Intrinsic Motivation

By: Jennifer Nietz
Intrinsic Motivation

I have new candidates ask me frequently, “What is something you are looking for in your next hire?”  One of my biggest attributes, while very hard to identify, is intrinsic motivation.  So, what is intrinsic motivation?

According to, “Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding.”

I see intrinsic motivation as an attribute that someone will have that enables them to perform without being asked, bribed, or externally rewarded.  The reward they get comes from within because the recognition and satisfaction comes from that very thing.  Let’s face it, sales is hard; if you are not intrinsically motivated to pick up the phone and continue to build relationships, then the road is probably short.

So how do you find out if a candidate has this type of motivation? In an article I recently read from The McQuaig Institute, they state that the best predictor of future success is past performance. So, if you want to know if someone is motivated from within and not by outside influences only, you should use behavioral interview practices to discover ways they were self-motivated in the past.

McQuaig Institute’s Kristen Harcourt points out in her arcile that some sample questions you may ask include:

  1. Did you ever have a really good idea only to have it shot down initially? What did you do about it?
  2. Give me a recent example of when you needed a high amount of energy to achieve results.
  3. Tell me about the most ambitious goal you set for yourself.
  4. Tell me about a time when you were really excited by a project or assignment.

There is something else about intrinsic motivation that is fascinating: once you have that person on your team, you have to feed the motivation.  As an organization, if you ignore someone’s intrinsic motivation(s), they can become impatient or bored.  So now what can you do?

It’s all about building a space in your culture that embraces this. In fact, in a recent article from Brandeis University Professor of Management and Psychology Andy Molinsky, he states that “without intrinsic motivation, and a culture that supports it, it’s very difficult – near impossible – to generate the essential creative breakthroughs that drive a company forward.”

Molinsky gives three tips to make sure you are creating this culture:

  • Find the right people – I agree!
  • Create a culture that enhances people’s attachment and passion in the work.
  • Create an evaluation and reward system that enhances intrinsic motivation.

I hope this article brings some motivation to your week and to really creating that culture and environment for those to share who are motivated to keep that motivation high.

Highly motivated employees may, in fact, lead to your next breakthrough.

This article was written by:

Jennifer Nietz
Vice President
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