What motivates us?


In talks, classes and courses I give, I frequently asked myself and the audience: what motivates us?

There are several things, many, in fact. And they can be divided into extrinsic – which come from outside – or intrinsic – which come from within.

Extrinsic motivations undoubtedly work, like prizes and bonuses, the thing is that you take that away and the motivation goes to the floor.

Now…. with intrinsic motivation it is something else.

Self-determination or SDT

It’s not new at all, but you probably haven’t read it. And that’s why I’m telling you: so that you can apply it to yourself as well as to your team – even more so in a contact center, customer experience area or sales and service team. And even more so in times of crisis like what we are experiencing.

There they go – in the last millennium (where I was born, I almost feel like a dinosaur) – both Edward L. Deci and Richard M Ryan have contributed a lot to the world of intrinsic motivation from their work in self-determination theory or SDT (Self Determination Theory).

What does it say?

The theory says that motivation occurs when there is autonomy, competence and relatedness. And believe or not, it is…..

Autonomy: I have a chance to decide something. Let’s imagine that I have to move a lever and I can’t even decide when. Is that going to be motivating? Surely not. Now… if I can make decisions with a certain degree of freedom, then yes.

Competence: I know my job. If I’ve been doing the exact same thing for 5 years, and I have no idea why I do what I do or how it contributes to the bigger picture, I’m not going to be motivated – I’m going to be a little machine. Now, if I learn and practice a little more every day and my level of skill in my tasks increases, without a doubt I will get more involved and committed.

Relationship: I can share what I do. We are social beings, without a doubt. Let’s imagine that we do our work in a second basement (I’ve been in those shoes) and I have no contact with any human being, I will most likely see everything as gray and without wanting to do anything. Now, if I have the possibility of sharing and collaborating with others to carry out my tasks, without a doubt I will want to do it.

And now what do I do?

There is something that I do, and that we can all do. And you, who are reading now, too. And it’s very easy. No sending rockets to the Moon or applying a scientific formula.

It means following three simple steps that allow you to create yourself and – both for yourself and your work team – an environment that makes it easier for people to motivate themselves intrinsically to do what we need and want to do.

First step: autonomy.

Delegate, you can. Give the people you work with a chance to have a little bit of autonomy in what they do. With your supervision, of course – since what is delegated is the task, not the responsibility. But delegate. And trust your team, that’s why it’s your team.

Second step: competition.

Teach, as a teacher. When we teach something, we are also re-learning with other condiments. Create learning spaces for you regarding things you need to know for your work, as well as teach your team a couple of tricks. Don’t worry, not all, just some. Remember that knowledge is the only thing that multiplies when it is divided.

Third step: relationship.

Share, both good and bad. We love living in society, and even more so if we are united by a workplace and the tasks we perform. Give yourself the opportunity to share with your team something you don’t know, so they don’t see you as untouchable. Create a moment to listen to what someone else wants to share.

It’s not magic, it’s practice

I propose you the following: right now, while you are reading, take a piece of paper and a pen. Write down the three words Autonomy, Competence, Relationship. And under each of them, write down an action that you are going to do this week.

And on Friday, before finishing the day, see if you have already crossed out those tasks or they are still pending. In any case, next Monday do the exercise again.

In this way, you are creating the conditions for your team to motivate itself, and for you to lead a group of people who find – in their workplace – a great leader and a place worth challenging themselves and commit.

As a doctor’s prescription, take at least 4 weeks to start seeing the effects. You will see that it is not magic, it is practice.

And within a month, write to me telling me the results. You will see…..

It’s not magic, it’s practice.