Most people believe motivation is a process by which one person instills energy into another. This is why so many believe we need motivational speakers, inspiring communication strategies, and energetic leaders to drive achievement and results. While there is nothing inherently wrong with calling ourselves a motivator, the fact is that effective leaders do something more important and influential.
It’s time to rethink motivation. The research is clear. If we cut through the motivation madness we understand that motivation is not about instilling energy or drive into another person. It’s not about some kind of secret sauce that, when applied, instantly engages an employee in an activity, goal, or mission. It is simply enabling a person to awaken what he/she already has inside. There are 3 specific ways we can begin to rethink motivation as leaders.
3 Ways to Rethink Motivation
1. Think Internal More Than External – All motivation is derived internally. You cannot make someone motivated. You can only activate what is already present. Environment is important to enable motivation, but internal motives elicit energy to act and are more powerful than the external environment. We have all experienced a time when our environment didn’t support our motivation to do something, yet we broke through that environment to achieve and succeed. The environment can certainly hinder our internal drive, but internal drives are, in most cases, more powerful than the external environment.
2. Think Customized, Not One Size Fits All – Every person has different levels and combinations of natural desires and motivators. The research of Dr. Steven Reiss of Ohio State University reveals 16 basic desires that drive our natural intrinsic motivation. Each person has different intensity levels for these desires, thus making each person unique in what motivates us. To activate a person’s natural motivation, we must help the person progress towards fulfilling their unique desires. The cookie cutter approach doesn’t apply to unleashing people’s drive and energy.
3. Think Growth Process, Not Instant – Because our motivation is internal and unique, we have to seek to understand ourselves before we can optimize our personal motivation. Likewise, we have to help others understand their unique desires so they can effectively motivate themselves. This process is not simple, nor is it quick. It takes a process of learning, deeper self-understanding, and personal growth. Likewise, as a leader it will take time and intentional action to understand what it takes to enable the motivation of each person you lead.