WN#20: Keeping Motivation High and Engagement Alive to Achieve Success

This week I am enjoying this 20th milestone, including a wrap-up of previous newsletters and topics like motivation and engagement, leadership, cultural change, and many others. I hope you like it. 🙏

Hi all! Thank you for being here another week, this time in the twentieth issue of the newsletter. When I started this newsletter six months ago, I never thought about reaching this milestone. 

I hope you found something interesting in them, and as an amateur writer, I really appreciate your patience. I am still learning. And honestly, there have been challenging moments, weeks where I didn't want or could not write.

This week's title may seem related to my relationship with the newsletter, and you wouldn't be wrong, but it was by chance. I don't usually search for a concrete topic for the newsletter. I only check what I have read during the week and prepare a curated list of newsletter topics.

But sometimes, it is curious how the same topic repeatedly appears from different sources, apparently in another way and with a different purpose, but they are connected. This can be the case of motivation, as the main topic for this week.

Also, we are starting a special week, Black Friday and Thanksgiving. But I am not going to write about them. I only want to remind you about The Thanksgiving Reader idea from Seth Godin that I shared on issue number seventeen.

In today's issue, I'll share a wrap-up of the last ten issues, and topics about motivation, leadership, cultural change, and I will end with a list of interesting tweets. This time I am including fewer topics. Newsletters have a limited length, and I don’t want to bore you.

As I always end this introduction, please, do not hesitate to add your comments or share your feedback. One of my goals is to learn from you. And if you like it, please share it. The more we are, the more we will share and have fun.

See you next week. Thanks for reading it, and stay safe!


✔️ Wrap-up of My Previous Writings

Before reading and writing about new topics, I wanted to check what I've written about in the last months. At least, in the previous ten newsletters. Lots of articles, tweets, posts, and references. I hope you don't find it boring. Maybe you find something useful in them.

  • WN#10The Myth of the Company, an article from a former Googler, was the opening, talking about the sense of identity and belonging in companies during the lockdown and defending that the employees are the ones who make a company as it is. There were some interesting topics (to me) in that newsletter: The Peter Principle, Brandolini's law, understanding privileges, and White Privilege, and knowing that it is ok to quit.

  • WN#11: the title "Make feedback normal, not a performance review" was based on Ed Batista's article. I introduced some articles about providing useful feedback and the SBI framework. The newsletter included a Daniel Rose story (today's also), the No Rules Rules of Netflix, and ended with a great video of Steve Jobs about Love and Passion.

  • WN#12: I started with Copying Great Leaders, an interesting article from Wally Bock about Herb Kelleher, founder and CEO of Southwest Airlines, who used to drink a quart of Wild Turkey every day. I also included an article about the purpose of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and the awesome The Entertainment Value Curve comparing Quibi and tik-Tok.

  • WN#13: The mission-focused statement from Coinbase was the opening. Pau Gasol's opinion on Leadership continued, an article about Effective product Management, a series of articles about preventing burnout and knowing when to quit, and ended with reading advice.

  • WN#14: This newsletter shared WFH topics, an article about boosting motivation, Dangerous Animals from the workplace (huge success infographic), Spotify turning 12, and ended with a funny video from Bezos about their early days preparing orders.

  • WN#15Fostering Creativity in STEM was based on recent research that demonstrated how Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics is very similar to creativity in the arts. I used it to introduce Sir Ken Robinson's words about creativity. I also introduced the idea about the rewards of being dumb, shared an entrepreneur experience, and started the successful products series.

  • WN#16: Vulnerable Leadership was the main topic, introducing the need for more vulnerable leaders against the bullies. I also mentioned Paypal embracing cryptocurrency, Expensify's misuse of politics inside the company, Extreme productivity, and many articles about Amazon.

  • WN#17: I began with tips for improving Communication and Leadership in Times of Crisis, some links about becoming a manager, including my blog post, the dark side of authenticity, the lack of documentation in organizations, and some reading and listening recommendations.

  • WN#18: I wrote about polarization and extremism as the main topic. A quite tricky subject. I continued with articles about WFH and performance, writing about introverts' power, Shopify eating the world, technical debt, and IQ over emotional agility.

  • WN#19: In the last issue, I wrote about habits, creating and changing them. I also included articles about Leadership during covid, building trust, Parler as the misinformation app, the challenges of remote onboarding, the competence trap, and people preferring companies with a positive impact in the world.

Some of these writings ended up as a post on my blog. In case you are interested, the most visited posts for the last three months were:

  1. Leadership of the GOAT. What makes a leader?

  2. Leadership styles: Which ones define you?

  3. Leadership learning from Tony Hsieh

It seems that Leadership is a hot topic. Credits to Google Discover and Reddit, who brought the most traffic to these posts.

To easily locate the different information that I wrote about, I am also building the following notion page that I will be feeding with everything: writings, links, videos, podcasts, etc.

🚀 Motivation and Engagement, Two Sides of the Same Coin to Achieve Success

Personally, I have struggled with motivation during the last months. Sometimes the environmental uncertainty, pushing our personal and labor situations, can bring our motivation up and down.

Andy Grove wrote about it on High Output Management. What gets in the way of good work? There are only two possibilities. The first is that people don’t know how to do good work. The second is that they know how to do good work, but they aren’t motivated.

And truth to be told, the pandemic doesn’t help at all. This was the main topic of the NY Times article below.

In the article, when they explain this up-down feeling, they call it “the slump”. I always say that this feeling of motivation-energy-inspiration is like a rollercoaster. It goes up and down in a cyclic way, like an uneven sine wave. Kim Scott also similarly wrote about motivation in her book Radical CandorOver the course of our careers, most of us go through waves.

Look at the following quote from the previous article. Have you felt this way during the last months?

You don’t feel motivated, your inspiration is just gone, your excitement for work is just not what it used to be.

Don’t worry, as the text explains: This is all fine! Whatever your job is, this is going to happen.

In these times, it is normal to struggle with motivation. The article refers to three pillars to stay motivated, or better, how we reconcile with the impossibility of maintaining full motivation and productivity as we settle into what will be our normal for the foreseeable future:

  • These aren’t normal times, so don’t pretend them to be normal. Easy to say, not easy to see. Pretending or saying that you’re ok when you’re not, just makes things worse. At different levels, but we are not ok. Acknowledge seems to be the first liberating step. Do what you do, don’t forget to be kind to yourself, and keep in mind that stress and anxiety kill productivity.

  • Lean on your network. Keep connection in the distance, especially when you’re struggling with loneliness. And If your favorite part of work were your co-workers, schedule a check-in with them. Occasional chatting saves lives.

  • Embrace monotony and find little joys. Every day seems to be Groundhog Day, isn’t it? But it is good to keep your routine, at least your new one. I know people who did let go, who broke with their practices and felt depressed. I also do change the routine during weekends. You might even find new activities to do. Did I say that I started writing this newsletter during the lockdown?

Keep in Mind Team Motivators

As a manager, even if we are personally struggling, we have the duty of keeping our teams happy and motivated. Performance is directly related to it, and as leads, our main KPI is our team’s outcome.

That brought me to the following article from HBR, How to Keep Your Team Motivated, Remotely. This article found negative indicators that lead to reduced work performance (emotional and economic pressure and inertia). Still, they also found three positive motivators in danger of disappearing in easy-to-miss ways during the current situation:

  • Playing: People may miss the joy of collaboration, problem-solving with a colleague, or the ease of making a decision when everyone is in one room.

  • Purpose: The sense of having decreasing visibility into their impact on clients or colleagues, especially if no one is there to remind them. Purpose doesn’t have to be abstract, be concrete about your contribution and passion because they keep us anchored in our goal over time.

  • Potential or growth may decline if people can’t gain access to colleagues that teach and develop them. Foster collaboration.

In my 14th newsletter issue, I also shared this in an interesting article about boosting your team’s morale using a soccer example, sharing five strategies to improve it. Positive morale leads to an increase in productivity, satisfaction, and retention. Remember that just because your team is winning doesn’t mean they’re enjoying doing it.

Also, in the last newsletter, based on James Clear’s learnings, I pointed out the “identity-based habits“, how we were forced to change them, and the fact that shifting to a new identity takes flexibility and adaptability. But how to ensure people’s adaptability?

From a management viewpoint, while your people lose their identity (and maybe you do so) and need to change or adapt, you have to change with them. You need to care about the people you’re working with and help them in their adaptation. Remember that the team outcome is also the manager. And forget about any labels, if you used to label them. Best performers are also humans.

We are goal-focused. Our results measure us. But what happens when nothing will change if we put in more effort, when there are no rewards if things improve, and no penalties if they don’t. Why bother? We have to help people being focused on.

Engagement Is the Perfect Combination

Similarly, Gergely Orosz, former Engineering Manager from Uber, explained in a recent podcast how a motivated and engaged employee would do more and smarter work and make better decisions.

A motivated engineer, who is engaged and who has a real say, is going to do more work, makes better decisions, and does smarter work. That’s what you should aim for.

Which is the difference between motivation and engagement? Motivation is our reason for behaving in a particular way, achieving our goals, and as employees, it is our drive to succeed and do a good job. And engagement is our commitment to the company and its success.

As you see, they are related, but they are not the same. As a visual example, you could use below’s Motivated-Engaged matrix, where the All-Star is the best possible case, who is both motivated and engaged, and you will find more details about the Cheerleader and Lone Wolf in its original article.

As the post explains, our job is to figure out whether each person needs support engaging in the business or discovering what motivates their individual performance.

I will end this strange relation of motivation and engagement articles that I found this week with Xavier Escales, from AlwaysPeopleFirst, who shared also this week a post in LinkedIn quoting a research named Relationship Between Employee Satisfaction, Employee Engagement, and Business Outcomes where you could find the correlation between engagement and success in a company.

👩‍💼 Women in Leadership Making a Difference

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? was very active this week, sharing articles and tweets about women in the lead. It all started with a tweet about Angela Merkel: “the average performance of heads of states will decline when she goes”.

That reminded me about his articles with Amy Edmondson about vulnerable leadership, that I shared some issues before, and included in the post The Need for Vulnerable Leaders, where he mentioned the candid and data-driven approach taken by Angela MerkelJacinda Ardern, or Sanna Marin.

Most notably, Jacinda Ardern has emerged as a global leadership role model. This is largely based on her performance during the pandemic which was recently rewarded with a decisive reelection victory. Like other female heads of state, from Angela Merkel to Sanna Marin, and Tsai Ing-wen, Ardern represents a contrast from the traditional leadership archetype of someone “tough,” aggressive and self-assertive, which explains why she’s frequently compared to the likes of Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro. The real reason is not so much gender, as approach or style. Ardern embodies a more humane, empathetic—traditionally feminine—type of leadership that focuses on making a difference rather than on self-aggrandizement.

Then, he also shared the following study about the New Zealand government approach during Covid.

The article concludes that leading during the pandemic isn’t easy, and the pandemic globally has exposed many individual and systemic weaknesses in leadership capability.

But using the example of New Zealand, we could find leadership that has made a difference. Based on New Zealand’s purpose of minimizing harm to lives, the study includes this framework:

Before ending, did you know that Germany agreed to a mandatory quota for female executives? That means that listed companies with boards of more than three members must in the future include at least one woman. Quoting Tomas starting tweet, maybe the average performance will decline, but Merkel’s legacy will be there, making a difference.

⚙️ Driving Cultural Change

Culture is like the wind. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult.

This is the starting point of the following article from HBR. It explains that culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate, that the most significant change often comes through social movements.

But the interesting point is that leaders can learn from how these initiators engage and mobilize the masses to institutionalize new societal norms. Because culture change only happens when people take action.

In a different way but with a similar topic, Camille Fournier, author of The Manager’s Path, wrote this week an article about Driving Cultural Change Through Software Choices.

🐦 Some Tweets that Deserve Attention

Dan Rose’s stories are always fantastic. This time’s about Facebook’s partnership with Microsoft and the mutual alignment in their fear of Google.

Pandemic is pushing e-commerce farther than ever, Ben Evans shares UK figures.

Adam Grant was sharing behavior lessons: “Knowledge and expertise are resources to share.”

Ed Batista wrote a thread on why war metaphors are so common and the conditions under which they succeed or fail.

Last but not least is this recognition to CSD. Pete is my cousin, and I am really proud of his achievements in leading the Center for Social Dynamics.


Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it!

Please, do not hesitate to add any comments. I am open to any suggestions, so if you want to add a comment or contact me, I encourage you to do it.

Also, if you liked the content, and you think it could like others, please share!