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Promoting Intrinsic Motivation
Rewards and punishments shape behavior in powerful ways, but they often rob people of their internal self-motivation to perform.
When team members are motivated more by the inherent enjoyment and meaning found in the desired actions than by the material consequences of those actions, they are said to be intrinsically motivated.
Research for more than 50 years has proven an important point: Leaders who encourage and promote more intrinsic motivations for those they lead can have a profound impact on what can be accomplished. Those motivated intrinsically overcome adversity and generally outperform others.
So, why would a leader turn toward any other strategy other than intrinsic motivation in order to compel action and elevate performance?
In short, because other methods are easier, and they work. Extrinsic motivators such as incentives, increased influence, elevated status, and praise are highly effective, especially in the short term. Moreover, designing ways to promote intrinsic motivation is not always obvious or simple.
But learning how to motivate team members without resorting exclusively to outcome-based incentives is well worth the time and effort.
So, let’s start with the fundamentals. Any environment where leaders give team members more autonomy, invest in their competence and enjoyment, and create an avenue for connectedness to peers creates higher levels of intrinsic motivation.
Of the many ways to promote intrinsic motivation, two stand out. Asking team members what tasks, projects, or work they most enjoy and relish is a shortcut to getting them engaged with those assignments. At least a portion of the everyday challenge for team members needs to include work they take pleasure in.
Next, investing in the skills of team members through clinics, practice sessions, and outside experts is yet another avenue to promote intrinsic motivation. Once again, knowing what skills team members want to enhance and giving them the time, resources, and expertise to do so is a big intrinsic winner.
When motivated from the inside, without rewards dangling in front of them, team members expand their potential by working harder and smarter. Task enjoyment and skill enhancement are two important ways to encourage self-motivation. People are born with intrinsic motivation. The best leaders just remind them how to rediscover that inner drive.