How do you get people to bring their best to work? For a long time, companies thought the carrots and sticks approach was the best way to foster commitment. But is that really the case?
Giving higher bonuses for outputs can drive unwanted behavior. If people become afraid of punishment, they might try to play things safe and resist the urge to innovate.
Without a proper purpose, people will inevitably treat their job as a means to pay their bills and not something they genuinely care about.
So if more money isn’t how you bring out the best of team members, how would you do it? Here’s where intrinsic motivation comes in. In this article, you’ll learn what intrinsic motivation is, how it differs from extrinsic motivation, and how to promote it within your product team.
Intrinsic motivation is a way of driving behavior based on internal desires. When someone does something because they relate to it or because it matters to them that’s an intrinsic motivation. The reward comes from the feeling you’re doing something you care about.
Contrary to intrinsic motivation, most of the time companies rely on extrinsic forms of motivation. In these cases, the reward comes from something external, often financial compensation. For example, you get a bonus when you reach the sales goal.
I like comparing intrinsic motivation with product vision. With both, you know where you want to land, but just don’t know how to get there. You use every opportunity you have to learn and grow. You enjoy the journey no matter how it unfolds.
When you have intrinsic motivation you’re excited about discovering the new, evolving, learning, and making small steps because you feel like you have a stake in it. Intrinsic motivation is inspiring and energy-boosting.
On the other hand, I compare extrinsic motivation with feature roadmaps. Here, the solution is already defined, and your mission is to deliver features, though you may disagree with them. Day in and day out, you strive to reach what was predefined, hoping to reach that goal and receive your promised reward.
When it comes to a feature roadmap, you only have one chance of succeeding. Motivation increases if you hit your bonus and plunges when you don’t. Extrinsic motivation is often stressful as you have no control over the outcomes.
The good thing about intrinsic motivation is that you can design your workplace around it. With simple actions, you can get outstanding results.
Some of these might include:
The above actions will help you boost intrinsic motivation, but that’s not enough to keep it flowing. The following four factors play a key role in developing intrinsic motivation within your team:
As a leader, you need to give your teams challenges that match their skills. When the challenges are bigger, they need help or will fail. When the challenge is too easy, they won’t need to bring their best.
Balancing skill sets and problems you empower them to solve is critical. Try to match each member to their unique skill set, challenge, and purpose.
Recognizing people’s effort is vital to keep intrinsic motivation alive. When individuals feel what they do matters, they will continue to produce quality work. Use the power of feedback to share positive feedback with the person in public.
When people feel they belong to a team, they start caring more about collaboration, and the results are noticeable. It’s your responsibility as a leader to foster collaboration and help team members get together. Create feedback rounds so team members can become strong together.
One of the critical aspects of intrinsic motivation is to encourage team members to pursue ideas they may have. Encourage people to challenge the status quo. Each team member will think differently, so by listening to what they have to say you can arrive at ideas you never would’ve considered on your own.
Based on what I wrote, you may wonder, “Should I ditch extrinsic motivation altogether?” Not so fast… Let us break down a few misconceptions:
Maybe these statements were true in the past, but we live in a knowledge era. People look for meaningful ways of spending their time, not just making more money.
Combining intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can work well, but you need to do this in the following ways:
Intrinsic motivation is the fuel that motivates people to bring their best to work. It creates joy throughout the journey, no matter the result you achieve. Focus on driving more of that.
Extrinsic motivation is external and out of people’s control. It’s hit or a miss and causes more stress than pleasure. However, you can use it in combination with intrinsic motivation.
Remember to give people a mission and trust them — the rest will follow.
Featured image source: IconScout
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