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Cracking the Motivation Code: Carrots, Sticks, and the Integral Model

My clients often ask: “What is the secret to motivating people?”

This question is often prompted by feelings of frustration that their team members seem to do just enough – they don’t act as owners of their scope and role.

As leaders, we all want to be seen as Masterful Motivators. The leaders every team member wants to please for all the right reasons. A leader who brings out the best in their team.

The leadership art of motivating through emotional fluency, accountability conversations, decision making, relationship building, and alignment is essentially what I provide in my coaching and team development services.

In this article, I provide a simple model for framing motivation from both the organizational and personal perspectives.

Motivation is the Heartbeat of all Endeavors

Whether it’s personal aspirations, team objectives, or organizational goals, motivation is the undercurrent that propels us forward.

Without motivation, even the most well-thought-out plans would remain stagnant.

With it, the sky’s the limit.

Let’s begin with something every leader is familiar with: the use of carrots and sticks.

Carrots, Sticks and Aligning Motivators in an Organization

Most leaders know the idea of using carrots/incentives and sticks/disincentives for motivation.

Reflect on this: What is it like to work for a leader who uses only rewards to motivate? Or only punishments?

Too many carrots and employees might lack urgency.

Too many sticks, and they might only work out of fear.

The sweet spot lies in between. The sweet spot is dynamic. It moves from situation to situation and person to person.

Masterful leaders are keenly aware of the dynamic nature of motivation and flex their style to meet the moment.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.” – John Lennon

While I’d like to believe “All you need is love”, I’m keenly aware of how humans are motivated by fear as well.

Masterful leaders use their “sticks” wisely. They speak to consequences inarguably. They provide uncomfortable feedback and hold people accountable with clarity and compassion.

But there’s more to the art and science of motivation than simply carrots and sticks.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

At the core of human behavior lies two main sources of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation arises from within, like the joy derived from pursuing a hobby or the fear of failure.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is driven by external rewards or the avoidance of punishments.

A well-rounded leader recognizes the importance of both and tailors their approach to the individual.

For example: A software engineer might feel intrinsically motivated by the sheer passion for coding, solving problems, and building products.

However, external factors like bonuses or promotions can still motivate them to work late or tackle challenging projects.

While understanding this is a useful starting point for studying motivation – there’s a limitation here in that this model only addresses the individual.

Like everything else in an organization, motivation is also a team sport.

So let’s build on this.

Inspired by the Integral Model, here’s Coach Ken’s Matrix of Motivation.

High-performance is enabled when the four quadrants are aligned.

Here is an overview of each quadrant and some suggested motivational tools leaders can use in each.

Individual Intrinsic Motivation (Self-Passion Zone)

Intrinsic motivation springs from an individual’s personal perspectives viewed through their history, beliefs, and experience. Intrinsic motivation is subjective. We can guess about a person’s beliefs and intentions, but to know them we must ask and have a conversation. When thinking of motivation this could be the person’s perceived attitude, sincerity, and alignment to the organization’s goals.

How to motivate in this quadrant:

  • Connect to build trust. Share what motivates you (both carrots and sticks).
  • Know what motivates each team member. Have conversations about their personal interests, how they spend their free time. What are their personal carrots and sticks?
  • Know what work each person likes to do. What work energizes them and what work drains them of energy?
  • Know each person’s career aspirations. What are their ambitions? Find the intersection of their ambitions and the organization’s needs.

Individual Extrinsic Motivation (Personal Behaviors and Rewards Zone)

What motivates an individual extrinsically can be objectively seen. This includes a person’s actions, competencies, and capabilities. When thinking of motivation this could be the person’s reliability, quality of deliverables, and performance.

How to motivate in this quadrant:

  • Observe each person carefully. Withhold your judgements about them with the intent of learning more about how they speak and act.
  • Provide meaningful feedback on what you observe. Make the feedback clear and actionable. Talk about how a person’s behavior aligns with the group’s desired culture (lower left quadrant).
  • Give new work assignments that grow their capabilities. Connect the new work to their career aspirations.
  • Provide clear links to the organization’s many systems (lower right quadrant). Create alignment between the person’s behavior and the organization’s incentives/disincentives.

Group Intrinsic Motivation (Team Spirit Zone)

Groups are intrinsically motivated based on their collective beliefs. This can be described as the culture of the organization. Think of culture as the largely unwritten operational rules for organization.

Your organization’s culture is providing motivation 24/7. The big question: “Is your organization’s culture aligned with the organization’s Mission, Vision and Values?”

How to motivate from this quadrant:

  • Have conversations with your team to understand your current culture. Make a list of what is actually rewarded and punished. Note the gaps between the current and desired state.
  • Be accountable for the Organization’s culture. Create and constantly speak to our organization’s Vision, Mission and Values.
  • Create a team agreement for how they will behave and treat each other.
  • Have conversations to align individual’s passions and intentions (upper left quadrant) with the organizations desired culture.

Group Extrinsic Motivation (Systems for Success Zone)

This quadrant includes the organization’s physical environment, written rules, and policies. The organizational systems’ role in motivation could include HR policies, promotion and probation rules, and the actual work environment. Team meeting schedules, objectives and agendas are organizational systems.

How to motivate from this quadrant:

  • Know and apply the organization’s policies uniformly across your team.
  • Address gaps in your organization’s systems.
  • Pay attention to the actual work environment to ensure it supports the team’s best work.
  • Have team discussion about how meetings could better support the other three quadrants.

Managers mostly focus on the Extrinsic Motivation column.

Many managers focus on the Extrinsic column of the model.

They focus on what they can “do” to motivate themselves and their people.

Their primary tools for motivation include providing meaningful feedback on behavior, pay and promotion rewards, and the occasional performance improvement plan.

Focusing on managing extrinsic motivation is essential. However, it is only half of the Model.

Masterful leaders recognize the importance of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

The key starting points for understanding the intrinsic side of the model are:

  • Awareness of your own motivators. What dreams drive you? What fears cause you to fight, fly and freeze? How do you motivate others knowing your own preferences?
  • Awareness of each person’s values, visions and personal drivers.
  • Awareness of the organization’s declared/written values, vision, and mission relative to the actual unwritten culture of the organization.

“Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself.

After you become a leader, success is about growing others.” – Jack Welsh

Masterful leaders know this intrinsic motivational information and awareness can only be accessed through conversations in trusting relationships.

Reflection Question: How can you as a leader become masterful at aligning and motivating in all four quadrants?

I’m motivated to bring your attention to this: How Effective Leaders Turn Knowledge into Meaningful Action.

I’d love to hear if this information has been useful to you.

What actions are you taking to improve your “motivation game?”

“Continuous Improvement is better than delayed perfection” – Mark Twain

Would you like some help harnessing the power of motivation in your team and achieving unparalleled alignment?

Book a call with Coach Ken and let’s get your teams working better, together.

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Ken Roseboom

Ken Roseboom is the President of Thinking Partners. He partners with leaders to increase impact, create aligned teams, and deliver better results. He leverages the Alignment process, assessment tools, expert coaching, and years of front line leadership experience to support his clients.