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The Power of Inner Motivation

What motivates you to do a good job? Leadership_motivate

Most of us have seen examples of passionate people who outperform individuals with greater technical qualifications or skills.  Without passion, individuals can lose their knowledge advantage through complacency.  Leaders who match individuals to jobs they are not only skilled in, but also motivated to do, will thrive in the face of today’s rapid changes.

External Motivation

A common approach to motivating people is to reward them for the behaviors you want to see and punish those you don’t want to see.  Hence the common saying, “What gets rewarded gets done.” 

Motivation theorist Frederick Herzberg describes external rewards like pay and benefits as hygiene factors.  They are like temperature.  When the room temperature is comfortable, we don’t think about it.  When it is too hot or too cold, we are unhappy and think about little else.  Similarly, the absence of rewards can be de-motivating.  The presence of rewards is not, in isolation, motivating.  

Inner Motivation

Inner motivation is something that motivates people to want to do something without expecting a reward.  According to study after study, people report feeling motivated by things like:  a sense of accomplishment, pride in good work, sense of growth, being challenged and working with great colleagues.

If we don’t tap into the emotion and passion of others, we are unlikely to achieve much more than short-term, limited success.  Competent leaders do not underestimate this challenge.  They know they cannot force someone to be passionate, and they understand the difference between external and internal motivation.  They devote energy to creating an environment that fosters and naturally promotes inner motivation.

Does this mean leaders shouldn’t reward people?  Rewards are important when they are given as recognition rather than bribe.  When rewards recognize the intrinsic motivation already in play, people cherish them for what they symbolize. 

Stephen Covey, author of the seminal book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People once said, “You can buy a person’s hand, but you can’t buy his heart.  You can buy his back, but you can’t buy his brain.  His heart is where his enthusiasm is; his brain is where his creativity is, his ingenuity, his resourcefulness.”

If you’re frustrated that you can’t offer greater rewards to your team, reflect on the tireless efforts that people devote in the spirit of volunteerism and ask yourself why?  You’ll probably reach the same conclusion the motivation studies report.  Tapping inner motivation doesn’t require a larger budget.  It requires leadership.

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