Category Archives: Motivation

Motivation from the Inside Out: Tap Into People’s Inner Drive

In the last post, I talked about the nature of extrinsic rewards—motivating people from the outside in. While some extrinsic rewards are necessary (fair salary and benefits), managers should be wary of using carrots and sticks to move their employees to action. If you want truly motivated people, you’ll need to go deeper. You’ll need to consider intrinsic factors, the things that motivate people from the inside out. But since motivation is an internal thing, as manager, you can’t really motivate your employees. What you can do, though, is create the kind of environment where people want to motivate themselves. And that is no small task.

Motivation? Think emotion

It is impossible to discuss motivation without talking about emotion. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Emotions have no place at work. Well, neuroscience begs to differ with you. Our feelings affect every aspect of our lives, work included. We can’t help it—our brains were made that way. Consider how this amazing organ has been built over time. The brain developed from the base up. The first to develop was the primitive, reptilian brain. Next to develop was the limbic region, the emotional area of the brain. Newest on the scene is the neo-cortex, the executive (rational decision-making) part of the brain. The older emotional brain landscape is more deep-seated, which helps to explain why, even though we try to be rational, we often act based on emotion.

Paul Herr, in his book, Primal Management, say that business people are somewhat justified in their views on emotions, because we tend to think in extremes. Let’s face it. We’ve all seen someone “lose it” and it’s no fun to watch (or to experience). We’re not talking about the extreme, though. We’re talking instead of the “subtle background feelings that ensure our survival by getting us out of bed in the morning and by imperceptibly influencing every decision and every move we make during the course of our workday.”

So, we are emotional creatures. We are also hungry.

Herr says that, just as humans have biologic appetites (nutrition, energy conservation, protection of the body, breathing, reproduction), we also have social appetites. We are hard-wired to work as part of a tribe, to master skills, to achieve what we set out to do, to create and innovate, and to feel safe and secure. When these appetites are not satisfied, employees will naturally disengage.

So, as manager, how can you satisfy these appetites? How can you create the right atmosphere in which people are driven to do their best work?

Motivational Drivers

I’ve identified nine drivers, which I believe are key factors in helping people feel more motivated at work. If you’ve got an employee who is not motivated, ask yourself these questions and be brutally honest in your answers. You may be able to pinpoint which drivers are missing.

Fit: Is this person in the right role according to his or her strengths and the specifications of the job? If not, how can I help the person find a better fit?

Expectations: Does this employee know what is expected of him or her? If not, how can I clarify those expectations?

Requirements: Does this employee have what’s needed to work productively (training, equipment, appropriate work space)? If not, how can I provide it?

Work Style: How does this person work (outgoing vs. reserved; task-oriented vs. people-oriented)? How can I respond to these behaviors?

Strengths: What strengths does this employee have? How can I continually build on these strengths?

Competency: Is this employee getting better at what he or she does? If not, what can I do to develop this person more fully?

Feedback: Do I routinely give effective feedback (positive and constructive) on performance? If not, how can I improve in this area?

Connection: Does this person feel connected to me and my team? If not, how can I help him or her feel more closely linked?

Contribution: Does this employee know how he or she contributes to the success of the organization? If not, how can I let this person know?

It’s unrealistic to expect you to put all nine drivers in place for everyone, but you’d be surprised, I think, to see what happens when one or two are put into motion. At the very least, I urge you to consider these motivational strategies:

  • Don’t bog people down with unnecessary policies and procedures.
  • Quit micromanaging.
  • Connect people to one another.
  • Communicate!

Here’s the link to Paul Herr’s book.

Until next time . . .

Motivation From the Outside In: Beware the Carrot and Stick

“Some mornings it’s just not worth chewing through the leather straps.” Emo Philips

This quote makes me laugh because I see the biting truth of it (pun intended). Too many of us get out of bed each morning and go to work knowing that when we get there, we’ll experience either crushing pressure or dull monotony, conflict with other people, a boss who treats us like a child, and a company that sees us as little more than cogs in a great wheel.

It’s in our nature to work hard, to form deep connections with people, to steer our own course, and to make a contribution. When we go against our nature, when none of these things are happening, we lack the drive to work. We are unmotivated, and with good reason!

Motivating the unmotivated

To be sure, there are times when we even the unmotivated can be induced to work. It’s done through rewards and punishment. Management holds out a carrot, offering a week’s paid vacation to the person who has the highest production numbers, for example. Employees will work hard to reach that target (if the vacation is really what they want), but once the contest is over, they will revert back to their previous level of effort. Or, management wields a stick, threatening some kind of punishment if employees don’t do their jobs. In those cases, people will do just enough to “stay under the radar” and avoid getting into trouble. While some carrots and sticks may work in crisis situations or as a stop-gap remedy, what they mostly do is promote nearsighted thinking, mistrust, cynicism, and a diminished capacity to innovate and create. Hardly a recipe for a healthy workforce.

What is motivation?
From the Latin “to move,” motivation is that which gives purpose and direction to behavior; it is the reason for taking action. People can be motivated from two sources:

Extrinsic: Factors outside the individual (money, perks, bonus points, or other rewards; also threats and punishments). Think of this as motivation from the outside in.

Intrinsic: The internal desire to perform a particular task because it gives people pleasure, develops a skill, or is morally the right thing to do. Think of this as motivation from the inside out.

Carrots: Why (some) rewards work
There is nothing inherently wrong with using extrinsic rewards to motivate, as Dan Pink explains in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In fact, certain baseline rewards (salary, benefits, some perks) should be in place, otherwise people will focus on the unfairness of things. Beyond that, though, Pink says we should be wary of using external rewards as a motivational device. He uses this example: A company awards bonuses for those who meet their quarterly sales goal. People will work hard to drives sales for the quarter, competing with fellow co-workers to win. That strategy will work in the short term but not in the long-term success of the company, the customers, or their co-workers. If, on the other hand, the company gives bonuses based on current year’s results, profit in the next couple of years, customer satisfaction, and evaluation of co-workers, people will try hard to make their sales numbers, serve their customers, and help their peers along the way.

Sticks: Why (most) punishments do not work
So, certain kinds of extrinsic rewards can work. But what about punishments? What about using sticks to get people moving? The stick relies on fear—fear of job loss, ridicule, demotion, or other kinds of consequences. Sadly, the use of fear can be a motivator, at least in the short term. But the long-term fallout of this kind of strategy is enormous. People who work under threat of punishment become defensive and cynical. They spend their time and energy lying low (or plotting revenge). And when crouched down in survival mode like this, it’s impossible to think creatively or produce high-quality work.

If you’re looking for ways to create an environment where people are driven to do their best work, you’ll need to think beyond carrots and sticks. It’s a bit trickier, perhaps a little messier, but if you want to create a thriving organization, you’ll need to consider motivation from the inside out.

My next post deals with the intricacies of intrinsic motivation. In the meantime, here’s the link to Dan Pink’s book. Very worthwhile reading.

Until next time . . .