Motivation – One Size Does Not Fit All

I am not sure where I heard this, but when looking at the way a child obeys/respects their parent you can see a progression of motivation. As a mere child, the child is basically motivated out of ignorance – he does not know there is any other way so he responds (as much as he can). Then a huge leap in knowledge comes – they learn the word, “No.” Then it is fear that motivates obedience. For me, it was fear of the switch or fear of disappointing my father. Then I grew to be a teenager and I realized I could negotiate obedience (Or at least I thought I could). I would obey according to what could I get out of the situation. This was a personal reward system based on the art of negotiation. But then I became an adult – and now my motivation is totally different. True, it is not so much about obedience now, but more about respect and listening to her (my mother still loves to give me advice – as do all mothers). Now I am motivated by honoring her, honoring her love and sacrifice, and honoring her in a Biblical way.

So – from ignorance to fear to rewards to honoring the authority.

Can you see some parallel to our Christian growth. As a child, we just are taught to love God – so we do. But then it turns to fear. We don’t want to be punished or zapped by the Almighty. Martin Luther was here – hours in the confessional, beating himself to purge the sin, and more. He became a monk. Was he trying to negotiate with God? Was he saying if I serve you, will you go lightly on me? We do this – God, if I do this I expect you to do this. If I tithe, you will give me a winning lottery ticket. If I pray enough – you will give me what I want. We are motivated by rewards. But we need to get to the place we realize God does know what He is doing. We can trust Him, His wisdom, and His direction. So we learn to obey out of respect and reverence. We obey because we really love Him.

May we all mature and grow in Godly wisdom. May we truly respond out of love and reverence. May it not be about negotiation or fear but out of honoring the One who loved us first.


Now – let’s turn to motivating those in the workplace. One article, published by the University of Nebraska, discussed that there are five basic categories to motivate people. It goes on to give some specific examples in each category. (See Article Here)

  • Intrinsic Process – Motivated by FUN
  • Instrumental – Motivated by REWARDS
  • Self-Concept-External – Motivated by REPUTATION
  • Self-Concept-Internal – Motivated by CHALLENGE
  • Goal Internalization – Motivated by PURPOSE

Examples …
FUN  —  Find what they enjoy and get them involved in that. Have celebrations or lighten up the break room. Make sure every meeting has a fun activity. There was an episode of ‘The Office’ where if they got enough points, the boss would have a tattoo on his hinee. They really got behind it (no pun intended) and met their goal/
REWARDS  —  Incentive pay scales, rewards for achieving goals, and make sure the rewards are earned.
REPUTATION  —  This is about self-esteem and letting them know they are appreciated. Tell them regularly. Have an employee recognition system and make it public.
CHALLENGE  —  People like to learn new skills, face challenges, and motivation to be the best. University of Nebraska found this was the most common motivation, but almost all used a combination of two of more of the five. So, find their skills and chilling it. Allow opportunity to cross train and broaden skill sets. Give them challenge and then get out the way.
PURPOSE  —  People look beyond themselves so make sure they understand the impact of what they are working on. Make sure they now what they are doing fits within the vision of the company, maybe even include them in planning how to accomplish the vision..

FUN … REWARD … REPUTATION … CHALLENGE … PURPOSE
Which one fits your personality? Which works the best to get you motivated?

Tomorrow –
Some results from a Virginia Tech report – Go Hokies!

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