Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does | Susan Fowler

Summary of: Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging
By: Susan Fowler


Discover the new science of leading, energizing, and engaging employees in Susan Fowler’s ‘Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does’. Delve into the misconception of motivation being a product of external rewards and explore the true essence of motivation as an intrinsic element of human nature. The book tackles the motivation dilemma leaders face, sheds light on the two types of motivation, and uncovers effective motivation techniques based on hope, promise, and the psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence (ARC).

The Motivation Dilemma

Managers often make the mistake of trying to motivate employees who are already inherently motivated. The question is, what specifically motivates each employee and the entire workforce? Managers should look for two types of motivation: one driven by ego and rewards, and the other by values and purpose. The quality, depth, and nature of employee motivation should also be considered. The responsibility to motivate others is a dilemma faced by leaders as it is something they cannot do. Instead, they should find ways to inspire and facilitate the employees’ intrinsic motivation.

The Limits of Carrot and Stick Approach

This book summary illuminates why the carrot-and-stick approach falls flat in fostering long-term motivation. In order to unlock their employees’ fullest potential, leaders must acknowledge the power of “hope and promise” in driving meaningful, self-motivated work. The excerpt offers a contrast of two types of salespeople: one who works solely for the reward, and another who works to provide real value to clients. In the long run, it is the latter type of motivation that yields lasting results. The summary cites scientists and scholars who have studied effective motivation, including Drs. Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, and emphasizes that people must motivate themselves rather than being motivated externally. The summary contends that to create environments where employees feel intrinsically motivated, companies must be willing to make fundamental changes to their culture and management systems.

Revamping Motivational Strategies

The downsides of conventional motivational tactics and ways to align employees’ values with work goals.

Motivation strategies are crucial to a thriving work environment, but their success depends on the techniques employed. The use of rewards as motivation can be counterproductive. However, offering rewards may become necessary in certain situations when people are unwilling to do the right thing. It’s the leader’s responsibility to set clear goals and deadlines, but employees should self-motivate to achieve them without any coercion. Leaders should prioritize aligning employees’ values with work goals for mutual motivational benefits. Different generations have disparate values; therefore, understanding and uniting those values is essential for managing them effectively. Motivational contests are shortsighted and lead employees’ focus away from long term goals. Winning is not the ultimate goal and does not motivate superstars, who have a “quest for excellence.” Superstars derive pleasure from their prowess, not solely winning. To sum up, leaders should remember that values count most of all. Rewards should only be used as a last resort, and motivational contests are counterproductive.

The Motivation Dilemma

Managers are faced with a motivation dilemma because motivating employees to work hard is impossible. The mistake is thinking that people are not motivated when they are just longing to meet needs that they cannot name. Understanding the employee appraisal process is the key to understanding motivation. Employees appraise things according to what matters to them, which may be different from what is important to managers and corporate leaders. The factors that motivate employees may not align with what managers want. To align their goals and the company’s goals, managers need to understand that employees are learners who want to do well, make solid contributions, and achieve autonomy, relatedness, and competence (ARC) – essential psychological needs. Instead of offering contests and prizes, the secret to motivation is to offer autonomy, relate to employees as human beings, and encourage their competence. Managers should worry about what they can do for their employees, not what they can do for the company. When managers offer autonomy, relate to employees as people, and encourage their competence, employees become more motivated to perform better.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

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

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed