January 14, 2013

Nobody can motivate anybody else. The best leader or peer can only help people to motivate themselves. The psychologists say that there are three basic means by which people are motivated: compliance, identification, and internalization.

Compliance is for amateurs. Most of us are inclined to try to get people to behave by offering them some kind of attractive reward in return for the right kind of performance or behavior. The other side is to give something undesirable (punishment) for the wrong kind. Whether one method or the other works or not, this is usually the route taken by those who haven’t learned a better way. The other two methods are ultimately more satisfying, and their effects are longer lasting.

Identification occurs when people adopt a behavior associated with others because it provides them with a worthwhile sense of identity or a meaningful self-image. This certainly suggests that if the atmosphere and work ethic are upbeat and efficiency-oriented, any newcomer will feel comfortable adopting the same pattern.

Internalization is often the result of successful identification– when the individual takes on the values and beliefs of the group. When people come to own those values and beliefs personally, they become the source of their own motivation. When the leader has demonstrated his/her commitment to a set of beliefs and values, the organization usually takes them on. That’s why internalization works for the entire group and any who join it.

Internalization may be the longer way, but it has the greatest payoff. It provides the proverbial “two birds” since it involves both self-motivation and an example for others at the same time.