by Susan Fowler | April 28, 2016
The following is an excerpt from Why Motivating People Doesn't Work...And What Does

Have you ever thought about why you get out of bed in the morning (and stay up)? Why do you jump up enthusiastically on some mornings and drag yourself out on others? 

Have you ever wondered what it takes to walk away from the 500-calorie muffin instead of caving in to the temptation?

Have you ever considered how your angry, defensive, or self-righteous energy differs from your loving, compassionate, and joyful energy?

Answers to these questions can be found in the compelling evidence that human beings have an innate tendency and desire to thrive. It is in our nature to want to grow, develop, and be fully functioning. We want to flourish -- but cannot do it not alone. We are, by nature, social animals. Striving to reach our individual human potential is natural, yet we innately recognize that the interconnection between ourselves and the world around us is a vital part of that process.

Our desire to thrive may be innate, but thriving doesn't happen automatically -- especially at work. Just because we gravitate toward psychological growth and integration doesn't guarantee it will happen. Human thriving in the workplace is a dynamic potential that requires nurturing. The workplace either facilitates, fosters, and enables our flourishing or it disrupts, thwarts, and impedes it. In fact, conventional motivational practices have undermined more often than they've encouraged our human potential. 

The bad news is that we have paid a high price for working with outdated ideas about motivation. The good news is that this is where the new science of motivation emerges as both a radical departure and an exciting opportunity. 

If you come to know the real story of motivation, you will experience a shift in the way you live and work -- and, importantly, the way you lead.

Illuminating the True Nature of Human Motivation

The title of my book states that motivating people does not work. It also promises an answer to what does work. The essence of the answer lies at the heart of the science of motivation and the revelation of three psychological needs: autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Regardless of gender, race, culture, or generation, the real story behind our motivation is as simple and as complex as whether or not our psychological needs are satisfied.

If you need confirmation that these three psychological needs are essential to our thriving and flourishing, you can delve into the plentiful evidence provided by research over the past 60 years. You can consider the anecdotal evidence found in the stories, examples, and mini case studies generated from my experience in more than 50 countries over the past 20 years. There is a direct connection between a person's psychological needs and his or her motivational outlook. When people fulfill their high-quality psychological needs, they will have an optimal motivational outlook. In other words, if their autonomy, relatedness, and competence are satisfied, the result is an aligned, integrated, or inherent motivational outlook.

The real story of motivation is that people have psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence. It is a mistake to think that people are not motivated. They are simply longing for something they cannot name. Do you know someone at work who wouldn't prefer to make good choices, be a positive force for good, or have a sense of wonder? I don't. 

The real story of motivation is that people are learners who long to grow, enjoy their work, be productive, make positive contributions, and build lasting relationships. Not because of something outside of themselves, but because it is their human nature to make these things happen. 

Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people. In her latest bestselling book, she explains WHY MOTIVATING PEOPLE DOESN'T WORK… AND WHAT DOES: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing. She is the author of by-lined articles, peer-reviewed research, and six books, including the bestselling Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs such as the Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. For more resources, including a free Motivational Outlook Assessment with immediate results, visit