Motivate Your Team Intrinsically Or Extrinsically?

July 21, 2011 - 5 minute read - Posted by

There is no doubt that motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the actions required to achieve a goal, without relying on external rewards or pressures. Extrinsic motivation is the opposite and requires external rewards such as money or external consequences such as demotion.
Your team needs motivation. As a good leader should you enhance your team’s motivation intrinsically or extrinsically?

Last week I discussed this top with Gordon Walter, who is an Organization Development expert and an adviser to 7Geese. In this blog post, I’m going to explain and compare the two different motivating forces, and also, suggest how is best to motivate your team.

Extrinsically motivating your team:

If you want to extrinsically motivate your team, you have to set group and individual goals and measure outcomes. You need to reward people that achieved their goals and you have to have consequences for underachiever which can be in the form of more training. Goal setting, getting employees motivated to achieve objectives, and recognizing them for their achievement is a proven method that pushes business forward and is one of the best examples of extrinsic motivation in a company. However, if you only attempt to extrinsically motivate your team, you will be faced with some difficulties.

Extrinsic motivation by itself (without intrinsic motivation) forces you to measure outputs (such as goal achievement and results) and pay little attention to the input (such as hard work and collaboration). It creates a dynamic where the top performers are motivated and the average employees get demotivated. It also can create a lone-wolf mentality where everyone is in it for themselves without helping or collaborating with others.

Intrinsically motivating your team:

If you want to intrinsically motivate your team, you have to create the conditions where your employees get turned on by doing the work they do. It’s the rush they get when they perform the task and the internal satisfaction they get when they get the job done. Developing an intrinsically motivated team is not easy though. According to many HR experts, employees are more likely to be intrinsically motivated if the company has a compelling vision, clear objectives, and a supportive culture. It’s also important that employees are a good fit for their position; i.e. they love using the skills needed to perform their duties and they have values in alignment with company core values.

Having an intrinsically motivated team is ideal; however, it is really hard to just relying on your team to be internally motivated. Without extrinsic drives such as goals and recognition, it is hard to turn the wheels of a business. Imagine a sales team without any sales goals or external recognition!

Combining intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is the solution

The most effective way to motivate your team is by enhancing both intrinsic and extrinsic motivating forces. These are some examples of how you can achieve this in your company:

  • Create a compelling vision and set clear goals (extrinsic) and enhance your company culture and working conditions so employees love what they do and set their own goals (intrinsic)
  • Recognize employees based on their outputs and achievements (extrinsic) and also on their inputs and behaviour such as collaboration that are in alignment with your company values (intrinsic)

Motivating people is one of the key skills of a good leader. It is important to understand the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivating forces, and learn to use them simultaneously to enhance your team or company’s performance. One of the main focuses of our product, 7Geese, is to motivate knowledge workers and we have designed the product in a way that allows users to be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. In closing, it is important to mention that having motivated employees is not only beneficial to the company; it is also beneficial to the employee as motivation brings happiness and personal growth.