Here's a fact: everyone wants to see growth.

Especially in business. You want revenue up and expenses down; want to see breakthroughs and innovations; want a steady increase of market share, or even experience a hockey stick chart with your logo on it.

“If you’re not growing,” the saying goes, “you’re already in a state of decay.”

For those in the service industry—building and creating products and services for clients—growth, in its simplest form, is about increasing fees and lowering costs based on a team’s ability to produce more great work faster than the competition.

Consistent growth, then, requires a focused team that’s motivated day-in and day-out to produce the work.

We’ve talked about autonomy, mastery and purpose as inherent motivators already. Let’s talk about progress.

The Progress Principle

In an article published by Harvard Business Review called “The Power of Small Wins”, a team took 2,000 employees from various industries and asked them to keep a diary of their day-to-day work.

From these, they discovered The Progress Principle:

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

Seems like this would be stating the obvious, but it isn’t. The same team asked managers to rank factors that contribute to their team’s motivation.

“The vast majority of respondents ranked support for making progress dead last as a motivator and third as an influence on emotion. They ranked ‘recognition for good work (either public or private)’ as the most important factor in motivating workers and making them happy.”

Everyone Needs Progress

Yes growth too, but while growth is the end goal, progress are the crucial steps towards it, that can be achieved daily with concentrated work.

For employees or the self-employed, it can be as simple as solving a pesky problem, publishing finished work or just getting a line of code to stop breaking. At the end of the day, you’ll feel better (read: more accomplished) when you’ve seen progress in work. It doesn’t have to be big, only meaningful.

For managers, directors and business owners, progress might not mean immediate growth, but it does mean more motivated, passionate workers who approach work everyday knowing they’re going to see something come of it.

To that end, there’s a support aspect to all of this. Enter, “Catalysts” and “Nourishers”.

Catalysts and Nourishers

In an interview published in Forbes, Teresa Amabile, co-author of The Progress Principle shares two factors that a leader can influence to help their team see progress.

“The catalyst factor Includes events that directly enable progress in the work. Catalysts include things like providing clear goals for the work and providing people with sufficient resources to accomplish those goals. The opposite of catalysts are inhibitors; these make progress difficult or impossible.”

Nourishers directly support people’s inner work lives (the constant stream of emotions, perceptions and motivations that people experience as they go through their work days) and include actions like showing respect and providing emotional support.”

Together, Amabile says, catalysts and nourishers provide the support a worker needs to be fully engaged in their work and feel accomplished in seeing meaningful work get done.

Yes, everyone wants to see growth. But in the end, the key to staying motivated for the long haul is seeing daily progress in meaningful work.