If you woke up one day with an infinite amount of motivation and energy, how would you feel? I’d guess the answer to this question for many people would be a pretty positive one.

Motivation and energy levels play a crucial role in how engaged we are in our work. Understanding how to coach our teams around these areas can help to build and sustain team engagement.

There is research that shows the positive correlation between motivation and engagement. So it is no surprise that we tend to think that with more motivation and energy, employees are likely to be more engaged.

However, it is not that simple. Furthermore, not all forms of motivation and energy can lead to long-term engagement!

Let’s take a look at motivation and energy more closely and what we can do as leaders to increase team engagement.

Understanding Motivation

At its most basic level, many of us know that there are two types of motivation — intrinsic, as well as, extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is often defined as the drive that comes from within us. On the contrary, extrinsic motivation is the drive that comes from a source outside of ourselves.

If we think in the context of long-term engagement and sustaining joy in the work that we do, not all forms of motivation are equal. In fact, there is research that links extrinsic motivation with burnout and turnover intention.

In summary, what this is telling us is that intrinsic motivation plays a role in decreasing burnout and turnover. Furthermore, it is important to help our employees connect with their intrinsic motivation to build and sustain healthy and engaged teams.

Understanding Energy

In recent years, there have been more talk about the concept of energy and how that plays a role in our lives. As Albert Einstein has concluded, everything is energy — every tangible and intangible thing.

So how does energy play a role in team engagement? Similar to the concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, not all energy are equal.

The Institute of Professional Coaching (iPEC) talks about energy in terms of the two processes that the body uses to generate energy — catabolism and anabolism.

To define this simply, catabolism is the process used to generate energy to counteract a negative stressor. So catabolic energy is draining and resisting energy. Some emotions associated with catabolic energy are anger, frustration, boredom, etc.

However, it is important to not view catabolic energy as a negative form of energy — it serves its purpose, depending on the goals and objectives that you have. (For example, anger is an emotion that can sometimes drive us to take more action towards our goals.)

On the other hand, anabolism is the process by which the body builds itself up and grows. In that sense, anabolic energy is constructive and expanding. Some emotions associated with anabolic energy are joy, passion, fulfillment, etc.

It is also important to note that anabolic energy is not always positive. Again, it depends on your goals and objectives.

Although both catabolic and anabolic energy serve a purpose in our lives, if we think about the type of energy that helps sustain our work engagement, we would probably want to focus more on anabolic energy in most situations.

Coaching to Build Team Engagement

So how can leaders cultivate more intrinsic motivation and anabolic energy to build long-term engagement (for themselves and their teams)?

Here are a few questions to help you and your team make that connection.

  • How would you describe a situation where you are “in flow”?
  • What specifically were you doing that felt good to you?
  • Why did you enjoy the activity?
  • How important is it to you to enjoy your work?
  • How can you incorporate more of these elements into <insert specific project>?

To learn more about how you can play more of a coach role as a leader, check out my post on “Cultivate a Coaching Culture: Skills and Competencies of a Coach.”

Building Engagement Takes Time

We don’t always wake up feeling anabolic energy or connected to our intrinsic motivations, especially during times of stress. However, as leaders, we can help our teams connect more with their intrinsic motivations and raise the overall anabolic energy of the team over time.

As a leader, how do you sustain team motivation and energy?

Understanding Motivation and Energy to Build Team Engagement