I’ve been exploring how to motivate other people. If it weren’t hard enough to motivate ourselves when tired or bored, it’s even harder to persuade others into action.

At one time, it was believed that you used rewards (carrots) to encourage behaviors and punishment (sticks) to curb unwelcomed actions. If only it was that simple to motivate other people. But external rewards only work for a short time. And sometimes they backfire.

There are all sorts of ways to tap into a person’s enthusiasm, but most of us miss the boat. We don’t understand our own motivations well, let alone those of others.

We are driven by all sorts of intangible, emotional forces, some of which we are aware yet a large portion remains hidden from our own consciousness.

We all have basic needs to be recognized and to feel ownership and we want to be acknowledged for our contributions. We want to feel a sense of accomplishment and autonomy. We want to experience a degree of control and need to know that what we say and do matters.

We crave security and will work long and hard for long-term commitments. Ultimately we strive to achieve a sense of shared purpose. We want to feel that our work and our lives matter even after death.

Knowing all this about human motivation, how can we motivate others? Can it be as simple as increasing expression of appreciation and decreasing criticism? By simply acknowledging the efforts of those working and living with us, we can increase motivation all around.

Which raises some questions. If acknowledgment is so valuable, why aren’t more managers doing it? For that matter, why doesn’t everyone ―co-workers, parents, partners, and family members―express more appreciation in order to boost motivation? Why do we continue to criticize the very people we want to motivate?

“Arguably, the most powerful motivator in the world is our connection to others.” Dan Ariely

What’s happening where you work? How do you motivate other people? As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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