Drive: What Makes Us Do the Things We Do

Posted by Ann Deaton Share Your Voice

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Last week a community of 20 coaches (and others) gathered at Bounce's space at The Workbox to talk about Daniel Pink's book Drive. It turns out that most of the ways we try to motivate others ...money, rewards, punishments...don't work, or at least they only work in a very limited set of circumstances. Extrinsic motivators like money lack sustainability and generalizability. They are no longer effective for most 21st century work environments or high complexity tasks. Yet, we as leaders, parents, and partners often try to motivate complex behaviors with simple extrinsic rewards (money, dessert, a toy). When the task is simple and/or a one-time event, this can work. However, as Pink points out

                                             i.     Extrinsic motivators stop working when the situation requires critical thinking and decision making;

                                           ii.     After awhile, the same reward loses its potency and has to be increased to be effective again;

                                         iii.     Extrinsic rewards can actually worsen performance in situations where the reward is high, and the situation cognitively demanding. Rewards can damage intrinsic motivation (e.g., if you pay someone to do something they already enjoy doing, they enjoy it less and become less likely to do it when the pay ends).

So what's the answer?   If you want motivation to happen from the inside out, Drive helps to explain three key elements that intrinsically motivate people‚Äôs behavior:

                                             i.     Autonomy: getting the opportunity to direct my own actions, to choose for myself (the task, team, technique, time)

                                           ii.     Mastery: having the chance to get better at something, to excel, to learn

                                         iii.     Purpose: having a higher motive, the prospect of making a difference

So instead of offering rewards, begin to ask powerful questions like....

What do you want? What two or three things are within your control here? What choices are up to you?

What matters most to you here? On a scale of 1-10, how good at this are you already? What is one small step you can take to get better?

What is deeply important to you here? What impact will it have if you succeed? Who are the people this matters to? What are the core values you want to honor? How does this make the world a better place?

These questions evoke those internal motivators of autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose that can generate sustainable effort and accomplish amazing things. Much much better than the carrot and the stick.

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Small Ann Deaton I am a leadership coach, and Managing Partner in Bounce. I love to coach and facilitate with individuals and systems experiencing significant change and growth. The clients I work with, regardless of their age or position, are talented and creative individuals willing to look with fresh eyes at their challenges and opportunities, and to take action based on their discoveries. As a result, they find that they are capable of accomplishing far greater things than they ever imagined. What do you want to accomplish today? Who do you want to be?

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