Pithy Points to Ponder (How Do You Motivate Your Employees?)

A few weeks ago, in the LinkedIn group Innovative Leadership & Change Management Expert Innovators NetworkBrandon W. Jones started a discussion entitled, How Do You Motivate Your Employees?.  Brandon had previously posted an article by the same name on his blog, and was using the LinkedIn group to get a variety of opinions.  Brandon attracted quite a few people, including me, to express their thoughts on the topic of motivation.  I commented on this discussion post in the LinkedIn group, and I wanted to share my pithy point to ponder about motivation with you in this post; to get your opinions and thoughts.

At the end of this post is an absolute goldmine of articles and resources about motivation.  I encourage you to dive into this information, especially if you are interested in further study and research on the subject of employee motivation.  Also, I want to hear what you have to say about motivation and motivating people.  What has worked for you?  Please share your comments in the section provided, at the end of this post.

This post begins a series on the topic of motivation in both the military and corporate environments.


My Pithy Point to Ponder

Leaders cannot motivate.  Leaders can only provide the positive environment to enable one to be motivated.  Motivation is an internal function of each person.  One can only motivate themselves, given the right circumstances and situation within their environment.  One can only be motivated to do something if they themselves want to do what needs to be done.  Fear, intimidation, and even incentives may not be enough. Internal stress and pressure, or on a positive scale, self-fulfillment, emotional satisfaction and success will be the stimulants and drivers to one’s motivation.

Dale Richard Wilson, Sr.

Blogger @ Command Performance Leadership



In my research for this post, I came across a great article on this topic entitled, “How to motivate employees: What managers need to know,” in Psychology Today.  I think it pins this subject down very well:

How many management articles, books, speeches and workshops have pleaded plaintively, “How do I get employees to do what I want?”  Motivating people to do their best work, consistently, has been an enduring challenge for executives and managers. Even understanding what constitutes human motivation has been a centuries old puzzle, addressed as far back as Aristotle…

…The things that make people satisfied and motivated on the job are different in kind from the things that make them dissatisfied. Ask workers what makes them unhappy at work, and you’ll hear them talk about insufficient pay or an uncomfortable work environment, or “stupid” regulations and policies that are restraining or the lack of job flexibility and freedom. So environmental factors can be demotivating…

…It turns out that people are motivated by interesting work, challenge, and increasing responsibility–intrinsic factors. People have a deep-seated need for growth and achievement…the focus on motivation remained the “carrot-and-stick” approach, or external motivators…

…What do we mean by motivation? It’s been defined as a predisposition to behave in a purposeful manner to achieve specific, unmet needs and the will to achieve, and the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals. And why do we need motivated employees? The answer is survival…

John Baldoni, author of “Great Motivation Secrets of Great Leaders,” concluded that motivation comes from wanting to do something of one’s own free will, and that motivation is simply leadership behavior–wanting to do what is right for people and the organization…

…In the July, 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, authors Nitin Nohria, Boris Groysberg and Linda-Eling Lee describe a new model of employee motivation. They outline the four fundamental emotional drives that underlie motivation:

1)      The drive to acquire (the acquisition of scarce material things, including financial compensation, to feel better)

2)      the drive to bond (developing strong bonds of love, caring and belonging)

3)      the drive to comprehend (to make sense of our world so we can take the right actions)

4)      the drive to defend (defending our property, ourselves and our accomplishments)…

…In his…book, “Drive,” Daniel Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind,” describes what he says is “the surprising truth” about what motivates us. Pink says that true motivation boils down to three elements: Autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; mastery, the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us, and purpose, the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves. Pink…warns that the traditional “command-and-control” management methods in which organizations use money as a contingent reward for a task, are not only ineffective as motivators, but actually harmful… (see also “Dan Pink: The surprising science of motivation,” a TED Talks presentation)

…Joseph Le Doux, in his book, “Human Emotions: A Reader,” describes new recent brain research that has shown that emotions are the driver for decision-making, which includes aspects of motivation…

*Source – “How to Motivate Employees — What Managers Need to Know” – Published on February 13, 2010 by Ray Williams in Wired for Success – Accessed 30 July 2012 – Psychology Today – http://www.psychologytoday.com/


Another brief and accurate summary about motivation:

“Different people are motivated by different things. I may be greatly motivated by earning time away from my job to spend more time my family. You might be motivated much more by recognition of a job well done. People are not motivated by the same things. Again, a key goal is to understand what motivates each of your employees.”

Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, from the answer to myth #4 inClearing Up Common Myths About Employee Motivation


Since Brandon ignited this discussion, inspiring me to write this post, I wanted to provide Brandon full attribution by listing his various online resources and social media outlets:

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/brandonwjones

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrandonWJones1

Blog: http://brandonwjones.me/ and “Leadership Done Right” at http://leadershipdoneright.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeadershipDoneRight

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/brandonwjones2

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/brandonwjones/


Related Articles –

**HIGHLY RECOMMENDED** Motivating Employees (wsj.com)

**HIGHLY RECOMMENDED** Helping People to Motivate Themselves and Others (managementhelp.org) – From the Free Management Library, you can absolutely get lost in this website with the articles and resources available on the topic of motivation.  I encourage and challenge you to do just that.

Motivating Employees (inc.com) – Great collection of articles about motivation and motivating employees.

Motivation and Retention (entrepreneur.com) – Another good collection of articles about motivation (and retention).

Employee Motivation, Morale, Recognition, Rewards, Retention (humanresources.about.com) – An endless list of links to articles and resources from the Human Resources site on About.com.

Motivating Your Staff in a Time of Change – Want to Know What’s Most Important About Motivating Employees? (humanresources.about.com)

5 Ways to Keep Your Employees Motivated Without Breaking the Bank (forbes.com)

7 Tips for Motivating Employees (inc.com)

The Open Secret To Motivating Employees

20 Ways to Motivate Your Employees Without Raising Their Pay (biztrain.com)

Why Motivation Works … And When (kumardeepak.wordpress.com)

What’s Behind Human Motivation? Leadership Book Review: Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Breuning (davidmarquet.com)

Thursday’s reads: how to motivate people (has links to four articles on motivation) (davidmarquet.com)

How Do You Motivate in a Community Organization? (davidmarquet.com)

Posts from the ‘Motivation’ Category – Page 1 & Page 2 of Steve Keating’s LeadToday blog

16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes (majorium.wordpress.com)

Leaders: It’s Not All About the Money (linked2leadership.com)

How Much Money Would It Take To Be Unhappy? (managebetternow.com)

5 Responses to “Pithy Points to Ponder (How Do You Motivate Your Employees?)”

  1. Dale, i can’t totally agree with the statement ” Leaders can’t motivate but only can create the right circumstances “, by this we are considering motivation a sequence of other factors which is not acceptable sometimes , simply few types of business can’t operate without motivated employees, the problem with motivation is that we are dealing with human being and we are trying to systematically motivate him, by studying the various factors that makes him motivated, where in fact i can describe any employee motivation status as wicked problem, we have to deal with it depending on our human strengths with systematic framework.
    I’ve been interviewed by many HR staff , all of them tried to measure or indicate what motivate me , the other problem is motivators are not static they are moving such as corporate objectives.


  2. No one else can motivate you. Myth exploded.

    Someone may inspire you, help you catch a vision, or help you discover your purpose. But, waiting for someone to motivate you is like waiting for a train that just ain’t coming. (Please excuse the poor English)


  3. CoachStation Says:

    Hi Dale, I have found that the best way to create an environment where my team(s) feel motivated is to focus on the individual and ability to connect. When you truly understand what a person is ‘all about’ and what they get up for in the morning, clearly much of the guess-work is removed. This takes some considerable time and effort but the rewards are incalculable for your team member, the business and person involved. Understanding motivations and embracing diversity in style, personality, skills etc then also has the added advantage of being a key contributor to team success and building a culture and expectation that people comfortably excel within. A great topic and list of references – thanks. Cheers, Steve


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