The 3 Internal Motivators Everyone Shares

When we think motivation, we typically think of external factors like pay raises, promotions, and bonuses. These are the most common ways businesses attempt to inspire motivation, and while they definitely do work, these external factors often only inspire enhanced performance for the short-term.

For long-term solutions, we have to look inside ourselves and our employees. It’s unlikely that all leaders and managers are mind-readers, so understanding the complex nature of internal motivation on a per-person basis can be really tricky. How are you supposed to know what motivates each individual employee when they may not even know themselves?

An easy place to start is with these three internal motivators that everyone shares:

1. Competence

While many people don’t acknowledge or admit it, we all have an intrinsic need to feel valued, knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced. There is a powerful need to hone and demonstrate our skills, whether it be technical skills, interpersonal skills, or otherwise.

To play on this internal feeling, leaders need to provide opportunities for each employee to showcase their craft. Create instances where individuals are able to not only demonstrate their skills, but develop them further.

2. Relatedness

Contrary to the fear-inducing feeling of being assigned to a group project in school, employees have a need to collaborate with colleagues and coworkers. Studies have shown that this internal motivator is more powerful than the external motivators of rewards and punishment combined.

Regardless of rank or role, most individuals want to work with others. The main reason being that working effectively with others drives business results faster and more efficiently. But a second reason is that it gives your employees on opportunity to work on their interpersonal and collaborative skills that are essential both in the workplace and outside of it.

3. Autonomy

Realistically, complete autonomy is impossible in the workplace. There are rules and regulations that one must follow and shared business goals that need to be achieved, but that does not mean that it’s impossible to give employees a sense of autonomy.

Autonomy is the need to feel self-regulated, and leaders are able to provide this feeling by encouraging individual flexibility. Provide the established processes and procedures, but allow your team members to reach their end goal in a way that is best for them. Help shape their work to support the work of others.

Using internal motivation to fuel performance

Behind every unmotivated employee is a leadership problem waiting to be solved. Yet many leaders see motivation as a game of rewards and punishment. Forget the cash. Forget the threats. To engage today’s workforce, a leader is well advised to seek the heart of what moves people: these three basic psychological needs. Leaders can’t create these internal motivators, but they can support them.

Looking for more resources on how to motivate your team in the digital age? Download our free Coaching Re-Defined POV here. Turn these words into action and start inspiring your team.

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