By Mark Gowrie
Mark is the AchieveGlobal SVP who manages the Eastern US territory for Leadership and Management. He has worked for AG for 15 years and oversees a high-performing sales team focused on providing clients with leadership and management solutions that help transform organizations by enabling leaders to build cultures that engage and foster successful business results.
For many leaders, the very idea of intrinsic motivation for employees seems completely at odds with the leadership function. How is a leader supposed to lead a team toward motivation, if the motivation must ultimately come from within?
I’m glad you asked.
Let’s start with a statement from the article “Motivation in Today’s Workplace: The Link to Performance” that summarizes important thinking on this issue: Employee motivation is the key for sustained organizational success.
What often happens is that leaders observe workers who have become passive, and assume what’s needed to change behavior is a system of rewards to reinforce positive behaviors, and punishments (or disincentives) to deter negative behavior or performance. But as we detail in an AchieveGlobal report on this topic, research study after research study clearly proves that this “carrot and stick” method is anything but productive in the long term. In fact, rewards almost always undermine sustained, long-term motivation and performance by heightening anxiety and making people feel controlled.
So remove bonuses, rewards, threats and other external motivators? And then what?
How can we inspire, control, or lead positive behavior without these motivators?
Internal motivation can happen simply because an employee finds an activity inherently satisfying, or because that person wants to contribute to and feel part of a team effort. According to research, when striving to build a strong team, it’s important to remember that people who have more autonomy in a work environment function better.
With these findings in mind, effective supervisors can focus on creating an environment where employees experience this internal motivation by:
Listening and understanding employee perspectives.
Communicating in ways that support the employees’ needs.
Generating opportunities for choice and autonomy.
It really is about making those organic connections between an employee’s sense of self, their perspectives, preferences and personal goals, and those of the organization or department. Once solidified, these links create channels through which self-motivation flows, leading collectively to organizational success.