recommendation from a friend, and you're maybe you're contemplating getting into the field. Whatever your reasons are, consider that original motivation. And now, in contrast to that, possibly, what is your current motivation for either staying in or potentially leaving your current career? Now, again, remember the answers may not be clean and simple. You may have multiple answers to this question. You may not know the answer to this question. And a quick word of caution, the answer is absolutely allowed to be money. You can absolutely say that the reason you want it to be in the career you're in is because it pays well. There are no wrong answers to this question. But I want you to try to uncover a little bit of your own motivation, and then also how your motivations have shifted, how your desire to be in this career. What is it giving to you? What are you staying in it for? How has that shifted over time? We're going to talk a little bit more about how this discussion with your manager can go, and what you do by uncovering this intrinsic motivation right after we talk about today's sponsor. Developer Tea is probably supported by Square. There are millions of sellers across the globe using Square to run every aspect of their business. Many are looking for customized solutions that are deeply connected and easy to use for them. This is where you as a developer can come in. You can grow your business by extending or integrating with Square using free APIs and SDKs to build tools for those sellers. Learn more by going to developertea.com slash square. That's developertea.com slash square. Thanks again to Square for their support of Developer Tea. No matter how well your manager knows you, they have to make assumptions about you. Assumptions are critical to our survival as a species, but they're also critical to our ability to be practical. If your manager had to know every single detail about every motivation in your career, if they had to know about every single keystroke and every line of code that you write, then they would be paralyzed by that analysis, even just with one report, much less with four or five. Your manager has to make reasonable assumptions, especially when they don't have anything else to go on. This isn't just managers, it's you and me too. When we have assumptions to make, when we have a lack of information, we fill it in with whatever is most reasonable. For example, the most common assumption that a manager might make about their reports is that they would like to get a promotion. This seems like a reasonable assumption. A promotion tends to come along with extra money, it tends to come along with more influence, and most people want to grow in their career by way of a promotion. It's likely that your manager thinks this about you too, and what I'm challenging you to do is talk to them about this. First of all, you need to decide, is that something that you want, or perhaps a better question is what do you want? What are your motivations and your long-term vision for your career? We talk about this quite a bit on the show, and hopefully you have some idea. If you've been listening to the show for any amount of time at all, you know that having that long-term in mind is a critical part for setting the course for your career today. If you haven't had a chance to talk with your manager about whatever that long-term goal is, and more importantly, what the implications of that long-term goal are on your current goals, your shorter-term goals, does a promotion help you achieve that long-term goal? When we're talking about the assumption of motivation, we're not just talking about the assumption of an existence of some motivation, because everybody has a motivation. There's no way to not have one. If you prefer to do very little in your career, that is a type of motivation. If you prefer to stay in your current role, that is a type of motivation. If you prefer to eventually change tracks into management, that's another kind of motivation. So we're not talking about whether or not you have motivation, it's about aligning on what those motivations are. The difficult truth is that we often believe that we know what other people's motivations are when very often we don't. And then we're often optimistic about our own actions or future actions and how they line up with those motivations. So it's very important to inspect these both for ourselves and for others, and it's especially critical that you have this discussion with your manager so that they can evaluate different opportunities that are rising on the team or within the company against what your motivations are. And finally, and most critically, perhaps for you ongoing, it's important to recognize that your motivations are not static, that as things change around you, as you change, your motivations will likely change too. And so in the future, you should ask your manager if you can talk about these motivations again, so you don't fall prey to a different kind of assumption, the assumption that everything remains as it is today. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope this has triggered some kind of thought process for you about your own motivations and career goals. And more importantly, I hope you take a chance, take this opportunity, I guess, to go and talk to your manager about these motivations and about how they line up with your current role, about how this can help you grow in your current role, if that is what you intend to do. Thank you so much for listening to this episode, thank you again to today's sponsor Square. Head over to developertea.com slash square to get started building integrations for that worldwide audience of sellers that are using Square, you can go and build pretty awesome stuff that they will want to use. Head over to developertea.com slash square. Thanks so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed this discussion, I'd encourage you to join the Developer Tea Discord, head over to developertea.com slash discord to join that that's totally free for listeners of this podcast. And until next time, enjoy your tea.