The myth of motivation

Managers and leaders often ask us “how can I improve employee engagement?” We know why – motivated employees are more committed, effective, productive and creative. It makes smart business sense to have motivated people.

But there’s a problem with the question. It assumes employees aren’t already motivated. This is a fundamental misunderstanding about motivation and you can’t build a house on faulty foundations.

We picture someone who is motivated as working hard to achieve a goal or vision. But someone sitting on a couch eating junk food for five hours is also motivated. Both are motivated, but in very different ways.

The root of the word motivation is motive, which is a reason for acting. Motivation isn’t inherently positive. It’s a voluntary action in a given direction. There is a motive for every voluntary action we take. And every action we take has a consequence.

Here’s the big secret when it comes to motivating employees. Everyone is motivated! The thing we’ve been searching for is already there. When we find someone “unmotivated “ to take action toward our goals, they are actually motivated to do something else.

Seeing everyone as motivated reframes your leadership challenge about directing peoples’ motivation.

In Catapult Leadership people learn that a leader needs to create the environment and conditions in which people are motivated. They learn the five keys to motivation and realise that what motivates one person does not necessarily motivate another.

Want to learn more about motivation? Here’s a cool animation which captures research on motivation by Dan Pink.