Want to motivate others? Start by learning how to motivate yourself. That’s the message that best-selling author Susan Fowler highlights in a recent article for Ignite!
In Fowler’s experience, you have to understand your own reasons for performing at a high level before you can help others do the same. Without that understanding, most managers attempting to “motivate” others will resort to imposed or extrinsic techniques that may only make the matter worse—for example, a “carrot” approach which dangles incentives in front of people in exchange for desired behaviors—or a “stick” approach which applies sanctions and negative consequences for undesired behaviors.
A new understanding on what motivates people
Fowler maintains that the reason for our dependence on external rewards to motivate people, especially in the workplace, is not just because they were easy and the “fast food” of motivation, but because we didn’t have alternatives—we didn’t know what truly motivates people.
That’s been changing rapidly the past couple of years as research about intrinsic motivators have begun to make their way into the work environment.
Building on the pioneering work of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, researchers and practitioners have begun exploring the powerful impact that intrinsic motivators such as Autonomy (being in control of one’s own life), Relatedness (to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others) and Competence (experience mastery) can have.
For example, researchers at The Ken Blanchard Companies have established that employee perceptions of increased Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence are positively correlated to intentions to stay with an organization, endorse the organization as a good place to work, and apply discretionary effort in service of the organization’s goals.
As Fowler explains, “The latest science of motivation gives us an entire spectrum of options beyond the carrot and stick. People want or need money and rewards, but when they believe that is what motivates them, they are missing out on much more effective and satisfying motivational experiences.”
How are you motivated?
Wondering how you can apply this latest research into your own work life? Here are three area to explore:
- What’s your motivation? What’s driving your performance on key work goals and tasks—is it in pursuit of rewards, avoidance of punishment, or something more meaningful and personal to you?
- How are your needs for Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence currently being met? Are you growing and developing skills? Do you get a chance to work together in community with others toward a shared goal?
- What can you do to create a more satisfying work environment for yourself and others? What small step can you take this week to start moving things in the right direction?
Work can—and should be—a motivating experience. Sometimes we forget, or become resigned to, a transactional relationship. It doesn’t have to be that way. Re-examine your beliefs, reframe your experience and rediscover your passion. Break out of carrot and stick thinking. Consider the impact that increased Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competency can have on your life.
PS: You can learn more about Susan Fowler’s approach to motivation in the article Motivation As a Skill. Also be sure to check out a free webinar that Susan is conducting on October 3, A Closer Look at the New Science of Motivation. It’s a free event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.