Motivating the right way

motivation and its importance
  • Blog By
    Dr. Shivkumar Chinnusamy
    Managing Director
    The Indian Public School
    July 24, 2020 | In Blog

As the leader of an organization, a constant question that crosses my mind is how to motivate my team. Most leaders think motivation is all about providing sweet carrots or sticks, providing incentives, bonuses, rewards or taking strong action against low performers. Yes, these are important but we should be aware of when and where these work. Motivation can be of two types,

  1. Extrinsic Motivation &
  2. Intrinsic Motivation
the right and wrong ways to motivate your team

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is all about providing external benefits for completing or achieving the desired performance. Incentives, rewards and bonuses fall under this category. These are fine but in most cases, it narrows your horizons of thinking and makes you think only in one direction and most of the time, the focus will be on the reward or incentive than the work itself. For jobs that have clear direction and set of rules with the goal to be achieved straight ahead, extrinsic motivation works.

In scenarios where people need to think in all possible ways and be creative, extrinsic rewards, in fact, do more harm than good. It blocks their creativity and ability to innovate and progress. Extrinsic motivation did work for most of the 20th century jobs but for 21st century jobs, there is no standard set of rules or solutions; we have to be creative and look at all possible ways to arrive at solutions. Automation and software have started performing most of the 20th century tasks that are narrow in focus and don’t require much thinking. Goals are no more straight ahead and there is no single solution for any problem.

So, it is very important to decide on when and where an extrinsic reward needs to be provided because it might do more harm than good to productivity, creativity or the work environment. When people start to run behind sweet carrots or work with the fear of sticks, it within the organization, leading to an unhappy workforce, lower productivity, lower worker engagement and lower workforce satisfaction.

employee motivation

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the desire to perform better because you feel it’s your duty and responsibility. Before we get into intrinsic motivation, we have to get the issue of money off the table and pay them fairly and adequately. Intrinsic motivation helps people to be creative, take up responsibility and create a strong love and trust between the employee and the organization. Intrinsic motivation includes three major components,

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose


Autonomy is the urge to direct our own lives (self-direction). There are always two theories to leadership. One being, people need to be pushed to do their job and another is believing that people do want to work their best and hence, want to understand what is holding them back. It is very important for people in any organization to feel that they have control over their work and they feel that they can make decisions, at least, at a basic level and believe that their ideas or decisions will be discussed or considered. A mistake that many organizations make is that they always want their employees to be constantly overseen and supervised. They don’t encourage people to take decisions and neither do they encourage independent ideas. This is called lack of autonomy and it will lead to a demotivated team and they will start lacking trust.

People need autonomy of time, work, tasks, team and technique. Google has an interesting system that they follow; they allocate 20% of the work time of their employees to do and explore whatever they want. About half of their products like Gmail, Google news, Orkut happened during this 20% time.

Providing autonomy increases productivity, worker engagement and worker satisfaction.


A strong desire to always become better and better in what you do matters. Provide people the freedom and opportunity to learn something new and make them feel that they are growing. A sense of becoming better at their working environment creates a confident and happy team, which in turn increases productivity, worker engagement and worker satisfaction.


It is very important for people in the organization to believe in what you believe (the purpose, vision or cause). It is getting the other person to feel what you feel (communication of thought and feel). When the other person understands who you are and you understand them, then the thought flows. Believing in the purpose and believing in doing something that is larger than them will increase productivity, worker engagement and worker satisfaction.

As leaders we have to understand, intrinsic motivation works out very well in businesses, given any kind of tasks whereas extrinsic motivation does more harm than good.


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