What Motivates you. And How You Can Motivate your Team

March 1, 2021

What gives you motivation

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Do you ever find yourself so completely immersed in what you are doing that you lose track of time? All of a sudden you look up at the clock and realize that hours have passed, and you missed lunch or dinner?

While training managers in Kenya, I have had an opportunity to ask several people those three questions. What usually comes up are statements like: Making a difference in the world, leaving a legacy, making my customers happy, providing for my family. Very few people say that making money is what gets them out of bed. Some would connect the statement with what money can do for their families, themselves and others but not money in itself as the end goal.

So, what really motivates us? What is in the core of our beings that gives us that kick in life?

The Cambridge dictionary defines Motivation as the  Enthusiasm for doing something. What causes people to be enthused to engage in a project, in a course or their day-to-day work?

Motivation can come from two main sources either internal (intrinsic) or external (extrinsic) sources.

We will have a look at both sources and how you can capitalize on the most gripping source to motivate your team towards the mission of the organization.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

A common definition is: Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it is personally rewarding to you. Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment. 

Extrinsic motivation refers to the forms of regulation that underlie activities that are performed as a means to an end. Taken as a whole, extrinsically motivated activities are performed to attain a goal, to obtain a reward, or to avoid a penalty or a negative consequence.

When extrinsically motivated, one does something in the hope that they get something in return. This motivation is proven to work in the short term but not in the long term. For example, if you are driven by the paycheck or bonus increase, you get excited for a couple of days after getting the salary but the excitement and motivation wear off with time. You end up being like a rat in a hamster wheel, waiting for the next bonus or salary.

Intrinsic motivation vice versa is an energizing of behavior that comes from within an individual, out of will and interest for the activity at hand.  No external rewards are required to incite the intrinsically motivated person into action. The reward is the behavior itself.  Logically, this seems like an ideal, for people to act as “origins” of their behavior rather than “pawns” (deCharms, 1968). 

Intrinsic motivation comes from a deeper place. Engaging in a course or an activity based on fundamentals that are bigger than yourself. It could be based on an experience you went through that significantly changed your outlook towards life, a strong belief in a course, or values that you hold true to. The outcome is driven by making a difference in others or seeing a certain pathway be established.

When you are intrinsically motivated, you keep going on. You give with so much enthusiasm not necessarily expecting anything in return. For example, in the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 Pandemic, some organizations agreed on salary reduction. If you are intrinsically motivated about your work, even though you get a pay cut, it may not affect your output and enthusiasm for what you do.

Intrinsic motivation has both long term and short-term impact because what keeps you going is greater than what is in the control of others.

How you can intrinsically motivate your team

When we explore more on the Intrinsic Motivation through the Leadership for Growth program that is tailored for middle-level managers for SGBs in East Africa, one of the questions that come up is how the managers can intrinsically motivate their team. There are many ways you can do it, for us there are 3 key principles borrowed from Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us that have proven to have incredible results.

1- Autonomy is the urge to direct our own lives. A sense of autonomy has a powerful effect on individual performance, in particular when related to four aspects of work: what people do, when they do it, how they do it, whom they do it with.

When you give that sense of autonomy, you are passing a very important message to the individual that says “I trust you will get the job done!”

2- Mastery is the desire to get better and better at something that matters. It speaks to the pain and rewards of practice, failure and success. This calls for putting others in a position to constantly grow and stretch themselves being cognizant of the fact that doing familiar work over and over again breeds boredom.

When you give that sense of Mastery, you are passing a message to the individual that says “You have amazing skills and gifts. I want you to fully utilize your potential!”

3- Purpose, maybe the most important element, is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. We all want to leave a legacy and be part of a larger whole.

How do we create a sense of purpose in our teams? By constantly going back to the reason you exist as an organization and embedding that reason in day to day conversations, action items and deliverables.

When you give that sense of Purpose, you are passing a message to the individual that says “You and I and the organization is making a difference in people’s lives!”

How you can practically translate this 3 key principles to your team

Here are a few practical tips that you can implement.

  1. To foster Autonomy, let your team drive the output and outcome of their work. Give them the freedom to work and have clear, transparent goals to support this model. While the team is at it, also foster a culture of recognition to strengthen the output delivery muscle.
  2. To foster Mastery, encourage your team to have self- directed dynamic learning in line with their functional areas and to apply the lessons learnt in their day-to-day work. Give them room to fail forward in their mastery journey. You can also offer them skill-based training.
  3. To foster purpose, constantly share your mission and values to the team. Have moments to collectively internalizing those values. One of the ways we do at Amani is during our team meetings, we start off with a check-in question around “How have you embodied one or two organizational values in the last week.”

Lastly, have a brainstorming session on how you can embody autonomy, mastery, and purpose in your organizational context.

By Nzilani Mulati, Program Manager, Amani Institute

This article is part of a knowledge series dedicated to skills that are particularly useful for Small and Growing Businesses. Check out the other articles from the series:
How to Get Your Money’s Worth Training Your Staff
Capitalize on Your Strengths in Your Leadership Journey
Changing the Culture of Feedback
Comfort, Stretch, Panic. Which Zone Are You In?

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