“External rewards extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, crowd out good behavior, encourage cheating, become addictive, and foster short-term thinking.”  

- Dan Pink in Drive

That isn’t permission, by the way, to cut all incentive plans you have in place for your team.  His point is really about making sure you do all the necessary things that drive intrinsic motivation beyond those external rewards.

RSA Animate created an incredible animation about the concepts in Dan’s book Drive a few years ago.  He makes a pretty compelling argument for external and financial rewards not being of value in terms of motivation.  Music to our ears, right?  You mean, we can stop spending all that money to motivate our teams (or even our kids)?  Those types of motivation still have value, but just way less than a few other things...




In order to really motivate your teams, there needs to be an element of these three things woven into their vocational lives.  Here is the bad news; this is way more difficult than just giving them more money.  I would liken it to the difference between cutting a check to missionaries and traveling to the third world for an immersion experience among those you are serving.

They need to participate financially in the success they are helping create, but if you want them really invested in that success at an intrinsic level, you’ve got to figure out how to incorporate these three things into their everyday work life.

This is one of the many reasons we are so enthusiastic about the work we do and the process we take all our clients through.  Our client roadmap actually cultivates all of these three things:

Autonomy - Our owner-to-team conversion process and organizational design methodology create ownership and engagement among teams.  They breed all the best elements of autonomy within team members.

Mastery - Our position agreements give employees the roadmap to growing in their understanding and contribution to organizational success.  They know how they are measured, how they can grow, and how they can increase their mastery and value to the organization’s overall success.

Purpose - Bringing a team together to build organizational health and then building collaborative purpose, values, and vision is how we begin every relationship with our clients.  The levels of engagement and momentum that comes out of this experience is truly amazing.

Dan is pretty convicted about the importance of this and the relative ineffectiveness of doing things the old way:

“Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake.”

If you really want teams that are invested, have lots of intrinsic motivation, and operate more as owners than renters, figure out how to work some autonomy, mastery, and purpose into your leadership of them.  It doesn’t excuse the need to allow them to participate financially in their success they help produce, but it will create exponentially more resources to compensate them in every way.

  • Do your team members (or children) operate with autonomy that doesn’t require your attention or direction?
  • Are they finding mastery…getting better at the things they are doing?
  • Would you say that there is a transcendent purpose they feel in what they are doing?
  • What is the next step you need to take to start weaving these incredibly valuable motivations into your organization?