Daniel Pink tells us that most of what we think about motivation is wrong.

Researchers show that the carrot and stick method so often used in the corporate setting is not motivating your staff like you think it is. Maybe that’s what is reflected in the Gallup study with 70% of the workforce disengaged. We are trying to engage them in the wrong way.


Drive by Daniel Pink

Courtesy: Nathalie Magniez/Flickr


There are instances he points out where the carrot and stick method of extrinsic motivators, such as money, works effectively. These situations are when the tasks are mundane and it is just the execution of a simple step by step process. These situations require little creativity and therefore see success with external motivators.

In his book, Daniel Pink points out that financial rewards can create bad behavior: reaching the goal at all costs, causing shortcuts and unethical short-term thinking and behavior. Other challenges are that the financial reward becomes expected and addictive.

When you want to access the creativity, conceptual thinking and problem solving of people and activate their level of engagement, the best motivators are the internal motivators.

Daniel Pink challenges the goal setting process of an organization that provides fixed goals for people. He says they are not always in alignment with our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities, and to live a life of purpose. Daniel Pink points these three areas as the drivers of human motivation:

Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives

Mastery—to advance our skills and knowledge in something that matters to us

Purpose—The need to serve others

Here are some interesting statements around each area:


‘If-then’ rewards require people to forfeit some of their autonomy. Goals set by others diminish autonomy and intrinsic motivation. The less say people have, the less autonomy they feel. It can often create a sense of apathy around the goals themselves.


Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus. Rewards take away the desire to master the topic, do their best or rise to the occasion. Rewards create competition and put limitations on people’s effort and motivation to succeed.


Interestingly enough, in a study done around blood donors, when financial incentives were provided people were less interested to serve others as it wasn’t genuine. Instead of increasing the number of blood donors, offering to pay people decreased the number by nearly half.

This goes against what most people think but studies have proven this to be true. Extrinsic motivators are not the best way to engage people and bring out their best.

The premise of the book is to take employees from compliance to engagement. It’s important to understand what intrinsically motivated people and how to connect them to these intrinsic motivators.

When leaders try to use control, it may create some compliance but removes the engagement, accountability, and creativity that comes from employees owning their work. People need to be seen as partners not resources.

In the traditional workforce motivation model, companies use reward and punishment. These external factors also usually come at the end of the process. Accountability and ownership need to be fostered at the beginning of the process.

Read the book and stop using financial rewards and start sparking intrinsic motivators. Share some ways you engage your staff to spark the three intrinsic motivators.

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