Getting back to work ~ What Motivates Us.

I hate to say it…but I will.  Summer is coming to a close.  It feels a little sad saying adios to the hazy, crazy, sometimes lazy days of summer.  And yet, to me, there is always a ‘new start’ feeling about September.  I guess it must be that, for most people, summer vacation is over and it’s time to get back to work.

Some of us will approach this prospect with enthusiasm and some, well, some will spend time singing the back to work blues.

As a leader, it is reasonable to assume that you would prefer the enthusiasm option to the blues option.  But, like everything else, you’ll likely have to work for it.

So here’s a reminder from Daniel Pink about what truly motivates people to do their best work, (post vacation or otherwise) and it has nothing to do with money.   In fact, according to Pink, (and intuitively, I agree) there are three things that, in combination, will charge our batteries and get us happily moving forward.  Here they are:

Autonomy ~ freedom to, independently or with others of our choosing, work creatively and produce something we can be proud of.

Mastery ~ opportunities to learn, grow and build on our interests, knowledge and abilities

Purpose ~ Connecting to something greater than ourselves that we can believe in and strive to fulfill.

Here is a wonderful RSA Animate production called Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  It is ten minutes long but, for any leader, is worth the time to see because it gets to the heart of what motivates us.

This presentation suggests to me that to keep the effects of lethargy (whenever it may arise) from diminishing our activity and blurring our focus, we must find ways to emphasize or integrate the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose into our everyday work life.

With this in mind, here are some questions for you, as leader, to consider:


Given the nature of your business, how might you provide opportunity for people to work autonomously?

How flexible are you when it comes to work arrangements?

What would happen if you were to make each person’s operational framework larger and allow more independence? What might it look like?

What would you need to make it work?  What would you have to do to fill that need?  What would others have to do?

Mastery: What opportunities do you provide for people to get better at what they do?

How do you approach development planning?

How do you acknowledge accomplishment?

What value do you place on curiosity, risk and learning?

What are you willing to try, to allow your people a chance for growth and greater contribution?

If you were to take what you are doing now to increase peoples’ level of mastery and multiply it by two, what would it look like? What do you anticipate would be the outcome?

Purpose: What purpose does your organization serve?

Does everyone in your organization know it? Understand it? Believe in it?

How often do you remind people of your organizational purpose?

How do you help them make the connection between what they do and how they contribute to the fulfillment of the purpose?


There will of course be other questions that come up for you but the point is, there are times when this notion of achieving a working environment that values autonomy, mastery and purpose requires some active consideration.

I just happen to think that the autumn, (when we tend to need time to cast fresh eyes on our life and work), is one of those times.

What do you think?



Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values, Leading Teams, motivating & Inspiring

7 responses to “Getting back to work ~ What Motivates Us.

  1. Gwyn,

    Just a short note to say that you’re posts these past weeks have been awesome and become a favourite Sunday morning read over a cup of coffee.

    As I am now back from the mountains, have got my act together an RT today’s post. Will also feature your work on Nordcape’s facebook pages over the coming weeks with the help of my social media wizard, Jan.

    Do you know how to automatically add your tweet name when people RT your stuff? It’s a great thing that I picked up from the way Tanveer Naseer allows people to RT his posts.

    Enjoy the last few days of the summer and see you around,


  2. Gwyn Teatro

    Lise, Your message has made my Sunday morning! Thank you for your kind words about my posts. It makes the writing of them that much sweeter 🙂
    I actually do *not* know how to automatically add my tweet name when people RT my stuff! I will ask Tanveer how he does it and then follow both of your examples. Thank you for that and for taking the time to give me your feedback. It means a lot to me.

  3. Gwyn – Your words remind me that autumn is exciting in the “back to school” kind of way! Lots of good stuff on the horizon!

  4. Gwyn – A note from the “Blues” variety. Every September I was both sad, anxious and excited and excited about the start of another school year. It was not until I was a teacher that I actually sat in the parking lot and cried on the first day of school. Seeing the situation from the “other” side sure made me appreciate that my student blues were nothing compared to the blues my teachers may have felt.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Dear Anne ~ That is a sad tale! It’s a good thing you limited the crying to the parking lot. I can only imagine the impact a crying teacher might have on already somewhat depressed and anxious students…no doubt a “wail” of a time would have ensued 🙂

  5. Pingback: Looking Back…A Year in Review | You’re Not the Boss of Me

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