4 Tips to Master the Art of Intrinsic Motivation

Instrument of torture (Trendelburg, Germany)

Instrument of torture (Trendelburg, Germany)

It's probably the one thing that each leader out there should care about most: it's the driver of each one of us and the motor that keeps us going and going until we are physically exhausted. It's the juice of our nature, it's the thing that best motivates us and makes us over-accomplish our doing. If you are working at your Phd thesis or any other project from design to execution you might feel self-fulfilled at the moment you realized you mastered something that you on your own chose to master. If you are an entrepreneur, you might have this innate feeling of being able to fulfil your vision of your company. You are not able to think of anything else than that. These are the moments when we are best at something, when we may create something new, something disruptive, this may be the defining moment that distinguishes us and our future. Being so important, it's scary how little we actually know about intrinsic motivation. Many don't know that we may be able to manipulate our motivation in order to only do the things we are good at and we are able to excel at. Wouldn't it be great to know how we can intentionally fuel us or others with intrinsic motivating thoughts? There are so many myths and wrong assumptions what constitutes intrinsic motivation, I love to bring some clarity for leaders but also for followers what you can do and what you cannot do to stimulate intrinsic motivation in us and others.

1 Intrinsic motivation makes leaders

There is a misunderstanding that intrinsic motivation may be driven by your peers, your ambition to become famous (or even become rich). Think about it, this is not only wrong but also it's quite the opposite. Intrinsic motivation is within your own locus of control, it's what makes you wake up in the morning if you had no alarm, no boss, no sales target, it's possibly that what you choose to do with your free time, it may be a hobby that you love, which you expect will not make you famous or rich, it's often something that you like to share with someone else. Take care of that, nurture it and protect this motivation because each extrinsic motivator may disrupt your pure intrinsic motivation. For instance, you may know that feeling when your colleagues perceive your efforts within the company as career-oriented. Your intention of your good work may be self-fulfilling, but how possibly could you explain that to your peers? You don't care about the extra money, power or prestige. You do the things because they interest you and make you feel joyful. If you are able to convince your peers that you do these things due to an innate feeling of joy, you may become a strong future leader. Because you are right where you belong. But, if you are honest to yourself and your daily tasks feel like a burden, stop doing them, because there may be something else that interests and satisfy you and that you may be able to easily master and excel at.

2 Extrinsic motivators cannot become intrinsic motivators

If you have followed this rule and ultimately become a leader of what you mastered, your perspective about intrinsic motivation may change. Instead of going for your own motivation, you may now care about the motivation of your followers. If you think, that you can intrinsically motivate others for the rules and regulations that you may have set up, you are very wrong. Since rules and regulations are per se extrinsically given, they are nothing else than one further extrinsic motivator. Although extrinsic motivators may acquire intrinsic characteristics such as being interesting or self-fulfilling, extrinsic motivators remain extrinsic due to their outer locus of control. If an extrinsic motivator acquires intrinsic characteristics, this process is called internalization. In order to achieve an internalization of extrinsic motivators, it is essential to show a willingness of trust to the followers. Reciprocal trust between the leader and follower may be a main driver to support internalization processes of extrinsic motivators within the company. The advantages of internalized extrinsic motivators are huge. Internalized extrinsic motivators are more efficient and need less control. Individuals that internalized extrinsic given motivators may work as promoters of your rules and regulations. This way you are able to create something close to an organization of intrinsic motivation. Is this the paradise? Possibly not. You need extrinsic motivators because your organization has a goal that every employee should be aligned with. It's necessary to combine extrinsic with intrinsic motivators, but how?

3 You cannot use extrinsic and intrinsic motivators simultaneously

Intrinsic motivation is any motivation in the absence of extrinsic motivation. Following this definition, it is impossible to implement extrinsic and intrinsic motivator simultaneously. However, it is possible to create a space and time for intrinsic motivation. Google for instance decided to give their employees one day the week off so that they are able to follow their own projects. It's a timeframe where employee's can follow their own projects without changing the space. A different possibility would be to offer a space within the office that may allow the employee to follow his other activities such as trainings, sports, food or games. Both of these measures may seem to be drastic, but it has been the differentiating element that attracted many intrinsic motivated workers to become part of the Google company. Nowadays, being challenged by its size, Google strives to maintain this mojo of intrinsic motivation as best as they can. However, many employees left due the size of Google and it's increasingly extrinsically motivated work enviroment to smaller companies or founded companies by themselves.

4 Extrinsic motivators will crowd-out intrinsic motivators

In case you may think that it is a good idea to pay your son or daughter for doing his or her homework. I can assure you, it's not. Children have an enormous wish to do things on their own and being appreciated this way. Receiving any reward for anything has the potential to crowd-out a before vivid intrinsic motivation. Possibly the child will shorten its working time and even thinking if math or language homework makes more money timewise. This thinking sounds very familiar to what we catch ourselves often thinking while working. However, there is a possibility to reward others without disrupting any intrinsic motivation. It's a genuine attempt to just appreciate the work that someone has done without anyone else listening. It may be some personal intimate words that may motivate your followers better than any bonus. It's the appreciation of the individual that is what makes us work for our leaders. Ask yourself: Do you know the name of your follower's wife, children and dogs? If not, go out and ask them. It needs exactly these types of leaders to create something special, something we would love to work for.