Getting to the heart of motivation

Marco Bode, head of the SV Werder Bremen Supervisory Board and European football champion

How do we reach peak performance? How can I reach my full potential? Or how can I motivate others to give their best and to push beyond their limits? Motivation and what really drives us as people are exciting questions but they’re also difficult. And they’re as relevant in the world of sport as they are when it comes to working at a company!

"Employees should be able to and meaning in their work"

Marco Bode, head of the SV Werder Bremen Supervisory Board and European football champion

In my experience and from what I’ve observed in the world of professional sports is that what counts is intrinsic motivation, that comes from within. When we see meaning in what we we do, if we enjoy what we do and feel good about it, we are motivated and ready to perform at our best, without thinking about potential rewards or penalties. Usually, professional athletes have strong intrinsic motivation, as they have managed to make something they enjoyed as a child into their profession. Perhaps that is not as often the case in companies but it’s still the ideal situation: Ideally, employees should be able to see meaning in their work, and enjoy it, that defnitely helps improve performance. But what about extrinsic motivation? Can you improve performance by promising someone more money or power? It works in principle, but you need to be careful with this kind of incentive as sometimes, a bonus can drive people to behave in ways you don’t want them to! In football, for example, a striker has a powerful intrinsic motivation to work for the team’s success. But trying to further motivate your player, say with a bonus for the number of goals scored, could lead to egotistical behaviour which would negatively impact their overall performance and the team’s success. Furthermore, psychology teaches us that there can be many motivational drivers that differ from one person to the next. Some people long for freedom and independence while others yearn for safety and stability. One player might give their best in the knowledge that the coach will give them two days off if they’re successful, while others reach peak performance if their family or someone important to them is sitting watching in the stands! As far as I was concerned, both mattered!

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