July – Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work

I have spent many years working to motivate staff and for a few years even taught a three hour course covering all the various theories of motivation. Then, I began to see the situation a bit differently. I have recently been stimulated by a new book by Susan Fowler*.

There are two types of motivation:

  • Extrinsic motivation comes from outside (how much do you have in your bag of tricks as planners?) Fowler says it this way, “Stop Beating Your People with Carrots.”
  • Intrinsic motivation comes from your inside. You are turned on and want to do a good job.

She suggests that:

  • Motivation that comes from choosing to do something is different from motivation that comes from having to do it.
  • Motivation generated from values, purpose, love, joy, or compassion is different from motivation generated from ego, power, status, or a desire for external rewards.
  • Motivation to compel because of a desire to excel (where the score serves as feedback on how successfully you are growing, learning, and executing) is different from competing for the sake of besting someone else, to impress, or to gain favors.

She wraps this up by saying we need Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence. I have been teaching a similar approach illustrated by the figure below. Begin to use these ideas and you and your team will flourish.

the Management Doctor

P.S. Even Goldie Hawn gets it as quoted recently, “The only way to think clearly is to know that you can’t change someone else but you can change you.”

*Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: the New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, Susan Fowler, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2014.