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The Value of Intrinsic Motivation Within a Team

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Dakota Murphey

Motivation is essential to running a successful business, but it’s a topic that’s more complex than many people realize. There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. When most businesses think of motivation, they settle on extrinsic, which is focused on title, rewards, status and power. But, intrinsic motivation is related to meaning and purpose, learning and growth, and it’s this type of motivation that mid to top level leaders should be prioritizing for the best results within teams for the benefit of every employee. 

Here, we examine what intrinsic motivation is, how it differs from extrinsic motivation and why it offers true value when it comes to building an aligned and proactive team. 

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the method of encouraging people to change their behavior or adopt new ways of working due to personal satisfaction or finding meaning in what they do every day. It’s the incentive to engage a team to complete tasks or give their all everyday to their work, without necessarily having a tangible reward at the end of it all, such as money or a similar perk. 

When someone is intrinsically motivated, they derive enjoyment or fulfillment from the task, rather than only doing it for the reward at the end, and that can be incredibly powerful for businesses as it offers long-term benefits. Intrinsic motivation is valuable for both individuals and wider teams, because when people engage in activities that provide them with inherent satisfaction, it enhances wellbeing and boosts morale, creating a culture of productivity.

Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivation

There’s no denying that extrinsic motivation has its place and can be a great driver for people. These perks are certainly beneficial but extrinsic rewards are short-lived and after a while, they lose their appeal. In fact, workplaces today are finding that staff are less motivated by the likes of pay or perks – they want an inclusive work culture, more flexibility in their roles and appreciation for what they do every day. Someone who is intrinsically motivated may be eager to master more skills related to their role and build their learning, for example, rather than simply getting a bonus once a year. 

We know that pay and other fringe benefits are essential, but research has shown that the presence of these factors has no long-range motivational effects. However, those that do have long-term effects include a sense of achievement, participation, challenges, growth and recognition of a job well done. When employees identify with the goals and vision of the business, they feel more motivated to work hard because they understand where they fit into the bigger picture. Fostering a culture of intrinsic motivation builds trust within the team, because it shows they are being listened to and will be supported in the areas where they want to flourish. 

Putting it Into Practice

So, what does intrinsic motivation look like in practice? There are various ways that leaders can motivate teams to do more and do better. While leadership styles can vary, it’s important for all leaders and senior members of the team to remember that intrinsic motivators create a more positive and engaged working environment for the long run, rather than a temporary fix. 

Some ways that businesses can motivate their team include participating in team building games that are fun and foster better relationships at work, without them being seen as a reward that’s only given after a certain milestone is achieved. This also gives people the chance to collaborate with team members on projects because they want to, rather than it being a requirement of their role. 

Education and skill building can also be a highly effective form of intrinsic motivation, with leaders enabling staff to learn new skills, build their knowledge and earn certifications that will give them more job satisfaction and confidence. It keeps staff engaged and that’s a huge motivator in itself, and helps businesses to create a team of skilled, multifaceted employees who are passionate about building their skills. 

To encourage a team through intrinsic motivation, employees should be granted more autonomy and responsibility over their own work. Building trust offers benefits for all parties, because workers feel free to work in the ways that suit them best to achieve the best results, and leaders can feel confident that their team are being productive and hitting targets without needing to be micromanaged. 

Similarly, praising employees, motivating a team and letting them know that the work they’re doing is valuable and makes a difference, allows each employee greater pride in what they do. This shouldn’t just come from leaders though, as encouraging employees to highlight the work of their colleagues, helps to create a workplace culture that’s positive, encouraging and an enjoyable place to be part of. Employees often cite regular, genuine praise and recognition as being a valuable motivator, far more than physical rewards because it makes them feel valued and appreciated. 

Intrinsic motivation offers so many benefits for businesses and teams of all sizes. It keeps staff engaged, proud of their work and productive, which in turn helps businesses achieve their goals. Staff are no longer happy to settle for a bonus or additional perks. These features of a role are nice to have, but they’re not conducive to long-term motivation. Motivating a team with things they have a natural desire to do, whether to achieve more in their career, or simply for the intrinsic satisfaction of doing so, can be so beneficial in creating a culture of curiosity. This will positively result in employees being driven by their love of the job, rather than simply showing up for a paycheck. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Dakota Murphey is a freelance writer based in the UK, specializing in Digital Trends in Business, Marketing, PR, Branding, Cybersecurity, Entrepreneurial Skills, and Company Growth. Having successfully contributed to a number of authoritative online resources, she has secured a platform to share her voice with like-minded professionals.


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Work Doesn’t Have to Be Awful

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Image: Bob RosnerI’ve gotten a lot of email through the years. And most of it has been difficult to read—people who were cruelly fired, who are being hassled by coworkers or who have done something truly stupid (just this morning I just got an email from a woman who told me about how she sent her resume and cover letter to her current boss).

If you have a particularly macabre sense of humor it is possible to find my mail funny. But mostly it makes me sad.

So given the negative nature of most of my correspondence, the last few weeks have been a revelation for me. I’ve been working on a new business venture and I’m part of a team of four people putting together a business plan. One guy I’ve worked with on my last two books, so we have a bunch of history working together. The other two people were total strangers when we started. I barely knew either of them either personally or professionally. Another complicating factor is how different our expertise, world view and just general make up are from each other (that’s make-up in terms of approach to the world and not our use of rouge).

If this column had a sound track, you’d probably be hearing Steven Stills in the background singing “Love the One Your With.” (Don’t recognize it, then just ask the nearest boomer and they can hum a few bars for you).

Please note, I didn’t say that we were all singing “Kumbaya.” No this is a room full of Type A personalities. The key is as remarkable as it is simple. We all listen to each other. In fact, I can think of multiple areas where we all had hard and fast rules for what we wanted. We listened to the other people involved and either modified what we previously thought was essential.

I can hear what you’re thinking. It’s like a committee that produces lowest common denominator work. Not at all. We are actually able to draw the best from each person and then make it even better through our brainstorming.

One simple trick, we call it placeholders. When we have a name or idea that is good, but its clear to at least some of us that we could probably do better, we call the existing best effort our placeholder. We use it, but we’re always on the lookout to make it better. This is just one technique we’ve developed to not settle for okay, but to push for the best.

This experience has given me hope. It is possible to work with people who you like and respect and accomplish a lot in the process. You better sit down before you read this next sentence—not only is it possible to find colleagues that you can work with, I believe there are even a few sane bosses out there. The challenge is to find ‘em.

Okay, I’m sure that most of my regular readers think that either this blog has been hijacked or that I’ve lost my mind. It’s hard to argue with the latter argument, but after year upon year of horror stories from the cubicle world, I want to take a moment to report that work can be uplifting, collaborative and fun and not just a long process of letting all of the air out of your tires.

I’ve decided to go positive. I’ve learned from Allan, Shari and Jon that collaboration is a wonderful thing. Sure there are tough times, but the more brains you have at the table the better the quality of the work and the more fun you’ll have.

A few words for those stuck in a less than great working environment. I understand that people have mortgages, orthodontist bills and families to feed. That said, I’m hard pressed to say that there are just some jobs that are better to have in your rear view mirror. A paycheck just isn’t worth daily bouts crying, being yelled at or just feeling miserable. Hopefully this blog can play a small role in reminding you that there are saner possibilities out there.

I’ve also heard through the years from people who’ve taken a bad work environment and turned it around. Mostly through “random acts of kindness,” or building community, trust and support in a place where none exists. It’s not easy, but like flowers growing up through tiny cracks in a sidewalk, it happens.

There is a saying from an old court case, “Work time is for work.” But that doesn’t mean that it has to be a prison sentence—something to be endured. Work can have meaning, collaboration and, dare I say it, fun. But it probably won’t just fall in your lap. You’ll have to seek it out, but it’s out there.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.


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