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Motivation Fundamentals
July 03, 2018

Remember only 3 items about “Motivation”

IF you have direct reports that perform ONLY simple mechanical and straightforward tasks that do NOT require any type of rudimentary cognitive skills - this article is not for you.

Why is this article not for you? If you want to motivate them, all you need to do is to give them a larger reward: “If you do this then you get that - the higher the reward the higher the performance.” “The carrot and the stick.”

However - IF your direct reports perform tasks that demand even very basic mental skills, then this article IS for you.

If your direct reports need to use their brainpower in order to do their jobs - and you give them a reward to motivate them, their performance will plummet.

Yes! - you read that right:

“The carrot and the stick” don’t work for workers who need to use their heads to do their jobs (even if it is at a very fundamental level). For tasks that require even primary cognitive skills, the larger the reward the poorer the performance.

It is counterintuitive - isn’t it?

Giving a reward is extrinsic motivation - and extrinsic motivation is not sustainable.

Intrinsic motivation however is sustainable.

Hence - listen up!

To motivate your direct reports (assuming they have to use their cognitive skills to do their work), remember these three items:


Autonomy is your employees’ desire to be self-directed.

Self-direction gives you their motivation.

In other words - avoid micro-managing them and get out of their way.


Mastery is your employees’ desire to get better at something (mastering a skill is fun, fulfilling and promising).

Your employees’ development under your wing yields their motivation.

In other words - truly support them in the direction they want to grow.


Purpose transcends here and now - it has little to do with short term results.

Purpose - when aligned with your employees’ values - drives their motivation.

In other words - craft your team’s purpose as a noble cause that resonates with your employees’ beliefs.

Note 1:

There are other work variables that influence motivation of course - but these three items (autonomy, mastery and purpose) are an excellent and very solid place to start.

Note 2:

Most of you (readers) reading this article cannot do much about your direct reports’ salary.

However - keep these facts in mind:

If you don’t pay people sufficient, they will be demotivated - hence - pay them enough to get the issue of money off the table.

And if you pay them more than enough, remember that money is an extrinsic motivator and it is not sustainable.


IF you want to motivate your direct reports and they have to use their heads to do their jobs, give them autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Please note: I based this article on the bestseller, “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink (Riverhead, New York, NY: 2011)

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See you next month!
Joseluis Romero - Publisher
July 3, 2018. Copyright: All rights reserved
I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month
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