Using Inspiration as a Management Approach

Many managers still assume they can “drive” employee performance using external motivators.

We all need to feel inspired and engaged to do our jobs well. Yet according to research from CEB, now Gartner, only 16% of employees are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, including finding ways of performing their job more efficiently. This means a large majority of workers don’t bring their full energy, creativity and passion to their work.

Organizations facing digital disruption need to harness the energy and commitment of their workforce to succeed. However, it can be hard to get employees to give their best in terms of performance, creativity and resilience, especially in times of change.

Elise Olding, research vice president at Gartner, says many managers assume they can “drive” employee performance by focusing on a combination of incentives that reward people for hard work and correct behavior, and punishment for lack of performance and unwanted behaviors.

Passion is a driving force that motivates people to achieve great work.

“In this view, people work only because they get rewarded, and stay honest and trustworthy because they get punished when they don’t,” Olding says. “Most management approaches fail to tap into the passions, ambitions and interests of employees that can spur them to do great work.”

Ignoring these motivators causes lasting disengagement and measurably reduces employee performance.

From push to passion

An alternative approach is to encourage employees to consciously choose their actions to get the highest sense of meaning and purpose from their work. Passion is a driving force that motivates people to achieve great work.

“A purpose-centric approach motivates employees to look for work that inspires and engages, rather than for work that just pays well,” Olding says. “They also stay honest and trustworthy because of the sense of satisfaction and well-being this gives them.”

Culture in Action
The role of leaders in making the culture perform
Download the free e-book

Instead of trying to coax or coerce employees, help them understand the significance of the work they’re doing. Create an environment that supports them in doing that work to the best of their abilities and encourage them to keep learning and growing.

Olding advises leaders to focus on four factors to gain commitment from employees to help reinvent the business.

  1. Change your mindset from “push” to “passion”. Change how you manage employees by challenging and changing what you believe about people and their motivation to work.
  2. Move from “incentives” to “purpose”. Inspire employees by helping them understand the purpose of their work in relation to the larger purpose of their team, division and organization.
  3. Progress from “control” to “autonomy”. Empower employees by encouraging them to organize their own workflow and priorities within the boundaries of agreed upon mission, outcomes and deadlines.
  4. Advance from “routine” to “mastery”. Develop employees by giving them challenges and stretch goals that encourage them to keep learning and growing.


Gartner clients can read more in “From Push to Passion: Using Inspiration as a Management Approach” By Elise Olding.

Get Smarter

Gartner CIO Leadership Events

Learn more about CIO leadership and how to lead your enterprise through its digital journey

Explore Gartner Events

Cybersecurity and Digital Risk Management: CIOs Must Engage and Prepare

The failure to manage your digital risks is likely to sabotage your digital business and expose your organization to potential impacts...

Read Free Research

Digital Leadership: 3 Hidden Powers CIOs Need to Drive Change

As CIOs become increasingly involved in key business decisions, they need to hone their power to motivate, persuade and inspire. However,...

Start Watching