What Motivates People At Work: 4 Actionable Factors

May 9, 2021 3 min read
What Motivates People At Work: 4 Actionable Factors

In this post by Daniel Lock, we explore motivation and examine Lou Gerstner's success in turning around a failing IBM in the early 1990s.

When Lou Gerstner took over as CEO of IBM in 1993, he took the reins of an old and prestigious institution with a rich history. Gerstner had no computer industry experience, but he did have in-depth leadership experience. And taking over at IBM, he would need every bit of it: IBM had suffered a multi-billion dollar loss and was burning cash.

“There’s been a lot of speculation as to when I’m going to deliver a vision of IBM [but] the last thing IBM needs right now is a vision,” Gerstner said at his first press conference. He needed to make some tough decisions and get the his new team members working together effectively–fast.

Gerstner turned IBM away from the brink of bankruptcy, and change it into a service and consulting business that is still thriving today. Corporations all over the world are using IBM as their outsourced technology providers. But the question remains: How did he motivate his workforce to come together in those dark days and together create the juggernaut that IBM is today?

Motivation Is Intrinsic

There are many requests for motivators in coaching and consulting. Sales managers want their team members motivated, and companies will hire you to motivate them. But you can’t. Lou Gerstner couldn’t ‘motivate’ his people, and I can’t motivate you.

Motivation is intrinsic: we motivate ourselves. This implies that it is our values that motivates us. To illustrate the truth of this, consider how power, success, recognition, or financial independence motivates people. The point is everyone is different and this means that blanket approaches don’t work.

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