Moving Beyond Intrinsic Motivation

What's The Next StepNew research into human motivation is helping managers move beyond carrot-and-stick extrinsic motivators.

And while it’s good that we’ve made progress, we still need to keep moving if we truly want to leverage what the new science of motivation is teaching us.

In the June issue of Ignite, Susan Fowler, best-selling business author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…And What Does, explains that individuals bring one of six motivational outlooks to any goal or task they face.Three of the outlooks correlate to positive, long-lasting, and consistent energy for getting a job done—and three don’t.

The three positive optimal motivational outlooks are

  • Aligned. This is where an individual derives a sense of meaning from the goal or task, is able to align the task with important personal values, and is making a conscious and deliberate choice to do the right thing.
  • Integrated. This is where an individual is motivated because the goal or task fulfills a deeply felt sense of purpose or is regarded as a self-defining activity.
  • Inherent. This is where an individual perceives the goal or task as pure fun and enjoyment.

The three suboptimal motivation outlooks are

  • Disinterested. This is where an individual feels overwhelmed, cannot find value in the task, or doesn’t have the energy to manage what’s required.
  • External. This is where an individual is primarily motivated by the promise of a tangible reward or incentive, or the expectation of increased power, status, or respect.
  • Imposed. This is where an individual is motivated by pressure to perform by either self-expectations or the expectations of others. Their actions are an attempt to avoid feelings of guilt, shame, or disappointment.

Fowler explains that looking beyond a simple extrinsic/intrinsic model of motivation creates additional choices and gives leaders more options to help facilitate a shift to a better outlook. Her approach is to teach leaders how to have conversations that help others identify the reasons for their motivation. The result is higher quality motivation that is based on meaningful values and a noble purpose.

Fowler is quick to point out that this kind of shift is more than a theoretical idea—it is a practical enhancement that makes the application of other leadership skills more effective.

“A strong foundation in motivation science elevates traditional leadership skills,” explains Fowler. “For example, consider the benefit when you combine traditional goal setting with a motivational outlook conversation about achieving the goal. These conversations give managers an opportunity to help people find relevance, meaning, and deeper connection to their goals. Skipping over the motivational outlook conversation or jumping to a problem solving or action planning conversation with people when they are suboptimally motivated on the goal, problem, or plan usually leads to suboptimal results down the road.

“People work best when they are pursuing goals for high quality reasons. Ask people questions that help them connect their goals to their values and sense of purpose. People who make this connection don’t just perform at a high level and achieve their goals—they flourish.”

You can read more about Fowler’s approach to workplace motivation in the June issue of Ignite.  Also, be sure to check the information about Fowler’s upcoming webinar on Leadership Skills: Applying the New Science of Motivation.  The event is free, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.

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