Is It Really True That Motivation Can Only Come From Within Ourselves?

Look around and I bet you can name tons of leaders who call themselves “Motivational Speakers”. There are numerous books on how to motivate ourselves as well as your team members. In fact, how many of us have heard bosses say, “I am just at a loss of how to motivate my colleagues to work in a more collaborative way!” It’s as if we have the secret sauce to lead someone down a path that they are totally uninterested in pursuing. Additionally, is it possible that we are clueless on steps to propel ourselves forward?

Working with leaders for many years as a facilitator and a coach has taught me a thing or two about motivation. For instance, when a senior leader asked me how to change the work ethic of an individual on their team, I was in disbelief. Although a leader may want to impose their values on others, that is not realistic. In the end, we need to reflect on what motivates us to action as well.

Motivation addresses the “whys” of behavior – the needs or wants that drive behavior and explain what we do. The principles of motivation were introduced in the 1960’s by Frederick Herzberg. He found that “extrinsic” incentives such as bigger paychecks and plush offices don’t necessarily make people work harder or smarter. Even when they do, their positive effects are short-lived. That is because most of us are motivated by “intrinsic” rewards- interesting challenging work and the opportunity to achieve and grow into greater responsibility. These intrinsic factors answer people’s need for growth and achievement.

So how can leaders help identify what motivates themselves as well as others?

1. Delve Into What Motivates Us

Before we can begin a discussion on what motivates an individual on our team, we first need to look inwards on what brings us joy and gets our juices going. If someone were to ask you to describe what energizes you could you do that?  Could you name five parts of your job that bring you fulfillment? When we start by understanding the highs and lows of our careers, we are then able to connect to how others see their work trajectories.

2. Establish Regular One-On-One Sessions

Building motivation from within often involves outside discovery. No matter our level of leadership, we need to continually motivate ourselves to keep growing and learning. One of the best ways to uncover areas we need to strengthen, is by meeting regularly with bosses or trusted advisers. In these conversations, we need to be:

  • Trustworthy- keep everything discussed confidential.
  • Vulnerable– be willing to share our truths.
  • Dependable- be respectful showing up and sticking to the timeframe established.

3. Focus On Values

The behaviors and attitudes that motivate leaders to take action are based on what is most important to each of us. Have you ever thought why one project you work on feels so satisfying while another is pure frustration? Chances are the work you do that brings a smile to your face reflects what you most care about. Maybe the project has a meaningful purpose or utilizes skills that you hold dear. When we are helping others locate their values, allow them to think of times in their job they were the happiest. Their cherished values will emerge.

4. Leave Judgments And Assumptions Behind

When we begin our journey to discover what truly motivates us it is crucial not to place roadblocks in front of us. These obstacles can be in the form of judgments and assumptions of the world or environment around us. To avoid judgments and assumptions lead by:

  • Being respectful of different perspectives.
  • Using the mantra: “There is no right or wrong.”
  • Knowing there are many alternatives to reaching a successful solution.
  • Never assuming you know what someone else is thinking.

5. Lead With Empowering Questions

Finally, a great tactic in revealing our motivations, is to keep asking ourselves and others empowering questions. Those are questions that are open-ended and begin with the words, “How”, “What”, and “Why”. By asking these types of questions we can identify what brings us purpose and joy.

How have you discovered what motivates you to grow your leadership?

Related: Six Tips To Becoming an Influential Leader