Why are you reading this? Maybe this article got your attention because of its title? Maybe you know me and thought ‘let’s see what she is talking about today’. Or maybe you just followed the blog and found it in your email. No matter the reason, you have one (or more than one). And motivation is that: have a reason to do something.

Many times, we take encouraging for motivating. And although both are important behaviours in leading people, they are totally different.

We can define motivation as the desire to act in service of a goal. Think about it: desire to act. Is not that something that comes from inside us? Can desires be external? Of course, not. We can be forced to do something, but this is not related to our desires.

Therefore, if desire is internal: how can leaders install a motivation generator in an employee?

To answer that, we need first to understand how human beings operate when talking about desires.

We usually divide the world into the things we need and the things we want. It is a matter of survival, and it’s on our DNA.

For example, at work we need to be paid, some safety and probably our workplace needs to have some minimal security conditions.

If we lack these things we need (enough salary, safety and security or a good place to be), we probably will be demotivated to work there. But once we get there, they won’t have a key role in our motivation.

This is because they are only hygiene factors.

Among the things we want at work, we probably can talk about having a meaningful or challenging work, be recognized, have enough responsibility or get some opportunities to grow. The lack of these things doesn’t imply demotivation, but they are powerful motivators factors.

Given a good level of those hygiene factors, leaders then have some levers to ignite motivation in their people, going from a controlled motivation (You’ll get the bonus by doing that) to a more autonomous motivation.

Generally speaking, this intrinsic motivation plays in three different spheres: competence (you’re good at this), autonomy (you control your actions) and relatedness (you belong here). Every human being moves because one (or more) of these three things given the right levels of hygiene factors.

The interesting question here is: how well you know and understand the people in your team to see what is more important for them? Having this clear is key.

People join organizations with expectations and their individual behaviour is a result of those. These expectations are different things for each person, and everyone chooses the alternative that maximizes the outcome.

Therefore, if you know where the lever sits, you can promote the right behaviour and, of course, the intrinsic motivation will raise.