Motivate Without Over-Managing

Over the past few weeks we have examined self-motivation. Now, what about motivating others? Could there be an overlap between what sparks self-motivation and motivation in others? What has changed in motivating others? Is this yet another area where change is needed to produce better results? How does Strengths Intelligence fit into motivating others?

Knowing each of your team member’s Strengths offers you the advantage of understanding. Click To Tweet

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Many business leaders have lost sight of what really motivates people at work. In fact, some companies and organizations have not updated their incentive practices in years, which means they are probably struggling to create and sustain high-performing teams.

The companies that continue to ignore the obvious — offering incentives and rewards is less effective than tapping into truly meaningful intrinsic motivation — struggle with motivation. Leaders are operating on old assumptions about motivation despite a wealth of new well-documented scientific evidence.

In the work I do, I hear that leaders, like you, are concerned about disengaged workers. Yet, they have not changed their incentive programs, continuing to spend time and money on ineffective rewards programs. Instead, I believe they would be better off taking time to have discovery conversations that tap into people’s internal drives. What are their people hungry for? What matters most to their employees?

The old “carrot-and-stick” mentality actually inhibits employees from seeking creative solutions, partly because they focus on attaining rewards instead of solving problems. And it encourages working independently vs. interdependently to solve problems and get the job done. Review the most notorious business failures – Enron, for example – and you will find that company leaders focused on rewarding short-term results at the expense of sustaining success.

Effective motivation requires you to offer opportunities that satisfy three basic human needs:

1. Autonomy

2. Relatedness

3. Competence

This approach is far from new. For more than 60 years, social scientists have understood what motivates people. But leaders continue to use the “carrot-and-stick” model with incentive programs. Regardless of gender, race, culture or generation, the reality is clear: are you satisfying your people’s psychological needs? People are uniquely wired with their Strengths. Each of the individual Strengths have needs in order to function at their A game. Knowing each of your team member’s Strengths offers you the advantage of understanding what motivates them to contribute their very best to the team.

The book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, by consultant Susan Fowler, serves as a good reminder that, to meet the needs of their team’s Strengths, leaders must periodically review their motivational approaches and evaluate for any necessary adjustments. Pausing to assess your team facilitates recapturing your leadership mojo.

If your teams lack motivation, are disengaged or are bored, the needs of their Strengths are not being met. Our basic nature is to be curious and self-directed, to seek out and explore solutions to problems.

Leaders who recognize the value of, and who can implement intrinsic motivation can expect a differently engaged workplace. In my experience, we don’t need better management as much as we need a renaissance of self-awareness, other-awareness and interdependence.

The bigger, unanswered question is whether you as a leader are ready to rise to the new challenges autonomy will require? What do you imagine are the obstacles to harnessing these core Strengths-based needs for improving performance?

What are your experiences in working to structure intrinsic motivation through employee’s desire for autonomy, relatedness and competence? Contact me here and on LinkedIn.


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