One of the things I sometimes see in my coaching practice is a poor grasp of how people are motivated to do what needs to be done in the business.  As a result, business leaders can sometimes have a single threaded way of “motivating” their team members that can actually be de-motivating at best, and downright alienating at worst.

If you want to see where your business is headed, take a look into how your people are motivated.  That is where your people are taking it whether you realize it or not.

If you want to actually lead and influence where your business is headed, learn how motivate your team based on the already present ways their brains expect to be motivated.

Understanding two particular types of employee motivation will give you as a manager a powerful leadership advantage over the future of your business.

There are two essential ways people are motivated to do a job.  Either from the inside-out (intrinsic) or from the outside-in (extrinsic).

Intrinsic Motivation:  Inside-Out

This kind of motivation comes from within a person’s mind.  It is based on an their interpretations of reality, values, beliefs, needs, desires, fears, past experiences, biases and their very sense of identity. 

People naturally support the things important to them and that produces a positive return in their minds.  They will also move away from those things that bring them a sense of negative return.

Intrinsics may or may not be based upon fact.  Sometimes they are based on false perceptions, misled presumptions, and outright wrongs conclusions.  They are greatly influenced by past experiences and feedback.

But the key thing about intrinsic motivation is this.  The more of it an employee has, the less of it a manager has to create.

Understanding a prospective employee’s intrinsic motivators can be helpful in determining their fit for your team.  You can think of intrinsic motivation as the unique kind fuel their rocket needs.  You could fill an aircraft with kerosene and even though it’s full, it won’t power the engines.  Because it’s the wrong fuel.

So the more an employee is intrinsically motivated to produce the kind of behaviors and results your business needs, the more power they provide for your business.

Tapping into the intrinsic motivators of an employee can lead to the greatest positive returns for both them and your business.

Extrinsic Motivation:  Outside-In

The other kind of motivation derives from outside a person.  The list of potential extrinsic motivators is lengthy.  It includes things like job responsibilities, expectations, deadlines, requests, reminders, policies, demands and pressures, money, title, benefits, rewards, perks and praise.

Quite often the term accountability is used to describe extrinsic motivation. Unfortunately ‘accountability’ has gathered an unfair share of cultural baggage over the last few years and can be perceived somewhat negatively.  Moreover the ‘carrot and stick’ simplification shortchanges the options for creating extrinsic motivation. 

Yet accountability done well can become an extrinsic motivator that actually taps into the intrinsic motivation inherent within a person.

When that happens the team enjoys a resonant satisfaction and performance that goes beyond mere commitment to a job.

Be Clear and Specfic

Strive for clarity and specificity in describing the things for which an employee is accountable.  Vagueness and confusion are negative extrinsic motivators that can exist without you as a manager knowing it.  Don’t assume something is clear.  Always get a ‘receipt for understanding’ in job-related matters.  This by the way occurs best in conversation not email or bulletin board.

Lose the Popsicles and Punishments

Attach both rewards and consequences to the accountability items.  But in doing so, lose the ‘popsicles and punishment’ forms of rewards and consequences.  Those can work for children.  But adults respond better to adult forms of motivation. 

Create rewards that provide recognition, affirmation and encouragement.  Establish consequences that provide feedback, correction and appropriate pressure.  Then you can once again tap in to the stores of intrinsic motivation that are already inside an employee’s mind, and put the ownership squarely on their shoulders to respond to those things within their control.

Increasing Employee Engagement

While some management science might argue in favor of one type of motivation over the other, I have found that wherever both exist together in appropriate measures and purposes, they can actually multiply the total motivation of an employee and team.

And in doing so substantially increase employee engagement.

Talk to your employees about what motivates them on the inside.  Design together programs and incentives that will meet your business objectives while at the same time have the extrinsic motivators that individuals can personally rise to in response.

It is in the care and feeding of these two types of human motivationors that you as a business leader will see notable results in the performance and satisfaction of your team.

And what could be better for business than that?

What forms of motivation have you found most helpful in your business?