Let’s Talk Motivation

Let's Talk About Motivation

In March I attended a Henley webinar on motivation - what gets us up in the morning. It led me to think more about my motivations and motivations of employees - especially given the last year.

Motivation is what gets people up in the morning and gets them to perform at their highest. 


The Self-Determination Theory (SDT)

Devised by Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, the self-determination theory is based around human motivation. The theory looks at inherent positive human tendencies towards growth and outlines three core needs which facilitate that growth. 

Competence | Autonomy | Relatedness

If people feel like they have control of their lives by satisfying these needs, they inherently feel happier. 

Let’s take a look at each one in turn.


Competence  - Ability enables success.

 To achieve in any role, people must have the skills, the knowledge, and confidence to be able to deliver successfully.

This does not come overnight. We must build out competence, and help our employees develop a mastery to feel competent in their jobs. As leaders, what we should be thinking about every day, is how we ensure that our team have the right skills to be able to go and execute their roles effectively.  To succeed, it is not just a case that the teams understand the tasks, but that they also have the confidence to go and deliver them.


Autonomy – trust and control in decision making enables success.

Teams feel more confident and motivated if they are, to a degree, the masters of their own destiny, having some control over their work life and the decision-making processes. As leaders we should allow and encourage flexibility within the role to encourage individuals and teams to make tasks their own and for individuals to develop their own style in order to get on with the day-to-day job. 

This is not about micromanagement, it is about giving teams the flexibility and freedom to go and do what they need to do without having somebody peering over their shoulder.


Relatedness - A sense of belonging or connection enables success. 

This is how we get our employees to belong to an organization and its culture.  People need to experience a sense of belonging and attachment both to their goals and to other people.

 As leaders, having a grasp on Self-Determination Theory will prove invaluable in the context of work performance optimisation and creating job satisfaction amongst your teams.

How do we as leaders take these ideas and apply them to increase the team’s motivation? 


Competency is achieved using the following: 

  1. Skills: Ensuring the team have the relevant training providing the tools they need to succeed. 
  2. Knowledge: The know how to apply those skills. 
  3. Confidence. The confidence to apply those skills. 


Actions you can take every day to help with competency:

  • Ensure your team have development plans. Be invested in their success and their future. Help them progress. This will drive loyalty to you as a leader.
  • Coach your teams rather than telling them what to do. Help them find their own answers. Build their confidence so that they have the skills and knowledge to be successful. Give them regular encouragement.
  • Celebrate successes. Use your team meetings to say thanks, share successes, celebrate progress and the wins. Everyone will get a boost from this.


Autonomy is achieved through allowing:

Choices: It helps employees to feel that they have a choice over the methods that they use to achieve their day-to-day tasks.  Bringing their own style in order to achieve the stated goals enables employees to feel more motivated.


Actions you can take every day to help with autonomy:

  • Coaching vs telling employees what to do helps employees learn, self-discover & find their own answers. In the longer term it will help them develop their own sense of autonomy and make them feel empowered. 
  • Delegation. Another way that you can really develop some autonomy as well in the organisation and help your teams is to delegate some of the things that the tasks that you have to do to your team’s. 

This will make them feel valued or make them feel like they do have some autonomy and make them feel like you know they can progress in the organisation and make them feel valued and special.

  • Give people the power of choice. 


Relatedness: Is achieved through a sense of belonging. 

Essentially, what needs to be done is for you to create a bond amongst your employees and the organisation. Help them feel like they belong to your tribe. This drives stickiness to the team, to you as a leader and to the company overall.


Actions you can take every day to help with relatedness:

  • Develop a communication plan. To create a sense of tribe, employees need to know what to expect from you and this includes how you communicate. 
  • Cascade company information, let them know what you are working on, what you are worried about, how the team is doing. Drive a culture of 2 way communication.
  • Show appreciation to team members
  • Showcase good work and the wins. Find opportunities for this everyday, but schedule in your team meetings.
  • Ensure that there is time for fun in the workplace. Fun creates energy and flow.


Recommended reading: 

 Video of the Self-Determination Theory - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6fm1gt5YAM

Centre for Self Determination Theory - https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/authors/edward-deci/

Drive by Daniel H Pink - https://www.danpink.com/books/drive/


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