In 4 Words, Google CEO Sundar Pichai Just Gave The Best Advice On How To Lead

Parents, imagine this: your child has just taken a test that he is studying for. Do you usually wait for good test results before releasing them for ice cream?

Leaders, imagine this: An employee has worked long hours on a report. Do you usually wait to see its final quality before acknowledging their effort?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may need to rethink your strategy.


In a Stanford commencement speech, Sundar Pichai said 4 words that sum up years of research on the psychology of human motivation: “Reward effort, not results. »

What he exploits here is the creation of sources of intrinsic motivation. It means motivating people to do something because they really like it, enjoy the challenge, or find it interesting. Instead of looking for a reward (or avoiding a punishment).

In other words, making the results a bit irrelevant.

This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, what does it get you? What you really want is that good test score, or that great report, right?

Think again. In fact, science supports the intrinsic path. Here’s why you should too. Your employees and your children will thank you for it.

Your employees (and your children) will procrastinate less

It’s fine to preach a results-based ethic – until you actually have to live it.

Being results-oriented is a form of extrinsic motivation. This means that the motivation behind your behavior is either the pursuit of a specific external reward (higher salary, social weight) or the avoidance of a specific external punishment (getting fired).

It turns out that this orientation is terrible for long-term productivity.

The external thresholds against which we measure our worth are usually dictated by the environments in which we find ourselves. So when we become so focused on the goal and the precise steps needed to achieve it, we can fall into the trap of socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP).

These are all unpleasant feelings. And what do we do to avoid them? We procrastinate.

Your employees (and your children) will think outside the box

When the effort, not the result, is rewarded, we are more likely to take risks.

This is how innovation was born.

Why? When our performance isn’t judged by its “destination,” we feel more confident pushing and pulling the “journey” and contorting it into something unique and unplanned. In fact research shows that intrinsic motivation has a positive effect on creative and innovative performance.

This is because when we are intrinsically motivated, we feel a sense of belonging to our work, we connect deeply to its metaphysical meaning, we refresh relevant skills that will make us more competent, and we feel confident in the story. that we defend.

It’s no wonder, then, that by rewarding effort, not results, Google was one of the very first companies to go completely carbon neutral (2007) long before sustainable practices hit the mainstream. dominant.

Your employees (and your children) will be motivated – and will stay motivated

When we are motivated by external rewards, life becomes an equation: put in X work, get Y reward. The problem with this is that it can circumvent the need for introspection. And this is where the magic happens.

Focusing on what really motivates us in what we do – how emotionally invested we are in it, how interested we are in it, how it contributes to who we want to become – is a never-ending well, and so is a more lasting type of motivation.

And the proof is in the pudding. For example research shows that students who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to try harder. All of this translates into better long-term performance.

Not only that, but being intrinsically motivated also means we’re powered by short-term, skill-relevant goals.

So on the one hand we are not disengaged from a goal that is too far in the future, and on the other hand we are not stuck in a ‘hare and turtle’ situation where we are disinterested in goals that are too attainable .

This is an ideal point of motivation. It’s where you find your employees, your teams and, yes, your kids, who are happy, healthy, productive and full.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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