Motivation is a fascinating subject in the workplace, just like it is everywhere else. There is a plethora of motivational speakers, speeches, videos and so on, that are geared to help people change their lives.

The dictionary definition of a motive is “something that causes a person to act in a certain way”. What is fascinating is that despite what the research is saying about how to motivate your team, team leaders continue to use the ways that are limited or that just do not work as well.

For instance, Ashley Whillans reported her research findings that revealed that showing employees that they are appreciated matters more than cash incentives*. But, despite that, team leaders use cash incentives and other “carrots” to try and keep their team members motivated to be more productive.

So just how does a team leader help to motivate their team?

The most important thing a leader can do is to help their team members discover their internal reason for doing things. It is about helping them discover their purpose and then channelling that purpose through the right roles for their team. It is a process that may end up taking the team member away from the team if they discover that their purpose lies elsewhere but secure team leaders will allow that to happen.

The goal of the process is to get the team members to go towards a point where they discover their purpose for doing things. It is likened to the peeling of “layers” of concepts that may have to be unlearned, new ones that will have to be adopted and the channelling of those towards productivity.

The fact is that internal motivation is the best when it comes to getting things done. It is long term. It is simply the best option for team leaders.

Team leaders will not lay aside the other kinds of motivation but will put them in their proper perspective. So the incentives will have their proper place. The fear will have its proper place. The team leader continues to tap on the team members’ discovery of what their purpose is because that is internal. It comes from the inside.

True motivation cannot be given to a team member, or anybody for that matter, it has to be discovered.

Facilitating that discovery and channelling it in the right direction is the honour of the team leader.


Sunganani L. Manjolo