February 3, 2012

Motivating from the Inside-Out

By Patrick Mahan

"If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

This is a powerful quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a writer, poet and aviator from France that lived in the early 1900's.

And it's one of the keys to motivating your employees, your kids or anyone else. It deals with the powerful distinction between INTRINSIC vs. EXTRINSIC motivation.

Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure. Intrinsic Motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity rather than working towards an external reward (wikipedia).

For example, if you tell your kid to clean his room, you'll probably meet some resistance. But, if you suggest that he cleans his room so that he'll have more room to play with his new toys... then you've created an INTRINSIC drive to clean the room. Just like in the quote above, you're inspiring the people "to long for the endless immensity of the sea" rather than just assigning them tasks to build a ship.

How Can This Help Your Business?


If you're a sales manager, you can use this same approach with your sales team. Rather than just telling them to take notes summarizing every conversation they have with clients, try to educate them on the benefits. And most importantly, how it benefits them specifically.

What are the benefits of keeping conversation notes? If the client talks about their big fishing trip coming up next week, then you ask the customer about that trip next time you call on them. Or if they mention their kids, write down the kids' names and ask about them next time. Without a notebook, it's hard to keep everything straight in your head. Especially if you're dealing with lots of clients.

As a sales manager, the next step is explaining to your sales people that keeping notes builds rapport. If you start a sales call by recapping everything you discussed in a previous conversation, then the customer knows you were listening! This enhances your level of rapport... and rapport leads to sales.

Suddenly, your sales people begin to realize the benefits of keeping a conversation log. Think about it as inspiring your sales people to do things, rather than requiring them to do it.

When you "require" someone to do something, they tend to put forth less effort. They think to themselves, "What's in it for me?" And until you answer this (usually) unspoken question, they won't put forth the effort you'd like.

Everyone Wants a Reason

It's interesting... studies show that simply using the word because when you make a request - and following up with some kind of reason - your persuasive powers increase dramatically. Even more interesting is that the studies showed that the reason you give doesn't even have to be that good. Simply using the word because and providing some reason significantly increases compliance.

Try it next time you ask someone to do something.

Now, back to the question of using INTRINSIC vs. EXTRINSIC motivation. As mentioned above, intrinsic motivation is getting them to "long for the endless immensity of sea." They fulfill your request because they are inspired to do so.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is a form of persuasion that comes from external rewards or punishments. For example, if you offer a cash bonus to the sales person who fills the most orders... or you threaten to cut their pay if they don't make X number of cold calls by a certain date.

Both forms of motivation can be effective. But nearly all of the research shows that INTRINSIC motivation clearly gets the best and most sustainable results.

If you want to read a great book on this subject, check out Drive by best-selling author, Dan Pink.  He digs into the latest research on what drives human behavior and concludes that the "carrot and stick" approach no longer works.  Today, it's all about inspiring and empowering people.  He offers case studies of how major corporations like Google and Best Buy are beginning to use this approach with great success.  Here's a link to a must-see video on YouTube where Dan Pink describes his basic theory in a really cool time-lapse video... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

Which approach do you find yourself taking most often with others? Which approach do you think works best on you?

Do you "herd people together to collect wood and assign them tasks and work, or do you teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea?"


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