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Books We Love

Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging

Susan Fowler, Author

Have you ever wondered what it takes to truly motivate someone? Let’s face it—simply telling someone, “If you do this, then you’ll get that,” doesn’t work. It’s a superficial system built on external rewards. To foster genuine motivation from within, these traditional carrot-and-stick techniques may not be the best.

In Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, Susan Fowler explains that your employees are seeking autonomy, relatedness and competence from their roles. Only helping them to achieve these deeper psychological needs will nurture an environment of intrinsic motivation.

Fowler references Alfie Kohn’s 1993 book Punished by Rewards—The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes in which he says that bribes diminish the intrinsic motivation for the action being rewarded. Doesn’t that sound backward? Here’s how Fowler explains it: “Since the reward was the reason for the action, the child will have no interest without the reward. Kohn pleaded, children should not be trained like pets.”

Fowler’s technique, Optimal Motivation, teaches leaders how to bring autonomy, relatedness and competence to the forefront and leave behind the rewards method. She demonstrates how to inspire teams to work hard not for rewards but for the true fulfillment and value that it brings.