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It’s called intrinsic motivation and it’s your best chance at setting the conditions for high-performance. Intrinsic motivation refers to a person performing an action because they enjoy it, not because they are seeking a reward.

Intrinsic motivation is behavior driven by internal as opposed to external incentives. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because the behavior itself is intrinsically rewarding. This contrasts directly with extrinsic motivation, which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards or avoid punishments.Consider for a moment your motivation for reading this blog piece. If you are reading it because you have an interest in the topic and simply want to know more about leadership or group dynamics roles, then you are acting based upon intrinsic motivation. If, however, you are reading this because you have to attend a leadership class to avoid a reprimand, then you are acting based upon extrinsic motivation.

  • “Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.”
    (Coon & Mitterer, 2010)
  • “Intrinsic motivation refers to the reason why we perform certain activities for inherent satisfaction or pleasure; you might say performing one of these activities in reinforcing in-and-of itself.”
    (Brown, 2007)

Kenneth Thomas’ fascinating article, “The Four Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement” outlines how the most important process of intrinsic motivation is self-management:

“Most of today’s workers are asked to self-manage to a significant degree—to use their intelligence and experience to direct their work activities to accomplish important organizational purposes. This is how today’s employees add value—innovating, problem solving and improvising to meet the conditions they encounter to meet customers’ needs.”

Thomas found that the self-management process involves four key steps:

  1. Committing to a meaningful purpose
  2. Choosing the best way of fulfilling that purpose (choice)
  3. Making sure that one is performing work activities competently (competence)
  4. Making sure that one is making progress toward achieving the purpose.

Self-Clarity on the key driver for your own intrinsic motivation will help you find inner strength during difficult times and drive the performance of your team.