“Two-thirds of American workers are either watching the clock, doing the bare minimum to get a paycheck, or worse, actively working against their employer,” according to a Gallup article by behavioral scientist Jim Harter, Ph.D., and Gallup Managing Partner Vipula Gandhi, on June 15, 2021.

The performance of your bank relies on the performance of your bank’s people. If you want high performance, your bank’s people must be engaged. And to be engaged, they must be intrinsically motivated.

Compensation is essential, but it’s not enough. Compensation satisfies lower-level needs (food, clothing, housing, transportation, safety, and security). And well-designed performance compensation is a suitable surrogate for recognition and appreciation. But no one is motivated to do their best work by money – good work, yes, but not their best work. Compensation, policies, procedures, and commands from the boss are extrinsic motivators. They yield compliance, not greatness.

So here are a few things that intrinsically motivate your bank’s people (and you, by the way):

Recognition & Respect – to be seen and heard, to be taken seriously, to be appreciated

Belonging & Camaraderie – to be accepted by a group and to accept the values of a group

Meaningful Contribution – to make a consequential impact on a group or cause you value

Curiosity – to be compelled to learn more about a particular thing

Autonomy & Creativity – to apply your unique innovation or ingenuity to a task

Confidence – to hold an expectation that a chosen action will yield a good result

Best Possible Self – to craft a vision of who you can become and use it as a role model

And there is another very powerful intrinsic motivator: Competition.

Competition is kind of a meta-motivator because it is more of a vehicle for realizing the intrinsic motivators above than a motivator in and of itself. And, of course, competition has a dark side.

In the 90’s, I worked with a guy whose previous job had been as a lumberjack. Yes, he literally cut down huge trees with a chainsaw for a living. He explained how powerful a chainsaw is for cutting trees but how quickly that power can maim or kill you. He said the danger is in complacency – losing focus, even for a moment – but also in hyper-focus. He said the sound and the feel of the saw, running fast in your hands, is intoxicating. It’s exhilarating in a way that makes you want to go faster and faster, with less and less attention to safety. The risk is not only that a wrong move could bring the blade into contact with your body but also that a miscalculation could cause a thousand pounds of tree to crush you. A chainsaw is a metaphor for competition. It is powerful, but it requires unceasing vigilance.

If you want the best out of your people and the best for your people, build healthy intrinsic motivation into the culture and into your own way of leading. 


Engaged Banker eXperience delivers these and many other strategies, from behavioral science, to all of your bank’s employees, in bite-sized bits, in every learning style, using spaced repetition and synchronous communication. In other words, in a way every person can easily absorb and immediately apply, to their individual success and to the success of your bank.