Volume 36, Issue 11, November 2001


The Fear Factor
        Finding Motivation That Works
by Robert Tunmire

One of management’s biggest challenges is motivating the team. Webster defines motivate as “to cause action.” Synonyms for motivation include “help, support, encouragement, comfort and reassurance,” all of which are critical parts of management’s responsibility to its employees.

But what is motivation and can you really motivate anyone to do anything? There is more to motivation than getting someone to do something. Students of psychology know that motivation, in itself, can be classified in three distinct categories, some of which work better than others.

Fear Motivation
Threaten people with loss of life, livelihood or liberty and you might motivate them to action. Of course, you may not get the desired result but they will definitely do something to keep from being subjected to the fear factor. Fear is the oldest form of motivation; cavemen certainly were motivated to survive through fear of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. Today, most people who react to motivation out of fear are externally motivated, meaning they react to stimuli created by an outside source. This person could be an authority figure such as a teacher, boss or law enforcement officer.

Incentive Motivation
Fear worked very well until bosses figured out that the carrot got better results than the stick. Promises of vacations, pay raises, award plaques and the key to the executive washroom may motivate some people, but not all. Again, most people who can only be motivated by promises of rewards are externally motivated. The trick is to find a common incentive that will appeal to the entire team—not an easy task.

Attitude Motivation
Fear and incentive motivation, being external and temporary, are not very effective in the long run. A positive attitude, however, creates internal motivation, which is the most powerful of the three methods and the only one with the ability to be self-sustaining. Motivation through a positive attitude can create a change in an individual that is truly challenging. Helping people work toward their goals and dreams creates internal motivation. Employees will be working for their own reasons, not yours. It was a wise man who said, “Help enough people get what they want and you will eventually get what you want.”

So, how do you motivate someone? You really can’t! You can only create the conditions by which they will motivate themselves. They will do that only if the attitude for motivation exists. As a business owner, it is vital that you determine what your employees want and then show them how to attain it. Only then will they be motivated enough to achieve what you want. 


ROBERTTUNMIRE Robert Tunmire serves as president of the Glass Doctor, based in Waco, Texas. His column appears bimonthly.


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