3 Extrinsic Motivations That Get People Going

Helping Others With The “Want To”

Motivating is really about helping people with the want to. The desire that leads to action. Desire alone is not sufficient.

A young Caucasian male employee goofing off  and being unproductive in his office when he should be working. He is in the process of trying to balance a pencil on his nose.

Proverbs mentions that “the soul of the sluggard craves but gets nothing.” True motivation is the desire that leads to action. Yet, we are complex creatures. Everyone needs motivation and yet each is motivated differently and our motivations change all the time. It is a moving target. Difficult but extremely important.

One of my team members had been dragging his feet on some projects for which he was responsible. As we talked, I began to realize that what was hindering him from fulfilling these tasks was the fact that I had neglected to include him in on a couple of communiques to some of the other team members.

He later told me that he had begun wondering if he were still a needed part of the team. His lack of relational security due to my oversight had partially paralyzed his motivation and energy to complete the projects.

Keeping in tune with the motivational makeup of each team member is vitally important to their success. Motivation or the lack thereof is real.

There has been a large shift in the understanding of motivation over the past 10-20 years that is often generational in its exhibition. It’s the shift from extrinsic motivations (rewards and consequences) to intrinsic motivation (coming more from what we find interesting or what really matters to us).

Both are still in play so it’s imperative to understand each.

3 Big extrinsic elements of motivation

  1. Rewards – what Henry Cloud labels as the “potential of positive outcomes.” A normal tendency is to ask, “What will we gain if we succeed? What will I get out of this?”

    Rewards show a positive consequence. The simplest version of this is seen in the wages we earn for the work we do. We expect to be paid for the effort we put forth. We work on a project with the prospect of it returning some good to us.

    Be it monetary, promotion, or just the sense of accomplishment for a job well-done, rewards play a significant role in our motivation.

  2. Consequences – the fear of losing something of value. Just as the potential of positive outcomes motivates, the opposite is true as well.

    The questions associated with this is, “What will we lose if we don’t succeed? What will not happened if this is not successful? What are the negative consequences of failure?”

    Failure is seldom fatal but there are real implications which accompany it.

  3. Security – this is all about relational safety. Just as the home is meant to be a place of safety and security, the same applies to the leadership arena.

    A good question is, “As a leader, are my responses to those I lead safe, consistent, and developmental? In other words, is it evident that there are no relational consequences for mistakes?

    The operative word is the adjective relational. This does not mean that you will allow on-going patterns of incompetence or nonperformance. That would not be helpful to them. People need to be held accountable for their behavior and performance.

    What people need from their leader is the assurance that their leader is for their success and development. That if a mistake is made, that leader will stand beside them and help them learn and improve, not punish them. Unfortunately, this is not a prevalent as many think. It is all too easy for the leader to let his/her frustrations at the moment dictate their reactions. Poor organizational health leads many to find another context in which to work.

Every leader dreams of the self-motivated, initiative-taking team members who jump out of the starting blocks on their own. There will be a few like that.

In fact, every team member will have days or perhaps moments in a day when that hope will be realized. But don’t count on it happening often. Every person’s motivations are a constantly evolving phenomenon. It is a costly mistake to assume otherwise.

One of the key functions of the leader is to know the primary motivations of each team member and strive toward their employment within that person.

Question: How much attention and work are you motivated to give in understanding and utilizing the primary motivations of those you lead in order to help them bring their best to the effort at hand? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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