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Motivating Your Staff to Greatness

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” 

Dwight Eisenhower

How motivated a person is directly impacts their output, both from a quality and quantity perspective.  It’s therefore essential that an organization’s management team not only recognizes the critical role motivation plays in workplace productivity, but actively seeks out potential sources of motivation to keep their staff engaged and eager.

Endless research has been conducted in the field of motivation at all functional levels – biological, psychological, and sociocultural.  At its most basic level it exists in every task that we undertake every day, whether we are aware of it or not.   But not all motivation is the same, and not all motivation produces the same result. 

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic, or external, sources of motivation are obvious ones, especially in the context of business as they generally align with what is viewed as success in the workplace.  In this context, extrinsic motivation tends to be easily measurable, and is comprised of things like compensation, awards, and benefits.  

Extrinsic motivation is generally driven by factors like necessity, greed, or societal perception, so it’s less personal, and therefore viewed as less effective.  But because of how easily its rewards fit into business, societal, and economic frameworks, it requires little effort by management to define and quantify, and consequently it’s the type that companies tend to rely on the most to motivate their workforce.  

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic, or internal, sources of motivation can be more complex to identify as they come from a person’s individual set of values and drivers.  They require management to review and react to an employees’ behavior, and to take notice of which tasks interest and excite them.  What the employees present with pride rather than detachment is an important indicator of what they feel a personal connection to. 

Intrinsic motivation is significantly more difficult to identify and implement.  It takes time, patience and insight for a manager to understand, and cannot be quantified the way extrinsic motivation can be.  However, because intrinsic motivation is driven by internal values and connections rather than external ones, it’s significantly more effective. 

Although more time consuming and effort filled, having this insight on intrinsic motivators allows managers to tailor tasks and create personal challenges for employees to give them the right impetus to excel. 

Introjected Motivation – A Hidden Risk

A subset of intrinsic motivation – introjected motivation – manifests itself as a sense of guilt or fear of consequence if, for example, work is not completed or not up to standard.  This is a powerful driver of most human behavior, especially in people with a strong sense of ethics. 

However, this guilt and fear can create negative connections for employees to their work environment or the culture of their company.  To avoid the risk of introjected motivation crossing the line into the negative, management needs to be conscious of managing expectations and being clear about consequences, but without pressing the issue more than necessary.  If not managed properly, introjected motivation can become detrimental, and is a risk that managers need to be aware of.

Knowing Your Employees

If you can understand what motivates your employees, you can manage them more effectively, increase their productivity, and drive the success of your business.   But how you motive them is essential.  Extrinsic motivators are obvious and easy, but in taking the time to find out what intrinsically drives your employees to want to excel, you can manage them to greatness.  The investment might be greater, but so will the return.