What you need to do to motivate people is to take an active approach to foster motivation, but also — stop demotivating them. 

So, how can you foster team motivation and stop demotivating already motivated people? 

To answer that question, we need to learn what motivation is and the types of motivation driving people towards goals and achievement.    


What is Motivation?

Work motivation is the desire, commitment, and willingness to bring their best effort into work. 

The definition of motivation tells us that, to motivate people, we need to consider:

  • Cognitive (rational) motivation.
  • Affective (emotional) motivation. 

Motivation is an energetic force. It instigates employee actions and behaviors to fulfill individual and team goals within an organization. 

Cognitive Motivational Factors 

Cognitive motivational theories assume that people’s motivation is driven by processing and interpreting information from the environment. 

It is not an innate process but a learned behavior based on past experiences. 

If you base your managerial style to motivate and inspire people on this limited approach, you can overestimate your influence on team motivation. 

The outcome can be controlling and authoritarian leadership. 

In the long term, this could undermine your role as a motivator. 

Passionate to motivate, you will, in fact — demotivate people. 


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Affective Motivational Factors

Affective motivational factors include emotions. 

Emotions are strictly personal and difficult to quantify. But in the context of an organization that wants to motivate people, it is important to understand that emotion impacts motivation, and vice versa.  

For better-motivated teams, you need to understand the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. 

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation factors give your employees direct quantifiable measures for goal completion. 

Being paid to do a job is a type of extrinsic motivation.  

Extrinsic motivation also comes down to ensuring your employees have access to:

  • Tools they need to do their job.
  • Information to achieve goals.
  • Effective guidance and leadership.

KPIs and OKRs are clear extrinsic indicators of progress. If you need help in setting OKRs and KPIs for your team, watch the video below:  

Intrinsic Motivation

Everyone on your team is an individual with specific traits, beliefs, attitudes, and past. Those are factors that affect how they perceive and emotionally manage the work environment. 

Intrinsic motivation is a drive to do an activity for the sake of innate satisfaction. 

Intrinsic motivation is unique. You are unlikely to motivate people based on intrinsic factors that are non-existent in their personality. But you can:

  • Hire people whose intrinsic motivation is aligned with organizational goals.
  • Avoid demotivating them by assuming a lack of personal responsibility.
  • Become aware of what moves your people to learn and achieve.

The computational research of intrinsic motivation has identified common factors of being intrinsically motivated.

Computational Analysis of Intrinsic Motivation

Since it is difficult to define intrinsic motivation solely based on internal factors, researchers have designed a computational approach to intrinsic motivators. Here is what moves your team intrinsically: 

  • Drive to explore. Perceive, process, and interpret internal and external stimuli.
  • Drive to manipulate the environment. Create a change.
  • Reduction of cognitive dissonance. Reduce differences between one’s internal cognitive structure and perceived situations.
  • Intermediate level of novelty. Move towards goals that challenge, but do not cause stress.
  • Effectance, personal causation, self-competence, and self-determination. Have a certain degree of control over themselves and the environment.

That brings us to the different types of intrinsic motivation.

Types of Intrinsic Motivation

Daniel Pink’s book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” identifies three types of intrinsic motivation:

1. Autonomy 

Autonomy is the desire to run one’s life rather than simply complying with what management says. 

You can motivate people with autonomy by giving your employees the choice of task, time, technique, and team. Shortly, they design the type of task, assign the deadline, choose the technique, and the team they want to join.

2. Purpose 

People want to work on things that are “bigger than themselves”. 

To boost team motivation, your employees should work on what matters to them and make a difference. Therefore, the company culture and vision is a strong predictor of team motivation and a precursor to inspire and motivate people. 

3. Mastery 

People want to get better at what they do, but only to the limit that is adequate for their capabilities. 

Motivate your staff by giving them challenging tasks that deliver a sense of progress.

How to Motivate People at Work

You can motivate people by showing appreciation and trust. Providing work challenges and relevant information to do a great job will not only motivate but also inspire people.  

What else motivates people? 

  • Interest. Ask people what motivates them personally.
  • Contribution. How does the work of individuals contribute to the organization?
  • Alignment. Ensure personal and team values align with organizational goals. 
  • Autonomy. Give it to every team member that wants it – create job roles with task ownership. 
  • Impact. Give work with a purpose that makes an impact on the bigger picture.

But team motivation can plummet due to certain organizational behaviors, including micromanagement, lack of guidance, not following up on promises, and not providing growth opportunities. 

What Demotivates People?

If the work culture is toxic and there is a lack of education and coaching, you are on the quick road to demotivating people.  

Freelancers and solopreneurs are already self-motivated. If you rely on team members with a good awareness about their self-motivation, you can show interest, and enable alignment, contribution, autonomy, and a sense of making an impact with flying colors. 

Is It That Simple to Motivate People at Work?

It seems you are not short of options on how to motivate people on your team.  

Is that so easy? Not always. 

There is one technique you can apply, no matter the circumstances — make sure you don’t demotivate them. Sometimes, the most effective leadership style includes:

  • Taking less action instead of more. 
  • Delegating appropriately.  
  • Adjusting your hiring practices to bring the right people on board.  

Working with freelancers can help you build a team of self-starters with high levels of autonomy, responsibility, and motivation.

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