Believe it or not, motivation comes from more than money

Apr 14, 2015 by Paul Ferdais

Getting 110 percent from your crew all the time rests on more than the monthly salary, charter tip or annual bonus. Move beyond money and watch your people give their best all the time.

Motivation in our work is dependent on the meaning we have for the things we do. If the work has no meaning for us, we won’t be sincerely motivated to give our best, no matter how much we’re paid.

If we work on a charter boat, often there are tips for the crew at the end of the trip. As a crew member, if I’m only focused on getting the money, I’ll give 110 percent until I have received the big payout. Once the money’s in my pocket, the motivating force for my effort stops and I go back to giving whatever I normally give, say 65 percent. My internal drive has been satisfied, so I can go back to putting in just enough effort to get by.

What’s a leader to do? Internal motivation isn’t something leaders can give to anyone else. Motivation is the drive we have as individuals to accomplish our tasks in the best possible way. What can be done to encourage your people to give their best more often, not just when there is a prize at the end?

Noted social scientist Daniel Pink suggests there are three elements to create the environment that develops personal drive: autonomy, mastery and purpose.


The first thing leaders can do to help develop drive in others is to let their people have as much autonomy as possible over their work. This means no micro-managing. If your team is micro-managed because you don’t trust them to complete a task, then you’ve either hired the wrong people or they haven’t been trained properly.

Autonomy includes letting your teammates decide what needs to be done and when. You’ve hired smart people and they should be trusted to come up with solutions at least as good as yours. Let your people be the drivers behind decisions and their commitment to the work will improve. Do everything in your power to build autonomy in your crew and you’ll soon notice their drive increase as well.


Encourage your crew to become experts at their tasks. Just remember, expertise takes months and years to achieve. Don’t expect perfection in the first few hours of learning a task.

Leaders can help with mastery through training and encouragement. Realize that crew members will become masters of different components within their roles at different stages. As people become more skillful, their satisfaction improves, which enhances their performance, which reinforces their satisfaction.

Be sure to give people tasks that are just right for their skill level for them to continually become better. If tasks are too easy or too hard, there will be no satisfaction from the activity, which can lower personal drive.

A component of mastery is understanding personal limitations. For example, a captain frustrated with accounting may be better served by hiring a crew member who is good at it. This will have a twofold effect for motivation. The new hire develops greater mastery of accounting, which builds internal drive. At the same time, the captain’s time is freed up to train others on the things the captain is good at. The captain isn’t frustrated and annoyed with the specific details of accounting, which may make him or her a better crew member for everyone else.


Leaders must create a sense of purpose for their team. Perhaps it’s delivering five-star, outstanding customer service. Perhaps it’s doing a task faster than the last time. Or even that the goal is to become the best possible team. Alternatively, reconnect each person with why they started working in the yachting industry in the first place, their sense of adventure, wonder or excitement that got them going. Remind them of that. It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane tasks once we have a job on a boat. One of the responsibilities of leadership is to remind the team why they are doing what they’re doing.

Focus on autonomy, mastery and purpose and you’ll see your crew members’ motivation and drive change for the betterment of your team and boat.

Paul Ferdais is founder and CEO of The Marine Leadership Group ( delivering leadership training workshops and coaching. He holds a master’s degree in leadership and spent years working his way up from deckhand, to first officer on yachts. Comments are welcome at