Motivate: goad, impel, drive, incite, persuade.
According to Marketdata Enterprises, Motivational Speakers in the U.S. alone, took home more than $1 billion in 2016.
Motivational quotes abound on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Employee Motivation is the subject of much research and advice: In his book The Motivation Toolkit, David Kreps writes about ‘secret weapons for motivating employees’
But behind our insatiable appetite for motivation lies a fundamental and damaging ignorance of what motivation actually is, and where it really comes from:
The entire motivational industry is founded on the notion that you can motivate me – that you can supply me with the energy (the motive power) that I need to move myself into productive action. This in turn is based on the assumption that you know what motivates me.
In a leadership context, this understanding of motivation creates problems:
You have finite resources of time and energy, so if you have to motivate me and everyone else, your organisation becomes unscalable and will never grow beyond certain limits
You may think you know what motivates me, but you may be wrong, particularly if even I don’t have a clear understanding of what my motivations are
What motivates me may be very different from what motivates others, so a one size fits all approach cannot work