More about Motivation Capability

PDF_shot_2From the book:
“The Motivated Brain” – written by Helle Bundgaard, Founder, Motivation Factor and
Jefferson Roy, neuroscientist, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.
All rights reserved – Motivationfactor 2015)

Motivation Capability

What it is

The competency of identifying and articulating one’s own motivation factors, understanding those factors’ influence on current conditions and actively managing those factors to result in a more ideal situation. Motivation capability is vigilance, competence and purposeful action. It is a meta-awareness of one’s own motivation and what can be done to manage it. It is defined as the competency of getting and staying motivated toward one’s work regardless of the presence of positive or negative intrinsic and extrinsic factors.


What it looks like:

  • The seasoned journalist who has embraced a new way of working as the company transitions from print publications to digital media.
  • The star employee who is able to quickly determine that the opportunity presented by the headhunter is not going to offer a more satisfying situation than the one she has with your company.

This third component – Motivation Capability – is what we’ve been missing in traditional approaches to organizational motivation and engagement. It may be helpful, then, to take a deeper dive into one of the scenarios above to see motivation capability in action.

The print magazine journalist may be well paid, have good benefits and enjoy work as a feature writer. She has the opportunity to interview important people in the industry and communicate critical information to her audience. She enjoys investigating all angles of a story, taking the time to confirm sources and create a compelling argument. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is clearly present. Then, from the publisher’s office come cries of “Print is dying! We must go digital! We must be first to break news! Fast! Attention-getting! Brief and to the point!” What, might you guess, is the impact on our seasoned journalist? Of course her intrinsic motivation is under threat, her status as a seasoned professional is put in question and she may worry about her ability to remain employed if so much about what she is trained to do is no longer called for.

Some typical responses in this situation:

  • “Bah! This is a phase. I’ll ignore it and it’ll go away”
  • “They don’t care about journalistic integrity? I’m out of here!”
  • “Well, I’ll do it but I’m telling you, it’s not going to Work”

If, in contrast, our journalist is equipped with motivation capability, she can more efficiently analyze her situation and respond in a way that both preserves her own motivation and meets the organization goals. So equipped, she will actively identify and address the specific aspects of the situation that are detracting from her motivation, she will understand and manage her instinctual response (resistance) to change, she will quickly identify the unique Talents she can call on to get re-engaged in the new reality and she will analyze and confirm how the new situation might morph into different, but just as meaningful work. Or, she may come to the decision that this new circumstance will not make the best use of her own or the organization’s time and Talents and she may choose to seek a new position. In either case, she has served both herself and the organization well.

Another example of motivation capability in action is its influence on the impact of life events outside of work.   Imagine that an employee has an adequate salary, benefits, respectful workplace and supervision. He feels connected to the organization and that the work he does is meaningful. He sees good Purpose in what he does and he contributes his Talents regularly. What happens if the company asks him to relocate or his spouse loses her job? With motivation capability, our employee is more quickly able to assess his work and life obligations, identify priorities and put a plan in place.

Going back to my own frustrating story of job-hopping. Each time I was contacted by a headhunter, all the external motivation factors were in place: salary, benefits, extra vacation and more. My Talents were well utilized and recognized regularly and I was growing and developing, taking on new challenges in my role. But still I was motivated to say yes to a position only to find myself in the exact same place six months later. The environment was new, the work assignment was new, the colleagues were new and the only thing that wasn’t new was me. My context had changed but I didn’t. I didn’t become any wiser about why I was so attracted to the new opportunity or what I felt it was going to give me. I wasn’t able to get to the root of the problem. If I had been equipped with motivation capability, I would have had a simple way to put words to what motivated me, what was missing, and what I could do about it.

The motivation we get from external and intrinsic motivation factors is never permanent because our environment is always changing. If something in the environment changes (becoming parents, a call from a headhunter, a reprimand from a company leader, a divorce) something goes missing or is put in tension. Without the motivation capabilities to identify the reason behind what you are experiencing and what you can do about it, you will be more driven by – and compelled to act in response to – temporal, situational and external factors. Conversely, when you have motivation capability, you are more easily able to determine what factors are in play, whether the situation has a short term or long term impact and what you might do about it to return to or attain a more ideal situation.

You might wonder how important this concept of Motivation Capability is to the health and vitality of your business. IDG Research and Motivation Factor Institute conducted a study combining a traditional employee satisfaction survey combined with the Motivation Factor PinPointer – a questionnaire designed to measure levels of intrinsic motivation and motivation capability. Analysis of the data clearly shows that 55% of employees’ overall engagement is derived from or influenced by extrinsic motivators (organizational vision, leadership, management practices, salary and benefits), while 45% is derived from or influenced by the individual’s own intrinsic motivation factors and motivation capability.

Take a deep breath and let this information sink in. When you think that you are home safe because you score high on employee satisfaction you are actually only seeing 55% of the picture. Think of all the untapped potential just waiting to be mined. On the flip side, consider the rich talent you could lose at any moment due to a lack of intrinsic motivation and individual motivation capability.

Until now, we’ve not had a good way of measuring, developing and managing that individual aspect of motivation – the intrinsic motivation of individuals and their own personal capability to get and stay motivated and engaged in their work. Yet, improving the capacity of every individual to get and stay resilient in the face of new roles, technology, structure and direction and to get and stay personally engaged in meeting the organizational objectives is critical to success.

Based on many years of experience we have identified these symptoms when people or organizations are low on extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation and motivation capabilities.

Low Motivation

Low Motivation

The Motivated Brain was released June 13th 2014 as:


  • e-book
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  • Paperback

..on See reviews here.

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