Is Your Team Extrinsically or Intrinsically Motivated – and Why Does It Matter?

Motivating People to Develop a High-Performing Team

Motivating yourself and your team is crucial to your success. Employees who lack motivation are more likely to take days off, do lower-quality work, and leave for other jobs, and are less likely to give great customer service, work hard, and be creative. So, motivation is great for business.

In this article, we examine the difference between extrinsically and intrinsically motivated employees, discuss which is best for your business, and share a few tips to help you motivate your people better.

Extrinsically or intrinsically motivated – which are your employees?

Motivation is what drives you to do more. Only motivated people ‘go the extra mile’. If you think about what motivates you, you’ll discover that there are two types of motivation. 

The first – external motivation – is motivation caused by external factors. For example, the possibility of a bonus or extra pay (financial) or a potential promotion (status).

The second – internal motivation – is the emotional reward you receive because of your actions. The sense of fun and enjoyment you feel when you play sport, or the feeling of pride and achievement when you learn a new skill.

Now, of course, people work because they are paid to work. Or do they? Do your employees stay behind after hours because they want to solve a customer’s query, or because they are paid to?

Extrinsically or intrinsically motivated – which is best?

Numerous studies and multiple research papers have shown that intrinsic motivation wins hands down, every time. Daniel H. Pink’s book ‘Drive’ comes to the same conclusion.

If your people are motivated only by extrinsic factors, this becomes the only reason they stay. Let’s say, for example, that you hire a great salesperson by offering them more money than the salary they are currently earning. Who’s to say that salesperson won’t leave as soon as they are offered a better salary elsewhere?

Now, if you provide a connection between what you do and why you do it – going all in on values, for example – your people become attached to your purpose. They go the extra mile because it makes them feel good within themselves.

Another way to consider why intrinsic motivation is best is to consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the most basic level, people need food, shelter, and warmth. They need to feel safe and secure. Money can buy them these things, and so money is the motivator.

When you earn enough money to provide for your basic needs, more money isn’t the motivator. Now the motivation becomes intrinsic: the need to feel loved, the feeling of accomplishment, and the feeling that you have reached your full potential.

The short of it is this – if you really want to motivate your employees, then motivate them from within.

You want to motivate your people – give them AMP

Daniel Pink describes the three drivers of intrinsic motivation as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. AMP.


Autonomy is allowing a person to be responsible for their own tasks. They are self-motivated to do their job and to do it well: they self-direct. To empower autonomy:

  • Stop micromanaging. People don’t feel trusted when you are continually looking over their shoulders.

  • Explain your objectives, and allow your people to figure out how to achieve them.

Providing autonomy in the workplace means letting go, learning to delegate, and trusting your people. This shouldn’t be so hard to do. Afterall, why did you hire them?


Motivated people want to learn, grow, and develop. They want to improve their skills and master their work. Provide opportunities to help your people achieve mastery:

  • In one-to-ones, discuss their professional goals and how you can help them achieve them

  • Provide tools to help your people develop – training tools, coaching, and time to learn

You’ll need to budget for this – both money and time. The reward is people who are more adept at doing their job and prepared with the skills to step up.


People who understand why it is that they do what they do are connected to the work they do. They buy into your vision and your mission, set collective goals, and collaborate more effectively. You must help your people to:

  • Understand your values and why your company exists at a deeper level

  • Ensure they appreciate where they fit in and how their contribution matters

By creating business clarity, your purpose gives your business its meaning, people align with its values, and this creates the connection that motivates them to go the extra mile.

Now, turn AMP upside down, and you’ll find that:

  • Purpose is driven by intrinsic motivation

  • Mastery is what enables people to do what is needed to achieve the purpose

  • Autonomy is the environment which allows them to use their mastery and deliver their purpose

Isn’t it time to put AMP into your team?

A high-performing team will grow your business faster. That’s a given. It’s not money that will motivate your team to their peak potential. Real motivation comes from within, from feeling connected to your purpose.

Start the journey to an intrinsically motivated team today. Begin the conversation with your team. Ask people about their goals and their motivations. Discuss your values and purpose, and help your people see how they fit in and the value of their contribution.

If you find it hard to get started, connect with Level 5 Mentors – our purpose is to help you 10x your business growth. 

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