Key in door


The key to unlocking motivation may not be what you think.

More money? Sure! More days of annual leave? Nice to have. That big fat promotion on the table? Pretty cool – for a while at least…

But none of these really tap in to what REALLY motivates most people.

Whilst things like money, promotions etc. relate to rewards – i.e. things that can happen as a result of the work you do, intrinsic motivation refers to behaviour that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behaviour arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you (source:

Ultimately, intrinsic motivation is what gets people excited about their work. It’s what gets people out of bed each day.

It’s what can make a job truly fulfilling.

Intrinsic motivators, unlike external rewards, means being motivated by the work itself. This could be be creating a kick-arse deliverable which is going to add a lot of value. It could be learning something new that will help you deliver more in your current role, or in your career in the future.

It could just be knowing that you’re contributing to something big.

Daniel Pink, in his popular book Drive, suggested there are three key intrinsic motivators:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

Autonomy means having the freedom to do what you want in your role. To be trusted. To not be micromanaged, or feel stifled in what you do.

Mastery means continuously learning. Becoming an expert. Knowing that you’re on the path to becoming the best you can possibly be in your field.

Purpose means working towards a vision. To be delivering work that really matter. That could be on an individual basis, within a team or part of a wider organisation.

Achieve a balance of these three things, and you’ll unlock the drive, or motivation to help someone do their best work.

So when you next check in with someone you line manage, or run an employee satisfaction survey, think about how you can test whether their intrinsic motivators are being met. Gear their working lives towards meeting these things, and you’ll more likely have happy, engaged and loyal people working for you.

Money is nice. But more often than not, money acts as a cherry on top of what can really motivate people, and provide them with true satisfaction.

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