Junk Food Motivation
Fear, pressure, coercion, rewards, or nagging get results but undermine leadership.
Threats or bribes motivate conformity. Like junk food, they feel good going down but cause regret later.
“You cannot be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated on the same thing at the same time.” Susan Fowler
The surprising news is people are always motivated. Your job is to help people tap into their positive intrinsic motivations.
“A lot of the things that leaders constantly do to motivate people are having the opposite effect.” Susan Fowler.
People do what they do for their reasons, not yours.
Autonomy: the need for our choices to be our choices, not someone elses.* Every time leaders use power to pressure conformity they undermine autonomy. You may get the job done but you have to resort to power next time.
Relatedness: “our need to feel connected to others without concerns for ulterior motives…to feel we are contributing to something greater than ourselves.”
Competence: the feeling that you currently have, or are developing, what it takes to achieve desired results.*
Motivation is about their internal needs not your drive for results.
“One of the great opportunities you have as a leader is to help your people find meaning, contribute to a social purpose, and experience healthy interpersonal relationships at work.” Susan Fowler
Meat and potatoes motivation:
The real issues of motivation lie inside the people on your team. Leadership’s opportunity is getting to know people and, more importantly, helping people know themselves so they can tap into their “optimal motivational outlook.”
Start by asking teammates, “Why are you working on this project, attending this meeting, or leading this team?” What’s important about this?
Your job is creating environments where feelings of autonomy, relatedness, and competence flourish.
Listen in to my conversation with Susan Fowler (3:57):
What motivates you?
Pre-order Susan Fowler’s book: “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work and What Does” (It’s transformational)
Help your team see the value they add to any project.
Allow them to feel inner pride in doing something meaningful and knowing they are important in some way … To the teams success.
Isn’t that what we all secretly desire?
Helping your followers (those that have made a personal decision to follow you; thereby endorsing you as a leader) should be part of the ultimate intrinsic reward for any leader of people.
Of course that is unless we are motivated by personal glory; at the expense of others; for extrinsic satisfaction.
Sounds too simply, and in many situations maybe it is, but if you focus on the basics. The 101 principles. Then life fills in the rest positively.
Thanks Rob. Simple rocks!
Who doesn’t want to feel like they are having positive impact? Cheers
Hi Dan- Makes a lot of sense. Reminds me of Dan Pink’s theory of motivation as he lays out in his book Drive. He refers to Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose as the underpinnings of intrinsic motivation. I agree with Susan Fowler, Relatedness is an important ingredient as well. Understanding what motivates people is indeed a leadership imperative, for sustainable, thriving organizations. I also agree that as our society contemplates the changes necessary for reforming or transforming education, these would be helpful elements to work into a new approach. Have a great day! Lori
Thanks Lori. The implications of these ideas are radical. They suggest taking more time understanding people and connecting to purpose. Leadership becomes more about people than projects. Best to you
Both tangible and intangible components motivate me. When I find unable to fulfill my obligations, I look for opportunity. I look for ways, I talk to people to fulfill my tangible needs. When I do not get that, I derive satisfaction where I am. At the same time, I keep on exploring. But, given the preferences for both, I prefer to go for intangible components. I prefer to get respect, identity and recognition. I get more motivated and energized when I see fairness, respect, trust in the system. When people compete among themselves on trivial things, I get unhappy. When people talk about ideologies, ethics and questions wrongdoings, that motivate me.
At workplace, prevalent practice is command and control at most of the places. It works for a while. It works as long as external force is applied. Sooner the force is released, it stop regressing. However, leaders know the impact of intangible components. They may not get short term result, but they get better and sustainable result in long term. It also does not need external pressure. In fact, it create mechanism, that works without interventions.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. I get the feeling that obstacles motivate you. I feel the same way. I like a challenge that I believe I can solve with hard work. It motivates me.
What motivates me is seeing the fire ignite in the eyes of team members when they not only ‘see’ the goals and believe in them, but realize that their contributions to achieving these goals are, well, high-five events 🙂
Thanks J. Ooooo! I know just what you mean. Love that.
Great reminders. One of the tricks is recognizing when the job you need the person to do doesn’t/can’t have enough of the motivating components for the individual currently holding the position. Figuring out how the functions of the job match someone’s motivations should be a key part of the selection process. And yet, there are times when the only way to find out that there is a mismatch is to put someone in a role. As leaders we must be willing to think outside the box to make adjustments that can be made to fit the person. But leaders shouldn’t have to take all the pressure. A person has to be willing to make some adjustments as well.
Thanks mmablessing. It’s true. We often don’t know until people step into a new role if it will work for them. I think assigning short-term projects is a good way to see how people will respond. Cheers.
Interesting information!!!! Helpful also must I add!
My lack of this: “Autonomy: the need for our choices to be our choices, not someone elses” is driving me to exit the corporate world. It will take some time to put that effort into effect though.
Thanks Bruce. Exactly! We feel like we’re trapped in a cage when our choices don’t matter. Best wishes
Good piece on Motivation Dan. You have stated the obvious. I may add-
Help your people challenge the status quo. Accept your mistakes. Foster a spirit of discussion. Do not micro manage. Accept mistakes as part of working life. Develop a good line of leaders.
Thanks P G. Wonderful additions. Foster a spirit of discuss stood out to me.
Dear Dan and all Leadership Freaks: Thank you for your comments and healthy food for thought. My book releases on Tuesday and resources such as Dan’s site remind me that it is only the beginning of my work–there is so much to share AND to continue learning!
The research on attitudes and extrinsic motivation is relevant.
Take someone with an attitude against something and pay them a good bit to talk against that attitude and their talk will be against it but their attitude will not change.
Pay them a small pittance to talk against their attitude and their attitude will actually CHANGE to be more like what they are talking about.
The conclusion is that they JUSTIFY their behavior with large rewards but change their attitudes to be congruent to their behavior if they do not feel bribed.
Think about this congruency and extrinsic and intrinsic workplace rewards and resulting long-term behavior. Conclusions should be obvious. Extrinsic rewards are complicated and ineffective…
Dan Pink’s stuff covers it pretty nicely, actually.