• Jon Mechan

Leadership and Motivation

A friend of mine runs marathons for fun.


I can't imagine anything worse.


For him, the motivation of the achievement is super powerful. He challenges himself and overcomes those challenges on a regular basis.


As a leader, you'll work with people with a range of motivators. Some of those will be extrinsic and some will be intrinsic.


Extrinsic motivation is usually to receive some sort of award, or to avoid punishment. For example, getting paid fairly for the work that you do, running to lose weight, getting fit enough so that you can ski with friends, or completing a task on time to avoid disappointing your boss.


Intrinsic motivation is where internal factors drive your performance, and can be described via three key elements - autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


Autonomy is where you are allowed to have real control over your environment and aspects of your work. Giving a team member a choice of assignments, control over their tools, or when something is delivered, might be a way of providing this.


Mastery is about making progress and feeling like we're developing our capabilities. This is where stretch goals come in - your team might benefit from a challenging project or initiative, where they can learn new skills or grow their toolset.


And purpose can be the most powerful, where we connect to something larger than ourselves. This is where we talk less about numbers and KPIs, and more about people and values. For example, in the gaming industry we talk about player impact and satisfaction more than pure numbers.


For me personally, working as a coach helps satisfy my need for purpose, as I get to witness the growth and development of my clients as they strive towards their goals.



Typically, intrinsic motivators are more effective than extrinsic, with one major caveat, particularly in a business context. If an employee does not feel they are fairly compensated for their work, or that they are unfairly treated in some way, it won't make any difference how strongly they are internally motivated to be there.


It's also important to remember that motivations can and will change over time, and will vary from individual to individual. The balance of internal and external motivators will also change as a person grows and as other factors in their lives evolve.


Your role as a leader is to understand your team's motivators, and help them draw on them to be effective employees.


How do you go about doing this? For me there are two clear options - firstly, ask them! You'll find out a lot of information just by having open and frank conversations with your team, especially if you've created a psychologically safe environment and strong trust relationship. Secondly, you can observe what they do and how they do it. Some team members relish a challenge whereas others are highly driven by title or recognition.


One last thought - what are your motivators? Have you given some thought to what drives you?

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