Earlier this week I spent some time talking to a recruitment agent. It wasn’t for a new job – I was providing a reference for a friend who used to work for me. It was an interesting conversation – not the run of the mill kind of discussion, but one which delved deeper … into motivation, needs and how they manifest for us in the workplace. It made me think about success – about why some people achieve things that others don’t or can’t.

Whenever I have been in charge of teams, I instinctively seek out those who have the type of energy that I can work with. I am attracted to those who have  intrinsic motivation – a sense of drive – and tend to make a hiring decision based on the way that people walk into a room.

In this video, Dan Pink, talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose – and how they combine in an individual – and what this means for those of us who manage, direct or energise teams as part of our daily work. Sure there are times where we can take the standard managerial approach – offering rewards for good performance and disincentives for poor performance, but Dan Pink suggests a need to adjust our management styles according to the type of work being performed.

Mark McGuiness also points out, that while the carrot and stick approach works for simple working arrangements, when it comes to complex problem solving and challenging or creative industries, we need to think outside the box:

… the rules are mystifying, the solution, if it exists, is surprising and not obvious – [for this kind of problem] those ‘If… then’ rewards, the things around which we have build so many of our businesses, DON’T WORK!

This is not a feeling… this is not a philosophy… this is a FACT!

There is a double edged sword here, of course. We all like to be paid handsomely for the work that we do – but few of us are willing to prioritise our desire for autonomy, our mastery and skill and our sense of purpose above income. Or am I wrong?

What’s your motivation for doing what you do? And what would you change if you could?