top of page

Tapping into the Three Sources of Motivation

You can exponentially improve employee engagement by sharing the big picture, and helping each team member to understand their vital role in bringing it to light. You can similarly improve your own engagement as well. Consider the classic story below.

Three bricklayers worked on a project. All received the same pay. All had the same responsibility. All toiled in the same hot sun. Yet each had a very different experience, and differing levels of motivation and satisfaction. When asked what they were doing, each had a unique answer.

The first bricklayer said, “What does it look like I'm doing? I’m laying bricks.”

The second bricklayer responded, “I’m building a wall. I pride myself on my alignment and craftsmanship.”

The third bricklayer stated, “I’m building a magnificent cathedral, one that will be internationally renowned and draw admiring visitors the world over.“

The three masons understood their roles as a job, a craft, and a contribution respectively — with growing levels of fulfillment. Each represents the three distinct sources of motivation, which present opportunities to each of us as individuals, and as leaders.

There are three distinct sources of motivation; extrinsic (head), intrinsic (heart), and transcendent (soul).

The first two sources of motivation are familiar to most of us. First is extrinsic motivation, or motivation from the outside (compensation, benefits, retirement, etc.). I like to call this the motivation of the head. It’s logical. It pays the bills. It can feed our egos, but only so far.

The second source is intrinsic motivation — or tapping into what drives each of us individually. I like to call this the motivation of the heart. Intrinsic motivation compels us to contribute because it ties into that which makes us feel confident and strong.

Most all of us share a common purpose: to serve others. This is the source of the third, and most powerful inspirational driver: transcendent motivation (what I like to call the motivation of the soul.) Transcendent motivation taps not only into our desire to contribute individually, but also to our desire to be a part of something larger and greater than our individual selves; to think beyond our personal goals and dream big. Leaders who employ transcendent motivation engage associates in a purpose and calling that inspires action.

Start and end with purpose to drive higher levels of motivation to engage your team

To what extent do your associates understand the meaningfulness of their roles and contributions? To what extent do you? How have or could you create and inspire more transcendent motivation in your organization?

And if the answers aren't forthcoming, GCS can help.

About the Author:

Neil Goldman, Ed.D. is President/CEO of Goldman Consulting & Strategy (GCS), Inc., focusing on organizational development/research, speaking, and planning services. He can be reached at (310) 968-2007 or by email at

39 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page