What (Really) Motivates Your Employees


If you haven't yet seen this brief animated video, in which Dan Pink talks about the "real" drivers of employee motivation, you should.

In this clip, Pink discusses some important research findings regarding what does (and does not) motivate people to do their best work.

Long story short, it's not about the money. At least, not when we're talking about work that requires even a hint of intellectual effort. And certainly not when we're talking about the kind of creative, solution-focused, innovative work that your employees are required to do on a daily basis.

If money doesn't motivate, then what does? According to the research, there are three key drivers of motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Simply put, people want to have control over the work they do, they want the opportunity to do the work with competence, and they want to be part of something that makes a difference.

Here a just a few ways to tap into these key intrinsic sources of motivation:


Stop micromanaging.
Who, me? Micromanage? Well yes, I'm afraid so. Chances are, you do more of this than you realize. You may rationalize that there's simply no room for error, that failure is not an option. You may worry that your people aren't quite ready to take the reins. You may honestly believe that no one can do the work better, faster, more efficiently than you. Or you may simply hate the idea of relinquishing control.

The problem is, unless you allow your employees to do their work with sufficient autonomy, you're ultimately going to deflate them. They'll become less engaged, less inspired, less creative, and less willing to go above and beyond for you. So take a good look at the way you lead your team. Are you fostering a culture in which your employees have plenty of room to breathe, stretch, grow, learn, make decisions, and possibly even fail from time to time? If not, it's time to make a change.


Allow for mastery.
Let's be clear. No one ever starts a new role with all of the requisite skills and experiences to do the job full justice. The simple fact is, without adequate time and opportunity to learn the ropes, to figure out what it takes to become truly outstanding, and to develop the skillset to excel, your employees will inevitably become discouraged and, you guessed it, disengaged.

Mastery requires time. It requires a good dose of patience. And is also calls for giving people the proper experiences, training, mentoring and coaching to become truly amazing at their jobs. Oh, and by the way, once someone has "arrived," let him stay there long enough to reap the intrinsic (and extrinsic) rewards of being topnotch at his job. Resist the temptation and the external pressure to hastily promote him right out of his hard-earned comfort zone.


Create a sense of purpose.
If you want employees who come to work with a positive attitude and a genuine smile on their faces... If you want people who will work tirelessly to achieve the goals of the team, department, and organization... then you'd better show them that their work makes a difference. Let them see how they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Show them where their work fits in.

If you don't yet have a mission statement, know this. A compelling mission can be a very powerful tool for identifying, shaping, and communicating meaning and purpose. Your mission should address the following questions: Why does your team do what it does? Why is the company in business? What will be different, better, as a result of the work you, your team, and the organization engages in?

Chances are, it's not all about dollars, cents, and shareholder value. Look for the overarching purpose, your organization's raison d'etre. Figure it out and discuss it with your team. It's absolutely essential, if you hope to tap into the boundless energy, enthusiasm, and genuine commitment that is just waiting to be unleashed.

All the best,  


Liz Bywater, PhD 
President, Bywater Consulting Group 
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Copyright 2014. Liz Bywater, PhD. Bywater Consulting Group, LLC. All rights reserved.