Why You Cannot Motivate People

a better way

a better way

Motivation and leadership are words that go together.  It has often been said that one of the signs of a great leader is that they know how to motivate people.  Apparently that is not true.  More and more research says that we can’t motivate others.  Why?

Everyone is Already Motivated

In her latest book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does, Susan Fowler says that leaders cannot motivate others because they are ALREADY MOTIVATED by something. If it is what she calls “junk food” motivation it will not last and it will not be productive.  If, however, we can discover why people are motivated then we can help them raise their energy and productivity levels.

Bribes Don’t Work (for long)

Parents try bribes/rewards to motivate their children to do their homework or practice the piano.  Companies try to motivate employees to do better work by offering them bonuses or higher financial incentives.  Research shows that once a person’s basic financial needs are met, offering more money actually reduces energy and productivity over the long haul.  Why?

Once the money/reward/bribe has been received there is no longer an incentive to keep pushing and working hard.

3 Big Motivators

Also, there are 3 basic things that provide long-term healthy motivation and rewards are not one of them.


Daniel Pink wrote about the same three motivators in his best-selling book Drive.

What Daniel Pink and Susan Fowler discovered is that what motivates, drives, or energizes people are much different than what most of us have been taught.

If you have tried motivating your child, your employee, or even yourself with external rewards you have probably discovered what the research has proven.  If it works, it only works short term.

What are the big three motivator?  More on that next time.

I would love to know what you think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *