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Topline Performance Solutions, Inc | Woburn, MA

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I'm often asked by managers, "How do I motivate my people?" While I always appreciate the question, it's the wrong question to ask. The reason being is that if we must motivate our people as managers, we're working too hard. The reality is that the best people don't need motivation. Inspiration yes, but not motivation.

There are three primary forms of motivation. Once you understand how they work, it can be very helpful to us as leaders to use the right form in the right situation.

The first form is fear motivation. Fear motivation is highly effective and will work, for a while. The problem with threatening someone with their job or pay cuts or whatever is that you have to constantly ratchet up the level of fear to get the motivation to work. People become numb to fear motivation. Unfortunately, it does work in the short term and makes short-sighted managers think that it can work forever.

Incentive motivation is gain-based. It might be new money that you would earn in commissions, bonuses, or other compensation. If pain motivation is the stick, incentive motivation is the carrot. Again, it's effective although not as effective as fear motivation, it still works. And again, the problem is that eventually, it runs out. People become comfortable with the amount of money that they've earned, and they don't feel the need to earn any more. They get caught in a financial comfort zone. By the way, this can occur at $40,000 a year, $400,000 a year, or $4 million a year. Most people that are motivated by money eventually run out of gas and hit a level that won't take them to the next level.

The ultimate form of motivation is intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is designed to have the person become the best person they can be. It's not a matter of how much money you make. It's a matter of how good can I be. It's a drive from within. It's of endless supply. We can always strive to be better. If our goal is to be the best person we can be, the best salesperson, the best spouse, the best human being, then we never reach the destination, and we never give up. We're always motivated.

Look for these people. These are your 'A' players. These are your stars. Regardless of what happens in their life, they typically bounce back. When you hire these people, they will not have all of the technical experience that they need to do your job. Don't worry. Because of intrinsic motivation, they have the inspiration and motivation to learn about your products and services. Regardless of whether they have the skills, knowledge or experience on day one, these people try to will figure it out. If you hire intrinsically or internally motivated people, you will need to provide a lot less external motivation.

That's why we don't need to ask ourselves the question, "How do I motivate others?".

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