What is your internal motivation? 

We have all been asking “Why?” since we were children. At some point, our parents’ response “Because!” no longer satisfied. But, motivation eventually becomes a significant issue in our personal and work lives. Is our motivation internal or external?

Questions breed questions: What makes me cross the road? What do I want to marry? What drives me to make that cold call? What sacrifice will I make for my family or for my team? What do I want out of this? What is there in this sales contest for me?

I often act because I must: I am hungry, or my children need medical care. Sometimes, I act because my community wants me to: My church needs me, or my team wants my help. In still other times, I do what I am told, or I take the bull by the horns and do things my way. But, what explains employee internal motivation?

What pushes and pulls my Internal Motivation?Internal motivation

Everything moves us to act, but we cannot always put a finger on it. In all the things we do in school, sports, and work, in everything we do to behave, learn, and achieve, internal and external motivators drive us.

Internal Motivation – Personal and Self-Defined

When, in the absence of external motivators, we act out of joy or self-satisfaction, internal motivators are at play. Our hobby, play, and prayer are self-fulfilling. Competition in sports, school, or anything that is self-developing is partly or wholly motivated internally.

Those strongly influenced by internal motivators share some traits:

  • They dismiss their achievements as the result of some internal motivation push beyond their control. The successful salesperson might say, “I just got kick out of it.”
  • They feel they are effective in reaching goals. The salesperson says, “Luck had nothing to do with it.”
  • They express a passion for mastering a skill or goal. The salesperson insists, “I can do better next time.”

The only issue of reward is personal and self-defined. There is no trophy or award. There is pleasure in participation, commonality, mentoring, and volunteerism. And, in the workplace, employee engagement thrives in comfortable physical conditions where there is a shared experience for some higher good. Now, creating that atmosphere for sales of widgets might seem counter-productive, but the sales environment that encourages that culture plays to internal motivators. For example, if an increase in sales triggers a donation to a local charity, the process drive employee engagement in the competition.

The key management strength lies in understanding that internal motivators are additive. That is, success in internal motivation restores and reinforces personal core beliefs and internal needs. In doing so, the employee engagement experience is likely to repeat the behavior without external stimuli.

External Motivation – Pleases Others

When we act because our action or achievement pleases others, the motivation is external. When we act for a reward that is highly regarded by others, the motive is external. We work hard and make personal sacrifices to win medals, ribbons, certificates, trophies, and money. External rewards are a form of bribery offering something tangible in exchange for employee engagement. But, achievement drive by external motivators is not additive.

Those strongly influenced by external motivators share some traits:

  • They credit their achievements as the result of some external push that they deserve. The successful salesperson might say, “Did you see what I just did?”
  • They feel they expect to reach their goals. The salesperson says, “Watch, and learn!”
  • They claim mastery of the goals. The salesperson insists, “My team is going to put this to bed early.”

External motivators are rewards that intend to prompt employee engagement to adopt a behavior as owned and worth repeating. The prize or reward attaches physical and emotional value to the behavior. While the external motivator does not appear to be additive, the repeated association between tangible reward and behavior can create and reinforce behavior.

External rewards are especially effective in repetitive work environments because they present a certain something out of the ordinary. Call centers, for example, respond positively with employee engagement – if only temporarily – to the carrot offered in sales contests. For workers at this level, contests fulfill internal and external motivators. In other sales environments of size and stature, the sales participants have a self-confidence that needs external motivation to make it move forward aggressively. Finding the reward for performance more difficult at this level, employment is first tweaked by external rewards of size, taste, and social significance.

Employee Engagement in Sales Competitions

Those motivated by internal motivators are pleased with their personal success. At the same time, they tend to attribute the success of others to their engagement with external motives, such as money and recognition. For employers to secure and sustain employee engagement, they would be smart to play to both sides of human behavior.

Sales contests succeed when:

  • There is a commitment to some satisfying common purpose.
  • All competitors are capable, and all tasks are achievable.
  • Progress and completion are clearly measured and transparent.

If this sense of internal motivation is sound, behaviors arising from the motivation are likely to build loyalty and engage employees in the business’s future – beyond and separate from the contests. However, because the internal motivation is less tangible and measurable, sales leadership too often seeks comfort in over-simplified traditional models of money, prizes, and self-interest.

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