Motivation to do our job is both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic means that the motivation is natural, inherent to a person’s character; it comes from within. People who are self-motivated to perform feel a sense of pride, they find satisfaction, and are passionate about what they do. That has become the main driving force to do the job and do it well.

Extrinsic means that the motivation comes from an outside source. Most of us instantly think of financial rewards, but money is not the biggest motivator. There’s no denying that money is important. We all work to earn a buck but the truth of the matter is that money is only one of the reason why we go to work every day. Even the most materialistic among us care about other kinds of motivators. Research and experience have placed one item at the top of the list: recognition.


Being recognized for something we have done well makes us feel good about ourselves and our capabilities. It tells us that we are “doing it right” and it motivates us to “do it again”. I recently had a conversation with someone who, during a company event, was recognized for her achievements. She knew, beyond any doubt, that what she had done, she had done right. She was motivated to “do it again” because it felt good to be acknowledged and recognized.

Recognition is the most powerful tool to motivate our employees to do what they are supposed to, and beyond. Recognition is free and only takes seconds out of our busy schedule. For example, taking the time to commend a “job well done” or saying “I really like the way you handled the interruptions at this morning’s meeting” helps our employees understand how important they are to us and to the company, and acknowledges their contribution to the overall performance of the organization and its bottom line. Recognizing our employees also clarifies performance standards because it lets them know they are on the right track.


  • Greet your employees. Recognize their presence. A simple “Good morning” and “Good night” is a great start
  • Be courteous. Say “thank you” and “welcome”
  • Practice “Walk-about” management. Be visible and accessible to your employees
  • Get to know your employees. Ask how they are doing. Find out their likes/dislikes. Develop an interest in your employees
  • Listen in an unbiased and balance way. Listening is a highly effective recognition tool
  • Be open to suggestions. Don’t hesitate to solicit your people’s ideas for improvement and change

Look for the positives. Spend your time “catching” employees doing it right rather than “catching” them doing it wrong.