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Igniting Passion from Within

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 15/01/2013

Guest Blogger: Rachel Kot  

As a result of recent research, the need for thinking differently about how to motivate people, especially in their work, has become prevalent. The longstanding hypothesis of motivation was that the more incentive you offer someone, the harder they will work. Incentive, in this case, refers to both rewards for positive results and punishment for negative. This is known as the ‘carrot and stick’ system.  

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1954) states that the basic driver for humankind is survival. In the early stages of the hierarchy it is fair to assume that people will work harder to fulfil their basic needs based on a simple reward system. Simply because failure to do so results in a very poor quality of life.  

 The difference in attitude towards motivation starts to occur when one reaches stages three and four and tasks are no longer simple and routine. When complex thinking, innovation and personal investment are required, the ‘carrot and stick’ system fails to work. According to author Daniel Pink (2011), many businesses fail to recognize this shift in their employees’ attitude, leading to their lower retention rates. In fact, generally speaking, simply giving people more and more rewards has a detrimental effect on their performance. In the words of one late American rap artist, “more money, more problems” (Notorious B.I.G, 1997). The question then becomes, what motivates people past rewards? As a manager, what can you offer your employees?  

Pink (2011) believes that Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, are the three intrinsic drivers that ignite passion in people. In building new teams or enhancing existing teams, answer some of the questions below to expand your possibilities.  


Autonomy translates to a 'space' to work independently, and being able to make decisions on how things are executed as opposed to being constantly under supervision and feeling controlled. Companies such as 3M and Google have credo’s that allows employees to use 20% of their office time to create projects out of their passion, this leads to the creation of market leading products such as Gmail and Google Talk. When people are given the flexibility and room to decide what, when and how to do things in ways they deem fit, they thrive.  


  • What does letting go of 'control' mean to you?
  • How much 'space' are you allowing or willing to create for your team?
  • What could you implement to move your team toward a solution focused culture?


Many adults take on the challenge of learning a musical instrument and dedicate hours on the weekend practicing. Similarly, some engineering friends of mine entered a two-year psychology program that took up most of their leisure time. Neither are trying to become a professional musician or psychologist, but they are motivated to be better at something that matters to them. Harvard Business School (2011) research shows that the biggest motivator at work by far is making progress. As a manager in the workplace, one of our greatest roles is to help people see their own progress, to recognize and celebrate it.  

Questions: We often hear people in business say, “Damn, your results were poor last quarter”.

  • How do those comments make you feel?
  • What can increase your positivity?
  • What have you been doing to help your team see their progress?
  • What progress has your team made today that is worth celebrating and when and how will you celebrate?


One of the biggest questions in life is to answer, “Why do I do what I do?”. Intrinsically, we need to know that what we are doing matters in some way to this world. Steve Jobs’ purpose of life was to put a “ding” into the world. Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom created “destructive innovation” with Internet Protocol (IP) telephony. They both stated their purposes loud and clear. As people align with their calling, we see the incredible dedication and persistent execution with excellence.  


  • What is the ultimate purpose that I am trying to achieve?
  • How is it related to what I am doing today?
  • What might be the “shared purposes” for my team?
  • What might be my staffs' individual purpose?
  • How are those purposes aligned with the position they are in?
  • How could I best align them to create the most powerful impact for the company?

Whether you are building your organization, developing new rules of engagement for your team or simply finding your own leadership style, think about Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. They will give you the insight you need to find true fulfillment for yourself, your team, and the people that you care about.  

About Daniel Pink  
Daniel H. Pink is an American author and journalist. From 1995 to 1997, he worked for Vice President Al Gore in the capacity of chief speechwriter, and before that as an aide to Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.  

Interesting Links About Daniel Pink  
Ted Talk on Motivation
19 Top Ideas for Education in Drive
Daniel Pink on Facebook
10 Free Daniel Pink Podcasts