Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Even though motivation has been a subject of interest for HR practioners and researchers for a long time, no consensus has been achieved on exactly how to make people feel motivated. Different theories focus on different aspects of motivation and lead to different paths to motivation. But with the advent of 21st century, newer techniques and theories have emerged that present a more definitive view on motivation. This article tries to present a comprehensive view of those theories.
A review of the research literature by James R. Lindner at Ohio State University concluded that employee motivation was driven more by factors such as interesting work than financial compensation. John Baldoni, author of Great Motivation Secrets of Great Leaders, concluded that motivation comes from wanting to do something of one’s own free will, and that motivation is simply leadership behavior–wanting to do what is right for people and the organization.
More recently, due to the expanding field of neuroscience, new insights into the motivation issue have been acquired. Authors Nitin Nohria, Boris Groysberg and Linda-Eling Lee describe a new model of employee motivation in Harvard Business Review (2008). They outline the four fundamental emotional drives that underlie motivation as: The drive to acquire (the acquisition of scarce material things, including financial compensation, to feel better); the drive to bond (developing strong bonds of love, caring and belonging); the drive to comprehend (to make sense of our world so we can take the right actions); and the drive to defend (defending our property, ourselves and our accomplishments).
Furthermore, in his new book, Drive, Daniel Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind”, describes what he says is the surprising truth about what motivates us. Pink says that true motivation boils down to three elements: Autonomy (the desire to direct our own lives), mastery (the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us), and purpose (the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves). Pink, joining a chorus of many others, warns that the traditional “command-and-control” management methods in which organizations use money as a contingent reward for a task are not only ineffective as motivators, but actually harmful.
A U.S. National Institute of Health Study using brain scans has found that the neurotransmitter dopamine is central to the human brain network governing motivation as well as reward and pleasure. Joseph Le Doux, in his book, Human Emotions: A Reader; describes new recent brain research that has shown that emotions are the driver for decision-making, which includes aspects of motivation.
In summary, the implications for managers in organizations are significant. Leaders today must be not just cognizant of the latest research on motivation, but take action to make those organizational and relationship changes to take advantage of this research.