Like A Team

A Resource for Christian Leadership Development and Teamwork

What Motivates and De-Motivates People: A Review by Joe Burton

Motivate and Demotivate PeopleIf you are looking for books to read on leadership, don’t hesitate to pick up anything written by John Maxwell.  His ability to communicate about leadership is excellent.  His books cover the gamut of leader training.  I have been re-reading his book “Developing The Leader Within You” and came across a great piece on motivation.


SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS.  People want to join in a group or pursue a cause that will have lasting impact.  They need to see that what they are doing is not wasted effort, but is making a contribution.  People must see value in what they are doing.  Motivation comes not by activity alone, but by the desire to reach the end result.

GOAL PARTICIPATION. People support what they create.  Being part of the goal-setting process is motivating and it allows people to feel needed.  They like to feel they are making a difference.  When people have given input, they have a stake in the issue.  They own it and support it.  Seeing goals become reality and helping to shape the future is fulfilling.  Goal participation builds team spirit, enhances morale, and helps everyone feel important.

POSITIVE DISSATISFACTION.  Someone said that dissatisfaction is the one word definition for motivation.  Dissatisfied people are highly motivated people,  for they see the need for immediate change.  They know something is wrong and often know what needs to be done.  Dissatisfaction can inspire change or it can lead to a critical spirit.  It can lead to apathy or stir one to action.  The key is harnessing this energy towards effective change.

RECOGNITION.  People want to be noticed.  They want credit for personal achievements and appreciation for their contributions.  Often giving recognition is another way of saying thanks.  Personal accomplishment is motivating, but it is much more so when someone notices the accomplishment and gives worth to it.  Recognition is one way to give meaning to a person’s existence.

CLEAR EXPECTATIONS.  People are motivated when they know exactly what they are to do and have the confidence that they can do it successfully.  No one wants to jump into a task that is vague or a job whose description is uncertain.  Motivation rises in a job when the goals, expectations, and responsibilities are clearly understood.  When delegating responsibility, be sure to give the necessary authority to carry out the task.  People perform better when they have some control over their work.


DON’T BELITTLE ANYONE.  Public criticism and cutting conversations, even in jest, can hurt.  We must be alert and sensitive.  Taken to the extreme, belittling can destroy a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.  If you have to give criticism, remember that it take nine positive comments to balance one negative correction.

DON’T MANIPULATE ANYONE.  No one likes to feel maneuvered or used.  Manipulation, no matter how slight, tears down the walls of trust in a relationship.  We gain more by being honest and transparent than we do by being cunning and crafty.  Build people up through affirmation and praise, and they’ll be motivated and loyal.  Remember, give and it shall be given to you.

DON’T BE INSENSITIVE.  Make people your priority.  People are our greatest resources; therefore, take time to know and care about them.  This means being responsive in conversation, never appearing preoccupied with self or in a hurry.  Stop talking and develop the art of really listening.  Your interest in even insignificant matters will demonstrate your sensitivity.

DON’T DISCOURAGE PERSONAL GROWTH.  Growth is motivating, so encourage your staff to stretch.  Give them opportunities to try new things and acquire new skills.  We should not feel threatened by the achievements of others, but should be very supportive of their successes.  Allow your staff to succeed and fail.  Build the team spirit approach that says, “If you grow, we all benefit.”

Joey Burton

Who is Joey Burton?

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  • Scott Simmerman says:

    I have been working with individual performance, team building and organizational improvement since 1978 and have had the opportunity to work with organizations and teams worldwide. Tom Gilbert wrote elegantly on issues of human competence and so many others have contibuted their ideas to the field.

    An awful lot (and I use the word “awful” here purposely) of works focus on the addition of extrinsic rewards. Educated as an operant behaviorist / Skinnerian, I took this approach after college teaching and working with Gilbert and Feeney and others who were attempting to do behavioral engineering in the workplace and purposely adding rewards to generate and sustain new behaviors. Heck, I have documents with 15 pages of possible “rewards” people could apply to reinforce behavior.

    But many years of actual experience tell me that the real drivers of long-term, organic and positive behaviors are the intrinsic ones. For that, one needs good feedback systems to provide operable performance information effectively and the ability to create the personal growth and the other related factors that motivate individuals.

    Alfie Kohn and others have written extensively on the punishing aspects of external rewards. Dan Pink talks about factors involved in intrinsic motivation. For me, I focus on changing the performance feedback and on using peer support and shared visions to involve and engage people.

    An interesting aspect of this is to ask managers and executives, “What motivated you in that team building activity?” and then use those generated ideas to transform the question into, “Which of those things can you implement in your workplace and how?” Many of the ideas are more of the “create a positive environment among the people” kinds of things…

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