How to Motivate the Unmotivated

Pressure guage

Pressure and coercion don’t work for long.

Successful leaders ignite and inspire, they don’t pressure.

They were motivated. Now, they work when you’re around and doze when you’re not. What a difference three months makes.

Coercion, pressure, or rewards may work momentarily. Performance improves while you’re watching and slows when you’re away. Great for control freaks and power-trip-leaders! It makes them feel “important,” even if it’s frustrating.

Pressure and coercion are like water to fire.

The need to pressures or coerce indicates they’re not interested.

“Get past this notion that motivation is something that one person does to another…,” Daniel Pink, author of, Drive, referring to a conversation with Edward Deci.

De-motivation and control:

Feeling controlled de-motivates. Pressure says you’re in control and they aren’t.

How do you feel when someone tries to control you? Do you calmly walk along or dig in your heels? It depends on how much power the controller has and how much you need the job. But, no one enjoys external pressure.

Make people feel powerless and they’ll
act like they’re powerless.
The powerless always resist, eventually.

Five ways to motivate the unmotivated:

  1. Reject the notion that motivation is something you do to others.
  2. Give power don’t take it. Power enables control. Control engages. Feeling controlled disengages.
  3. Put more in if you want more out. Train, develop, and release. Proficiency enable action; incompetence blocks it.
  4. Tap their interests. You don’t have to pressure people to do what interests them.
  5. Connect don’t disconnect. Build relationships. Connecting with others and organizations motivates the unmotivated.


Four minutes of my conversation with Daniel Pink. 

Article on motivation by Ryan and Deci.

Pink’s new book: “To Sell is Human.”

How do you inspire others?