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The Reason Why Anyone Does Anything

The Reason Why Anyone Does Anything

“You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward. But both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation.” —Homer Rice, Football Coach

Motivation is the reason why anyone does anything. Just what are the reasons you do what you do? What anyone does? From coaches and professional managers to parents and high school teachers, finding and inspiring motivation is their constant job and one of the most difficult things to instill. But if you are able to instill self-motivation, then your reason for doing anything will be a constant, never-ending drive to achieve.

If you spend any time in the construction industry, you will know that motivation is a key ingredient to the success of your team and your subcontractors. Ideally, everyone shows up on the job on time; everyone prioritizes your project above others; everyone does what they say they will; everyone sticks to their scope and contract; no one complains about the work; and no one has a problem doing their 100% best for you.

However, this is never the reality. Motivation comes and goes; and it’s usually not motivation that is usable for you. That is because people are only motivated to do what serves them best. So with that kind of problem, is it better to be a fearsome warmonger who frightens the team and subcontractors into submission or a beneficent, grace-filled partner on a site that everyone follows gladly? Is either one possible?

To Be Loved or Feared

In 1532, an Italian Diplomat penned the book The Prince, giving his advice to the young Italian ruler, Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, on how to lead. The writer, the infamous Niccolò Machiavelli, compiled his best political advice to rulers; and his thinking was so cunning and crafty, that the term “Machiavellian” became a word synonymous with dishonest political gain, lying, and the brutal use of ends justifying the means. But Machiavelli’s advice on motivation for people who are under your charge might have become the most memorable of all: if you have the choice to motivate by fear or by love, one should choose fear. Many in the construction industry have taken this to heart.

It is a naïve person who thinks that everyone on site will do what you say quickly, efficiently, and without complaint, that no issues will arise (everyone doing their work because they want to, not out of fear). But there is a middle ground between ruling with fear of reprisal (threatening lawsuit, dismissal of contractor, and threat of not continuing the relationship into other jobs) and expecting everyone to do exactly what you say happily.

Many a contractor knows that leading subcontractors can often seem like herding cats. So today at Constructable’s blog we examine the ways to motivate people on your site, primarily subcontractors who have their own payrolls, desires, egos, and designs for you and your project.

Ultimately it is only a self-motivated person that gets anything done. And people do things for you only because it aligns with what is for them as well.

It is clear that people will do only what is in their best interest, and that if there is to be any lasting motivation, it will have to come from within. So neither the fearsome nor the gracious leader is fully apt for the job. Here we write out the ways that this plays out in everyday construction. The four ways we highlight here are: Threat, Need, Desire, Accomplishment and Reputation. Here are four methods of moving a job forward increase from lowest to greatest on the spectrum of causing self-motivation.


If you do something wrong, then you should be concerned about reprisals. Following Machiavelli’s lead, threats possibly have a place on a job site to remediate against poor performance, jobsite sloppiness, low quality work, or not showing up. Tools in the threat toolbelt include litigation, dismissal, severing relationship, writing someone up, simply chewing someone out, not working on future projects together. All these ways of threatening a subcontractor or person on your job site can be effective motivators, but are very easily overdone as well.

Below are some reasons why threats only go so far:

  1. Most people learned early on that the boy who cries wolf is quickly not taken seriously.
  2. If all someone ever experiences in working with you is rage, anger, and threats, most will soon find other work and leave you high and dry.
  3. There is only so much to yell about.
  4. By the time threats are being leveled, there is little change left to be done (i.e., threats really don’t motivate because it is usually too late to change at that point).
  5. People just do not do well with threats.
  6. If you threaten others; it is virtually certain that they will return in kind (i.e., lawsuits and countersuits).

A threat is an external motivator that will eventually subside. They have very little power to enact continual change; that is why they often fail to bring about the real change as desired. Real motivation for your project and the will to change must come from within.


Need is a powerful motivator, especially when work is involved. You, the customer, have a need to increase your market share. The contractor assigned to your project needs the work. The relationship is based on need, but little else. Most subcontractors are on site with you because they need a job to complete for their business as well. They need revenue, a completed job, to demonstrate skill, to recover from a previous job, to reinstate their reputation, any number of things. When you have a subcontractor with a need to be on site, you are further along in keeping him or her motivated to perform for you.

But keep in mind, at any one time, a subcontractor can find his or her need fulfilled elsewhere. Their interest is not perfectly aligned with yours yet. What is holding your project and relationship together is not strong enough for your best process to completion. There are more levels to come.


When someone wants to be on site and working, this is the beginning of a good working relationship. The more aligned in desire you are with your subcontractors—to complete the job, to do things right, to create an incredible finished product—the more self-motivation there is to push things forward and win together. At this point you won’t have to motivate the subcontractor; you simply get to enjoy the shared direction of the work.

One caution: do not get too comfortable with only desire as a motivator because desires can and do change quickly. Of course, it’s a joy to be on site with people who actually want to be there, but you’ll still need protection against their changing desires. There is one more level to be found that will ensure the best project possible.

Accomplishment and Reputation

There are a rare few people and companies who realize that whatever is done in their name reflects on their reputation. Every part of the project, from jobsite cleanliness to responsiveness to the customer speaks to the reputation of the contractor in question. And that reputation is founded in great accomplishment, knowing that every day is an example of what we bring to the table. It leads to a unique kind of self-motivation: the self-motivation to achieve.

Self-motivation to achieve is one of the most powerful forces causing someone or a company to move forward. When you are driven to accomplish, there is no telling how high you can go. This kind of self-motivation is evident on a job site: timeliness in response, proactive troubleshooting, accountability and transparency project wide, starting early and staying late, and generally keeping the client’s needs at heart. One can feel the momentum building as people seek to accomplish great things in an efficient manner.

With a self-motivated individual or company that is driven to achieve and who knows their reputation is at stake, at this point, sit back and enjoy the ride, because doing business with such a company is a treat to behold. When you find a company like this, join or contract with them as quickly as you can, because they will keep your project at heart. It is the way to build joint ownership in those you do business with.

Building Self-Motivation in Your Project Process

Self-motivation is the only way to keep constant progress for your project. While it is helpful to know how to use the various tools to motivate (contractual language, progress payments, bonuses, fines, incentives, etc.), the best way to move your project forward is to find a company with a reputation of achievement, a self-motivated one. At that point, you can be as involved or not involved as you wish because the project will move forward either way because of the self-motivation of the contractor. It is as if you have built joint ownership in the project that is serving to lead it forward. Unfortunately, you cannot build this self-motivation fast enough; either the company has it or not. It is not on you to teach them how to do best. There is very little time for changing the core method of work for anyone on the site. One simply needs to learn how to recognize how a company like this–with self motivation–operates.

  1. They go above and beyond the call of contractually-bound requirements.
  2. They communicate clearly.
  3. They take responsibility.
  4. They seek to collaborate not dominate.
  5. They take joint ownership for a better project.

Above are a few ways in which self-motivated companies demonstrate their desire to achieve and build a proper reputation. When you find one like this, hold on to him or her and get them on as many projects that you can that do not spread them too thin.

Self-motivation will keep contractors committed to a project long after it starts getting difficult, conflict arises, and even when it seems there is no way forward. Ultimately, it is people who are self-motivated that you want working on your project, who take it as a personal example of his or her reputation the work that is done in his or her name.

At Constructable we take our reputation and yours seriously. Our self-motivation is to achieve with every commitment is one of our core values. We are self-motivated to make your project the best it can be, ensure quality, deliver a lien-free result, and create an accident-free jobsite all the way until commissioning and final punch lists. You will find it a job to work with us because we want to be on site, enjoy the thrill of accomplishment, and stake our reputation on every job we do.

Click HERE to work with a self-motivated company with our reputation of commitment and delivery for the customer. We join together to own a project until completion; and you, the owner/customer, get the benefit of a job done rightly, on time, and on or under budget.

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