I’ve noticed that the commercials in the gaming app on my phone are all boasting that the game they are advertising is “harder than it looks.” There are many variations on this theme: “I’ve tried 3333 times and still can’t get it” or “You won’t be able to do this,” as if the temptation is enough for me to want to prove them wrong.

That brand of motivation may work on the competitive spirits, but it turns me off. Why would I want to spend my time on a trivial task that you are telling me up-front is nearly impossible? No thanks. I would be much more inspired to try something that made a difference or that provided a few moments of mindless bliss or could improve my cognitive functioning, etc.

With games, as with everything else, you’ll be much more successful if you understand the different motivations that your people bring to the table. Who is fueled by recognition? Which person needs competition? Who will thrive on a challenge? When do meaning and purpose become the motivators?

Invest the time to know what drives those with whom you work closely – employees, colleagues, partners, vendors or other collaborators. It’s more than ascertaining whether to use the carrot or the stick; it’s refining your message and your incentives to align with deeply personal values to inspire internal motivation as well.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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