Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… And What Does

The following notes are from

Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… And What Does 

The recording of the webinar is available from: http://trainingmagnetwork.com/recordings

Motivation is a skill.

The three Psychological Needs required by every human being to thrive regardless of gender, generation, or race are: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Common practices that undermine people’s Psychological Needs are 1) applying pressure and demanding accountability, 2) ignore feelings, and 3) discounting learning.

Managers cannot motivate people because people are already motivated.

A best practice that helps people shift to an optimal motivational outlook framing deadlines as information rather than a form of pressure.

Viable strategies for self-regulation include promoting mindfulness, aligning with values, and connecting to purpose.

The question is not if a person is motivated, the question is why?

Spectrum of Motivation

The image above shows that there are a number of different reasons and ways people are motivated.

Is motivation intrinsic or extrinsic? The science shows that there are shades of motivation. They are finding it is confusing if trying to motivate intrinsically or extrinsically.

“Actively disengaged emplayees – the least productive – cost the American economy up to $350 billion/year in lost productivity”

Organizations are spending nearly $3/4 of billion/year trying to improve employee engagement.

Blanchard (2008) posed the Q: How do people become engaged?

Science found:

Appraisal Process (internal, Psychological appraisal)

– when students log into a course, they are appraising how they are feeling. Do they feel positive or negative? Tired?. 

Through their thought and emotion, the learner decides their well-being. That well-being leads to intentions to complete assignments and the course. These intentions are the greatest predictor of their behavior. Over time, that behavior leads to the upper end of employee (learner) engagement, which is employee work passion (learner work passion). 





The disengagement occurs right at the beginning (cognition and emotion). There are 12 factors that need to be in place to foster employees (learners) work passion — to get them at the upper end of engagement. This takes time, money and effort to change the organizational (course) factors.

Is it possible for individuals to manage their own appraisal process? Is it possible for leaders (instructors) to facilitate peoples (learners) appraisal process — so that it is more positive? ANSWER: yes!

Motivation is a skill (it can be learned, taught, nurtured, and sustained) of managing the appraisal process every single day. Leaders (instructors) must facilitate the process.

This skill will lead to motivation.

The skill of motivation –the skill to shift from a suboptimal motivation outlook to an optimal motivational outlook. The key to engagement is

Key to engagement


Need to have employees (learners) identify their motivational outlook is for the goals and task (assignments and tests) that are asked of them to do. If they have a suboptimal outlook — how do we shift that?

Suboptimal motivation is like the junk food (grades).

Optimal motivation – help people to be aligned, integrated and inherent.

Optimal Motivation


Psychological Needs

These three needs are at the heart of motivation. And when these needs are being satisfied then people will have a sense of positive energy, vitality and well-being. These needs are human in nature – across gender, generation, race, and culture.

Autonomy is our perception that we have choices/control over what happens to them.

Relatedness is our need to feel cared about and caring for others. We need each other without alternative motives. being able to contribute to something greater than ourselves. We are social and we need each other.

Competence is our psychological need to accomplish everyday demands. The perception of our capacity to meet the challenges we face. It is not mastery of our world, but it is the sense that we are learning, so we are gaining mastery.


How do leaders (instructors) shift the employees (learners) from low (suboptimal) to high quality (therefore optimal motivational outlook) psychological needs?

It is through shifting strategies.

Shifting Strategies

The three most profound shifting strategies are:1) promote mindfulness in our self and others; 2) align with values, and 3) connect to purpose.

If an individual can do this on their own, then this is a powerful self-leadership tool.

Leadership Cannot Motivate Individual


Worst Best Practices

What has become clear?

  • motivation is a skill
  • I cannot impose motivation

leaders can’t motivate

  • leaders create the environment
  • multiple factors influence the ability to motivate
  • the environment generates motivation
  • external motivation is junk food
  • people can become disinterested if there is too much going on and they feel overwhelmed
  • it’s important to get to know people in your organization and create an environment where they can feel in control
  • people have to reflect on what motivates them in terms of possible outcomes
  • most organizations take the wrong approach on motivating the workforce.
  • the undeniable importance of meeting psychological needs


Union vs non-union environment when it comes to motivation? Answer: it does not matter with this model. The people may feel union impose restrictions, but the union may have the value the person has.


Free Motivational Outlook Assessment – www.susanfowler.com


  • maslowMaslow’s hierarchy of needs is not true, not been proven (triangle to the right).


What we want is people to come to work every day because they have meaningful relationships, that they are contributing to the greater good. They are doing meaningful work. Every single day they have an opportunity to learn and grow.

 TIP: Instead of asking how you are today?…ask what did you learn today? How did you grow today? What did you learn today to make you better tomorrow? Start to be aware of your psychological needs for competence and make choices around your own motivational outlook–that is your sense of autonomy. Get in touch with the good you are doing in the world. 




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