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The Four Factors of Motivation

By: Brian Tracy

There are four factors that exist in every organization and determine the levels of motivation of the staff, whether positive or negative. Fortunately, each of these ingredients can be changed in a positive way—usually when a  manager or supervisor replaces a leader whose management style has not been conducive to bringing out the very best in each person.

The Basics: What Are the Four Factors of Motivation

Let’s begin with the four factors that are the basics of motivating anyone, in any organization. These four factors are (1) leadership style, (2) the reward system, (3) the organizational climate, and (4) the structure of the work.

Leadership style.  This is a key factor in determining how people feel about the company and how motivated they are. Very often, just changing the leader changes the psychological climate of the company and, in turn, the whole performance of people in the organization.

The appropriate leadership style depends on the goals and objectives of the organization, the people within the company, and the external environment. Your leadership style should be one that focuses on the long-term success of your company, as described by Dr. William Schulz III in his article “Leadership for Long-Term Success”

In a SWAT team or a fire department, the appropriate style would be more directed and dictatorial, with the person in charge telling people what to do quickly with little concern for personal sensitivities. This style can also be found among entrepreneurial organizations, many of which are struggling for their very survival. In most cases, however, traditional to-down leadership style is no longer acceptable in today’s breed of employees, who expect to be able to speak out, be heard, and have a clear influence on how they do the work.

Different strokes for different folks. A second leadership style is collegial, where one person may be in charge of a department but functions at the same level and with the same knowledge and skill as his co-workers. In this type of organization, people are respected for their knowledge, skill, and ability to do the job.

Other leadership styles that have been identified are telling, selling, persuading, and participating. Each of these styles is appropriate depending on whether the employee is new or experienced, and whether there is ample time or urgency in completing the task. Sometimes, the manager is required to use different leadership styles for different people under differing circumstances. Want to determine your leadership style? Take our AMA skills assessment to find out.

The Reward system. Every organization is characterized by a particular type of reward structure, often differing from person to person and from department to department.

As author Michael LeBoeuf says in his book, The Greatest Management Principle in the World, “What gets rewarded gets done.” If you want more of something in an organization, simply increase greater rewards for that behavior. If you want less of an activity in an organization, simply reduce the rewards, or increase the punishment or disapproval for that behavior. People respond to incentives.

It is quite common for companies to identify their most profitable products and services, and then increase the percentage of commission that salespeople will receive for selling those specific products and services, while maintaining lower commissions for less profitable items. Salespeople, and managers for that matter, respond very quickly to increased or decreased financial rewards for specific behaviors or for achieving specific goals.

Organizational climate. Is your company a “great place to work”? The organizational climate is deliberately created and maintained by management. It largely consists of the way that people treat each other up and down the line. It starts at the top, with leaders who inspire and set the tone for the rest of the organization.

When Thomas J. Watson, Sr., started IBM, he laid out the three core values of the company. These values—excellent products and services, excellent customer service, and respect for the individual—would determine the future of IBM, eventually making it the biggest and most respected computer company in the world.

The principle of “respect for the individual” was adamantly enforced at every level of the organization, both nationally and internationally. You could make almost any mistake at all at IBM, except one. You could not disrespect, demean, or insult another person, either inside or outside of the organization. Treating people badly, especially people under your authority, was grounds for dismissal, no matter how long you had been with the company.


As a result of this element of organizational climate, not only did people compete vigorously to get into IBM in the first place, but once there they were some of the happiest, most productive, and creative people in any company in any industry.

The structure of the work. Some work is inherently motivational, requiring creativity, imagination, and high levels of energy. Work that involves communicating, negotiating, and interacting with other people in order to gain their cooperation to get the job done quickly and well brings out the best energies of the individual. It is exciting and challenging. It is usually highly rewarding as well.

However, an enormous amount of work must be standardized, routinized, and made relatively unexciting in order to be done efficiently and cost effectively. It is hard to motivate factory workers who work on a production line all day and whose activities are carefully monitored and regulated to ensure maximum levels of productivity.

Good organizations are always trying to structure the work so as to match the nature of the work with the nature of the employee and to make the work as interesting and enjoyable as possible.

The Leader Can Make an Immediate Difference

The reward structure, the organizational climate, and the structure of the work can be changed, but usually slowly; everything must be thought through carefully and in detail. The leadership style of an organization, however, is the one factor that can be changed quickly, and this change can make a major difference almost overnight.

There is a story of a factory whose managers were highly political and more concerned with their own rewards and privileges than they were with the morale of the workers. The factory was demoralized suffering low levels of productivity and high levels of defects, and it was on the verge of being shut down by the head office.

Instead of shutting the factory down, the head office sent in a new general manager, replacing the existing management completely. On his first day on the job, the general manager was waiting when the first shift of workers arrived that morning, parking their cars out in the unpaved parking lot and walking through the mud to the factory entrance.

When the entire shift had gathered, the new manager introduced himself, and then in front of everybody, walked over to the reserved parking spaces lined up next to the main entrance, where the executives were accustomed to parking when they arrived at work. An assistant gave him a bucket of paint, and the new manager walked along the wall, painting out the names of the executives for whom the parking spaces had been reserved. “From now on, whoever gets here first gets the best parking space,” he told the workers.

Within six months, that factory was producing at the highest level in its history, and it was one of the most productive and profitable factory operations in the entire national organization. One highly motivational leader with a clear, exciting vision for the organization can become a motivational force for change and transformation, even when everything else is unchanged.

With the proper training, you can develop the qualities of a good leader, view our variety of leadership trainings and courses.
Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from Motivation by Brian Tracy. Copyright 2013, Brian Tracy. Published by AMACOM. For more information, visit amacombooks.org

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About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy is the Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. One of the top business speakers and authorities in the world today, he has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 5,000,000 people in 5,000 talks and seminars throughout the United States and more than 60 countries worldwide. He has written 65 books and produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on management, motivation, and personal success.