Good leadership means knowing how to motivate people for optimal performance. Or at least, this seemed to be the main paradigm for the 20th century. In the 21st century, however, ‘good leadership’ should, in my opinion, mean being able to shape meaning, autonomy, and happiness.
This calls for a whole new approach to motivation. I call it Motivation 3.0: a term derived from the book Drive by Daniel H. Pink. Motivation 3.0 is all about refueling the intrinsic motivation in people.
My work is based on recent opinions in human motivation and incentives, alongside 20+ years of my professional experience. During this time, I have been assessing and coaching managers and assisting organizations in leadership development and change processes.
This series of articles will be more about expressing my opinions, rather than citing purely scientific publications. As well as referring to experiments and research, therefore, it will also contain many assumptions from the aforementioned experience.
My goal is to further develop this text, sharply lining up the underlying assumptions, to determine where insufficient scientific research exists.
I would also like to encourage all readers to give feedback and share their own opinions and experiences in this area. To that end, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rewarding People Often Leads To Reduced Motivation
MOTIVATION 2.0 AND 2.1
For a long time, it was assumed that you could best motivate your employees through extrinsic motivators, such as rewards, punishment, and similar. In fact, it seems that this is still a very strong assumption. Influenced by psychological science, that belief has also been further extended with the idea that attention is essential to motivating humans.
This seems to work well with employees performing strictly routine tasks.
However, surprising scientific experiments have shown that people who are regularly rewarded for their work often feel less motivated. For example, children who enjoy drawing and were explicitly rewarded for it from a specific moment on started doing considerably less afterward.
“Scientific experiments have shown that people who are regularly rewarded for their work often feel less motivated.”
Conversely, children who were not rewarded continued with as much pleasure and enthusiasm as before. Similarly, artists delivering something on request, for payment, appeared to lose a great deal of their creativity.
Explicit rewards turn fun into work and, therefore, can break down intrinsic motivation.
Motivation 3.0 is all about re-awakening this intrinsic motivation within employees. Research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, described in his book Flow, indicates that this happens when work complies with three requirements:
- Autonomy: to a certain degree, being able to personally influence what you do and how you do it;
- Craftsmanship (mastery): getting the hang of something and get increasingly better at it;
- Purpose and connection: doing something that makes sense within a broader context and thereby feeling connected to it.
If these requirements are met, a situation originates in which the employee does the activity for the sake of the activity itself: because he derives pleasure and challenge from it.
In the next article, I will discuss what this means for the leadership within your company.