Tag 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 . . .

The Perils of Praise: How to Give Positive Feedback

As a manager, I handed out praise like candy to my employees. I thought it was the perfect way to make them feel better about themselves and make them want to work harder. Imagine my surprise when people’s responses didn’t match my expectations. I got no thanks for my candy handouts. In fact, most people seemed embarrassed and even a little suspicious by my praise.

Why? What was I doing wrong? Isn’t praise a good thing? Don’t people like to receive a pat on the back? Well, it turns out, they do, but it isn’t praise they’re looking for. They’re looking for something much more specific and meaningful. They’re looking for positive feedback, which is quite different from praise.

Praise is often experienced by the receiver as a negative thing: people can feel uncomfortable, skeptical, or even defensive. Heap praise on someone and they very well could be thinking:

“This is really embarrassing. I never know what to say in return.”


“I wonder what you want from me now.”

Praise is a vague statement that makes a positive judgment about a person, but contains very little information or any real meaning. Example: “You’re the best team member I have.” That statement is loaded with judgment, which can make us doubtful or even distrustful. There is no real information contained in the message, so there is nothing to grab onto as a way of building motivational steam.

Praise doesn’t work. But positive feedback does.

Positive feedback is a specific, non-judgmental statement about a person that contains concrete and meaningful information. Example: “You ran that team meeting really well: you encouraged open discussion, stuck to the agenda, and ended on time.” There is no judgment here, only a statement of fact. The message has some meat to it: the person knows exactly what he or she has done (and likely will do in the future). There should be no need for the receiver to wonder about ulterior motives. There should be no embarrassment by the receiver, unless the person is not used to receiving such feedback and doesn’t know how to respond. If so, tell the receiver that a simple “Thank you” is all that’s required.

So, put away the candy handouts and give positive feedback instead. Give it soon and often. Make it specific and concrete. Then watch what happens.

Until next time . . .