• The 60 Second Leader
  • Seven Secrets of Inspired Leaders
  • The Little Book of Leadership
  • Leadership Hub for Corporates
  • Learning to Live with Huntington's Disease

All motivation is intrinsic

“Charles Handy tells how he was trying to write one day and was suffering from writer’s block. A group of children came by and were playing outside his window.

For some reason, the sounds unleashed his creative juices and the words started flowing.

He went out to them, told them how great it was to hear them having fun outside his window and how pleased he was that it helped him work and asked if they could come back the next day. They did. Same thing happened. So, he asks them back again.

At the end of the third day, he has got loads of work done to the sound of these kids playing outside his window and runs out, delighted. ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you a pound!’ he cries, triumphantly.

Next day: no kids. Handy finds his creative muse has disappeared with them.

He goes off in search and finds the kids playing in another street. ‘Why didn’t you come back?’ he asks.

‘For a pound, it wasn’t worth it,’ is the scathing answer he gets…”

I came across that story the other day and it reminded me how reward and recognition programmes can cheapen motivation and backfire unless they are carefully tailored to what actually makes your employees tick. I heard it originally from Frank Douglas, a brilliant HR VP at Shell whom I like a lot.

Leaders spend a lot of time and effort trying to motivate and animate people. Motivation and incentive programmes always seem completely uninspiring to me, a kind of papering over of the cracks, an admission that the substantive work in itself is not motivating enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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