Motivation. It’s something we all need and want, but that’s where the commonality ends. Each of us needs different things to motivate us to get things done. That means that when you talk about motivation, you need to know what kind of motivation your specific team member is interested in and what they will best respond to.

I've seen so many people who think that a motivational speech or a set of "motivational posters" can turn a negative or uninspiring environment into a positive, motivated one. However, it's not that easy (and remember, this is coming from me as a professional motivational speaker). Positive motivation is much more than that, and it takes a lot of effort to create a positive environment.  

Think of motivation as more than just what someone is given or forced to do. Motivation is a psychological state that causes one to act. It involves feelings such as happiness, sadness, anger or anxiety, and these emotions influence our actions. Sometimes, we have to think about our feelings to find out what motivates us.

If you have ever been in an environment where you felt you were being motivated by fear, force or reward, then you know what it's like to be in a negative environment. This reminds me of my Army boot camp days. There was a time and place for that style, but it's not in the business culture of your people-centric organization! If you want people to feel motivated, you must find ways to build and maintain a positive environment within your culture, one that provides opportunities and experiences that allow your team to achieve their personal goals.

Understanding motivation

It's important to understand “motivation.” Motivation theory is simple, but there are no clear rules for applying it. Sometimes, the key to motivation makes all the difference. According to some theories, people are motivated if they feel that doing something is in their best interest.

For example, a person who loves to cook would be motivated to go grocery shopping because it would be fun to select their ingredients. On the other hand, a person who dislikes cooking might be motivated to go grocery shopping simply for sustenance and feel it’s otherwise a chore. Another example is how some people will want to lose weight so they can be healthier, while others just want to look better in clothes. These two examples are completely different, but you get the point.

While it’s true that many people are motivated by external sources such as rewards and punishments, these are not good motivators for long-term behavior changes. For example, some people believe that if you put that carrot (reward) in front of someone, they will get motivated. On the other hand, the belief is that people can be motivated by the stick (negative consequences). Both carrots and sticks are external motivators that can be used to get someone to do something. However, people tend to get bored and fall off when forced to do something that makes no sense to them. Motivation shouldn’t come from external sources only.

How does this apply to your business? When you're thinking about what motivates your team, think about them personally but from a work perspective. Think about their interests. Think about what they enjoy doing. Think about when and where they really excel. It's not always the things that we see, hear, touch or smell.

Motivation is all about creating a vision of what you want people to achieve. Without vision, there is no motivation. The secret to motivation is to build your vision around the core values that you want everyone to operate and live by. Once you have a vision of what you want, it's time to focus on the actions that you need to take to get there.

Think about when you've had the right team member in the wrong position and made the mistake of thinking they weren't motivated. They just weren't motivated in a sales role, perhaps. They were very motivated to execute quality work and ended up making a great fit on the install team.

Where else do you need to address things like this in your organization?

A great example of this is to motivate team members with something that they enjoy. How do you do that? By focusing on providing the things that an individual really wants: Recognition, appreciation, status (title), enjoyment, and yes, sometimes it can be money.

Motivation is what pushes us all to work harder. For example, we work hard to create the lives we want, and people will work hard for a reward. But a person who works hard for no reward isn't motivated. However, the more emotion a team member has tied to the outcome, the easier it is to remain engaged in the activity.

If you want people to feel motivated, you must find ways to build and maintain a positive environment within your culture, one that provides opportunities and experiences that allow your team to achieve their personal goals.

We live in an era when people want more from life; however, their careers are still being motivated by the same old carrots (e.g., more money) and sticks (e.g., more pain). But the truth is, there's another way. There are internal motivators that can help people to achieve their goals. It's the secret to creating a culture of respect and fun that you desire for yourself as well as your team members.

The carrot and stick technique is becoming a thing of the past as we evolve in the workplace. If people don't feel honored and valued, they will leave. If they feel they get penalized for making mistakes or feel fear in the culture, they either underperform or they will leave as well.

Remember, motivation comes from the heart. It's a feeling that's hard to explain. People who really care about something tend to go above and beyond when they believe in something. If you want your team to get truly motivated, get beyond the old school carrot and stick mentality and get more clarity around your vision, core values and what you and the entire organization are on the planet to accomplish.