Why Drive by Dan Pink matters for Remote Working

I’ve been recommending Drive by Daniel Pink to people for years and in particular the mantra of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose – something I believe all Remote Workers need to possess to be successful! It’s one of my all time favourite books and in the context of Remote Working more important than ever. Drive is a scientific exploration of the power of intrinsic motivation in our professional lives and why carrot-and-stick incentives are hurting our companies.

This book is also relevant because for most managers who manage remote workers, trust can be a concern.

How do I know if my employees are working? Is this my employee’s best work?

You think your employees need a manager to keep them motivated and productive; otherwise they’ll just collect a free salary at the end of every month. But would you feel any hesitation about their performance if their work was something like eating a bowl of ice cream or playing with a litter of puppies? Of course not. The task is so appealing that the employee would willingly complete the job with joy and fulfillment as the motivator.

The work that needs to be done in a company can’t always be fun and carefree, but implementing strategies of intrinsic motivation can help managers provide more autonomy to their staff because they know that joy and fulfillment are preventing distraction and inefficiency. We believe that strengthening the intrinsic motivation of your team members will reduce the temptation to micromanage and increase the performance of your staff.  

Important Bullet Points:

  • The three elements of true motivation are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
  • Enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation, namely how creative a person feels when working on the project, is the strongest and most pervasive driver.
  • Expected rewards kill motivation and creativity.
  • Our goal should be for the reward to become the activity itself.
  • Not all extrinsic motivators are bad. They can be effective for tactile, routine tasks, but should not be provided in an “if-then” scenario.
  • Humans want autonomy over task, time, team, and technique, regardless of the responsibility.
  • Mastery (continuous improvement) requires long-term dedication, hard work, and a mindset that perfection is not attainable.
  • Purpose-based goals must replace or cooperate with profit-based goals.

Action Items for Managers:

  1. Offer unexpected, non-monetary rewards that focus on purpose and fulfillment.
  2. Only use extrinsic rewards to narrow focus and push toward a short-term goal.
  3. Provide fair and adequate compensation to all employees and contractors.
  4. When possible, avoid deadlines.
  5. Encourage self-started projects.
  6. Give employees a voice in their goal setting by writing collaborative job descriptions.
  7. In addition to public encouragement, provide specific feedback and praise privately.
  8. To increase productivity, encourage work-life balance.

To quote Mr. Pink, “The secret to high performance is…our deep seeded desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities, and to live a life of purpose.”

Because of that profound principle, Drive should be on the reading list of all Managers, not only for application as remote managers, but for any type of leadership: self-management, education, and even parenting!