Motivation and Rewards: You May Be Crippling Yourself

June 24th, 2010 4 Comments

Motivation-we’ve all heard the pros and cons of the “carrot” and “stick” methods, but there may be more to the story than what we were taught to believe.

If you are an entrepreneur you most likely have some kind of a team, even if it is a virtual team.  One of the key aspects of developing a strong team, and for yourself, is motivation.

I have known a number of photographers since high school, and something I observed in most of them over the years was the change that took place when they began to do their craft in exchange for money.  Quite a few became wedding photographers which can be quite demanding, although it pays quite well.  What I observed is most  began to hate photography.

So what happened?  They were doing what they loved, right? And they were getting rewarded for it, right?

Studies have shown the same type of reaction in children that were given rewards for doing something that they really loved to do, like coloring. What happened was as they were expected to perform and then rewarded with a toy or other desired object, they began to lose interest in what they had once enjoyed.

Their passion became a job!

What once thrilled them, became expected and demanding and the reward actually became a detriment towards motivation.  It literally zapped all the joy out of their passion!

So what’s the answer?

From what I observed with my photographer friends and with my tech guys in my software business was once their financial needs were met, what really fueled them were things that fostered their independence and creativity.  They needed to be free to let their creativity flow in their own way.

And yes, we’re talking about business so there are objectives and guidelines that have to be met and followed, but there are SO many ways that goals can be met.  When I’ve afforded myself and others the freedom to produce the end result in our own way, I’ve been amazed at the outcome!

I think we really need to look at the difference between motivation and rewards and make sure that we are achieving our desired results.  We may be doing just the opposite and crippling ourselves.

For more info on new ideas on motivation read: Daniel Pink’s, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

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Category: Leadership
  • michael slater

    Thanks for the tip. What an astute observation.

    • Thanks for the comment Mike. Have you observed the same reaction working with kids in the educational system?

  • Lee Schneider

    Mary, very interesting post. Interesting you should mention photographers – I’ve hired a number of consultants to help me keep the creative spark in photography and writing when I started doing both for money. The study you cite with the kids being rewarded rings true. I also saw Freakomonics at the LA Film Festival this weekend – the film based on the book of the same name. There’s a story they follow called “Can a 9th Grader be Bribed to get Better Grades?” They found that the cash worked – but only when the student was internally motivated to learn. What it mean to me was that no matter what the external rewards were there has to be some internal motivation — joy, a sense of completeness, a “just wanting to do this” – that really completes the circle.

    • Lee, I’ve also experienced the same with my art glass work. I like to do some non-commission work because it’s then all about releasing my creativity however it wants to be expressed.

      I’d love to see the film. Will it be released to the general public soon? Remember MT is usually a ways behind LA!

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