Tag Archives: Intrinsic and extrinsic properties

Can intrinsic motivation be taught?


This is part 2 in a series on how to create the perfect team.

Part 1 of this series was about collecting and cultivating a culture of emotional intelligence. While emotional intelligence is HUGELY important, there are other factors that lead to success – one of which is manifesting a community that is intrinsically motivated towards success.

So what is intrinsic motivation? To understand this best, let’s take a step back. Motivation is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a force or influence that causes someone to do something.” However, there are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation – Pertains to outside forces and factors that motivate a person to do something. Examples may be a paycheck and material rewards.

Intrinsic Motivation – Pertains to internal forces and factors that motivate a person to do something. Examples may be the feeling of achieving and moral obligations.

For a long time, businesses considered extrinsic motivation to be worthwhile (and perhaps it was at one point). However, times and culture have changed, and there is a myriad of research available now that shows that extrinsically motivated people can do well in spurts but intrinsically motivated people are leaders, consistent, and the most successful. It’s a bit like musicians; Musicians making music solely for moneary reward often burn out quickly or are terrible (think New Kids on the Block) – but musicians making music to express an internal feeling or experience will write music that more often has an impact on others (think Nirvana). Intrinsic motivation feels different and looks different.

So how can we influence others to be more intrinsically motivated?

1. Define success. Some people don’t even know what success looks like. Having clear expectations allows a person to know what they need to do to succeed.

2. Create a way for a person to keep score of their performance. Intrinsic motivation involves an element of understanding if someone is doing well or not. Keeping score can refer to displaying metrics (a scoresheet) or supplying people with inventories that allow them to qualitatively rate themselves on your defined standards of success.

3. Be good to others. I once worked for a boss who treated his employees amazingly well. Every single person in that office worked hard for him because we wanted him to be proud of us.

4. Give feedback. Parnter with the people around you and let them know that you care about their success and the job they’re doing. Being noticed by another person is a powerful feeling of affirmation and perpetuates positive behavior.

5. Create a culture of intrinsically motivated success. Encourage those around you who “get it” to spread the wealth. The power of cultural majority and peer pressure is an amazingly powerful force that ought be harnessed.

Imagine coming to work and being surrounded by people who truly want to do a great job in everything they do. This is possible when we inspire others to develop intrinsic motivation.

What are some other ideas you have on influencing this shift?



Filed under leadership, motivation

Recognizing and Perpetuating Success


Ok… Last mention of Daniel Pink (Sorry guys- “Drive” is a really interesting book!)… He argues extrinsic motivation (pay, monetary incentives, etc…) doesn’t typically work over the long haul but intrinsic motivation does. However, I think there can be a way to merge both worlds.

Let’s say you are a manager in a store and you have just witnessed an employee, Sabrina, helping a customer very effectively. Sabrina is an employee who does a solid job but is not someone who necessarily leads others.

Old school extrinsic motivation reward: “Sabrina, I observed you helping that customer effectively. I want to give you a paid day off for helping that customer!” 

My suggested extrinsic/intrinsic reward: “Sabrina, I observed you helping that customer effectively. I want to let you know that your efforts, character, and performance are absolutely appreciated in this place and I am proud to have you on my team. You matter to us and I am proud of you. Here is a paid day off coupon to thank you for contributing to our company’s success in the way you do.”

In my suggestion, the reward is not an end to itself. Instead, it is in response to, not only a specific behavior that was performed, but also references Sabrina’s internal processes, her sense of self, character, and ultimately reinforces Sabrina’s sense of buy-in towards the company. Those latter characteristics are internal conventions that could certainly contribute to further intrinsic motivation – which Pink cites as being a powerful driving force in successul people.

Agree? Disagree? Do you have any experience in situations like this?

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Filed under motivation, observation