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Dan Pink's Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us

Motivation comes up often in my discussions with clients when they talk about themselves and their team members. I am careful not to let the discussion get into the "either s/he is self-motivated or not". Having these 2 camps doesn’t serve much purpose beyond hinting at one camp being easier to deal with and somewhat superior to the other. Also, this seems to imply that a person in either camp reacts similarly in all aspects of life. That is something we know isn’t possible - just looking at myself, I’m very motivated to cook and experiment with new recipes and this enthusiasm ensues right up to enjoying the meal with loved ones; and stops just before having to clean up the dishes and pan. Then again, there are days when I’m just want to buy takeaways.
 
Therefore, it’s more useful to find out what motivates individuals and how to create the opportunities and environment to sustain and benefit from this motivation. Here’s sharing Dan Pink’s talk “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” combined with amazing animation in this rendition by RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). Dan says the secret to high performance and satisfaction at work, at school, and at home is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
 
Unlike external rewards like money and other carrot-and-stick approaches, he asserts how autonomy, mastery and purpose are the three elements of true motivation.
Autonomy - independence and freedom of choice
Mastery - deep knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity
Purpose - the reason for which something is done, meaning for which something exists
 
The above resonates with me, since I believe we intrinsically appreciate being trusted (given freedom), getting great at something (expertise brings joy) and doing what brings fulfilment (greater sense of meaning). In saying so, it’s also up to us to take responsibility to secure what motivates us and not wait for our others or bosses to “award”” these to us. Take lead or ask to be empowered and given assignments, then live up to expectations and do the best we can. Practice, learn and practice again to get good at what we do. Better still, go teach others and deepen our learning in the process. Have clarity on what value our work brings to others and whenever possible, gear our contributions towards making a positive difference. 
 
Managers out there, find different ways to encourage your team members which resonate with their heart and mind, not just wallets. Imagine a team aligned with similar purpose and each bringing their mastery to collaborate with one another. You’ll find yourself surrounded with more resilient colleagues who take initiative and derive joy from working together. You can focus on succession planning while ensuring employee retention. This won’t happen overnight, so start small, start now.
 

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.

- Plato