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Motivation, where does it come from?

In many organizations I have being listening to the entrepreneurs’ complains about employees.

• “ They just want their money in the end of the week”

• “I wish I could duplicate myself”

• “ I do not want to hire anybody else”.

We talk about motivating employees, and I realized how many of entrepreneurs are under the assumption that motivation is something that comes from outside. Something like: If I give the lab rat water when ringing a bell, the rat will ring the bell every time it is thirsty. Long time influenced by Skinner, our psychological perception of motivation is still under the assumption that we should give the right reward (pay, bonus, promotion, etc.) to obtain the right behavior.

What we have being missing here is that motivation is a flow of energy that directs effort. It is an internal disposition to go after something of interest, a compelling story that one imagines joyful. Maslow was the first one to recognize that we are motivated by internal needs but still made companies finding best rewards in each stage of motivation. It is like some outside gratification needs to be done to obtain engagement from people.

Cecilia Bergamini (1988) recognized motivation as an internal disposition, particular to each individual, with a potential energy of emotions to be engaged for their own sake, and not because of external rewards. When the action comes from an internal force the person continues to work on a project until it finishes. There is a not need for constant rewarding to keep a person motivated but there is an internal motivation to keep on moving until accomplishing a goal.

Motivation is an energizing movement in one specific direction. We are motivated by different purposes, engaged in different missions and tribes. I can be a teacher and have another teacher in my niche to the market but we do not make part of the same tribe when she rides a bike every Saturday, and I am frenetic with movies. Purpose today is what differentiates organizations, depending in which tribe of values/attitudes they share. This way motivation is driven by purpose.

What are we going to accomplish; what will be the impact for all; how we will get there, with which values?

The decision to make an effort to achieve a goal is most influenced by what we imagined to be a happy state. According to Harari, It is the ability to create imagined realities that enables strangers to collaborate. Since the tribal societies we trade establishing trust by appealing to a common goal. One imagined reality in the future that satisfies both goals. We imagine beating a competitor ( Nike vision in the 80’ was to beat Adidas), creating more efficiency, or developing a product or service that satisfies the customer pain, making life easier, comfortable, efficient, Etc….Many other values we can deliver, and the team will have a vision with clear goals to achieve. Sapiens…

Energy balance is the ability to use our energy focused on an imagined vision of the future where we achieve our purpose. When goals are clear and feedback is immediate, chances are that your employees will work in a “flow” because there is order in consciousness. The energy has a clear direction and all can understand how their performance impacts the goals to achieve. Remember that control must be a system to evaluate results, not controlling people but talking clearly about results.

A pathway to engage your people:

• Tell your employees a genuine story about you, your company, and what you value. Give them a dream future where all will share a positive impact in society, and you will have them moving their energy in creativity, innovation, systems and processes, besides being constantly in genuine relationship with your customer.

• Design systems with clear processes and procedures coherent to your vision. Your employees need to feel that the whole organization is structured in a way that the vision is possible to be achieved.

• Talk constantly about individual and company performance. People need to know how their effort is perceived, and believe it, people prefer to have constant feedback in their performance and how it impacts the company results than working blindly.

• Measure results and discuss them with all people involved. Give them genuine participation in deciding new methods, technologies, and systems. They want it, and they will be reasonable if you lead the process discussing boundaries and results.

• Pay what is fair. Fair compensation drives respect. Discuss freely about the criteria to a career path in the company but do not promise anything that you cannot give. Know your people and be an agent of care and genuine interest in their personal goals.

When we build trusting relationships that allow us to be open, honest and vulnerable with one another, our ability to sense and respond to complex and changing environments grows (Senge and Nonaka, 2007).

Leaders are designers that create coherence of vision and operating values. Design means making something work in practice. They mentor and coach their employees to reconstruct organizations that solve problems and constantly innovates systems and processes with the input of their employees.

Explore, envision, and energize your employees with genuine and assertive engagement. Teams with synchronized energy do not allow parasites or stagnated peers to pertain to the group. Give constant feedback on performance and discuss with your team where to use energy (priorities) and how to manage it daily (effort). What we all want is to achieve goals in constant movement to our dreams, our imaginary future that tells us where our energy should be spent.


BERCAMINI, c.w. Bons tecnicos serao bons lideres? 1988.

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

Peter M. Senge – Random House, 2010

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind

Yuval Noah Harari – Vintage, 2011

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