Change Culture Leadership Purpose

Motivation! How hard is it?

Is it your job to motivate your people, or should people be self-motivated first?

How do you motivate people?

I’m asking because I recently had a conversation about a hybrid work environment that turned into a conversation about motivation.

My opinion about a hybrid work environment is well documented, for example, in this post.

But if you dig a little deeper, we get to the topic of motivation. 

Is it your job to motivate your people, or should people be self-motivated first?

Or a little bit of both? 

I don’t need a lot of motivation, but I do need some.

I need to know I’m doing meaningful work and that I work with people who give me a certain level of autonomy to do my job.

I believe that this whole’ work from home’ debate basically boils down to people wanting autonomy. 

Remember Daniel Pink? 

Purpose. Autonomy. Mastery. 

It’s simple. 

Provide people with a clear purpose.

Give them autonomy to do their job.

Allow them to grow and develop and create mastery in their life. 

It really is that simple.

In the discussion where work gets done, a level of autonomy is what people are looking for.

Give it to them, and motivation will grow. Take it away from them, and motivation will decrease.

But in many cases, we don’t follow these simple principles.


Because we don’t trust people with autonomy. 


Because we believe people cannot handle the freedom to do their work where they want, whenever they want?


Yes, why?

Because we can’t be trusted ourselves? Because we have some bad examples from the past?

Because we know people don’t work when we don’t see them?

Because we know productivity is lower out of the office?

It’s one or more of them, and that’s why many CEOs can’t wait for people to come back.

But there’s NO BACK. There’s only forward.

But even Elon Musk doesn’t understand this. So why should we?

People have smelled autonomy and won’t let go anymore. They will resign if you force them. Or perhaps, they already did.

The problem is not the pandemic. The problem is your culture before the pandemic. The pandemic is the symptom; your culture is the root cause.

The truth is few people realized what autonomy could look like. Few people realized how productive they could be outside the office walls.

Now they know. 

But in companies with a progressive workforce culture, they already knew. Of course, the pandemic still caused changes there also, but it’s not like the changes were dramatic.

Progressive companies already knew how to motivate people through purpose, autonomy, and mastery. It’s the conservative cultures that suffer the most.

That’s where the great resignation is happening. 

People have smelled freedom and won’t give it back.

Take it or leave it. Or better, take it, or I leave you.

Now here’s what those leavers also need to know. There are jobs or circumstances where people will need to shop up at the workplace. 

And I’m not talking about the airline pilot, the supermarket cashier, or the surgeon. These people know.

I’m talking about circumstances where companies rely on high-performing teams’ collaborative brain power and creativity.

Companies that die if they don’t innovate.

Those are circumstances where it does pay off to spend time in one office room together. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be all the time like that.

It’s again a matter of communication, adaptability, and seeking to understand first.

Your turn: How hard is it to motivate your people?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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