When we feel inspired, we turn on our motivational switch. We engage. We want to learn and do more. We care more deeply. We impact others. We are connected. We feel energized! And this inspires us to do even more.

Motivated team members understand how to turn on their motivational switch.

They understand that no one else can motivate them; they must do that for themselves. They have chosen to play “all in.”

The things we love bring us joy, and we generally do them well. That is why we are driven to find what we love and value in our work. We align it with our own joy.

We asked hundreds of highly motivated and not-so-motivated people what motivates them. Here are their responses:

Motivations: 23% Making a Difference, 21% Accomplishment, 15% Feeling Valued, 11% Team Energy, 10% Meaningful Contribution, 4% Challenge, 4% Environment, 4% Creativity, 3% Distraction-Free thinking Time, 3% Passion, 3% Results

After sorting through all that data, one thing became clear:

We are all motivated differently, and our motivations change with time and priorities.

Some of us are motivated by the desire to make a difference in other people’s lives, while others are motivated by pride or a desire to outperform the competition. Regardless of what turns on our motivational switch, what is most important is knowing how to do it.

Trying to motivate another person is an impossible, never-ending task, so in order to inspire and ignite, leaders need to understand the motivation behind their goals and those of their team as well as how their work and their team’s work contribute to the vision of the company.

Inspiring leaders who help people connect the dots between what they do and the “why” help them turn on their motivational switch, regardless of their work product.

Highly competent people make a leader’s life undemanding. When their people are competent, it becomes easy for leaders – and customers – to recognize them. This acknowledgment of their performance encourages an even higher level of performance, which activates their pride. As pride grows, it turns on their motivational switch.

Leaders must be intentional in their approach to understanding what motivates each team member and then leading with connection and inspiration. Understanding their own motivations – and those of the people around them – helps leaders take action and sustain it. One thing our motivational switch research made clear was that, more often than not, people are motivated by making a difference in another person’s life. Conversely, most leaders thought their team members were motivated when they felt valued. They did not realize that their people were driven by making a difference in another person’s life!

Myth: “I’m motivated when I make a difference, and my team is motivated when I am making them feel valued.”

Understanding what motivates people is as simple as asking. When leaders ask, they are often surprised. What they think may motivate an individual could be far from what the truth.

After understanding individual team member’s motivations and helping them connect those motivations with their jobs, leaders must align individual and team goals with the motivations of their people. If not everyone is in alignment, the team will likely be unhappy. Many of the people polled in the motivational switch research were motivated by the desire to help another person and touch lives. This reason is probably why the strongest teams are those with high trust: They have each other’s backs. This makes sense if you look at many of the team-building exercises used today; the successful programs are those that rely on teamwork and discourage working in a vacuum.

Think of your best leaders. They saw your potential and pushed you toward it.

Even if you disliked it at the time, it was a gift that made a difference in your life. Make your team one of the lucky ones. Be the leader who cares about them and their growth. Be intentional in your approach. Develop a mindset of inspiration, discipline and engagement. Create an environment that pushes them to think and play differently.

Good leaders know that pushing people out of their comfort zones is the only way to help them reach their potential and truly shine. They know that progress does not happen inside the status quo – for individuals or for teams. Leaders must build a platform that engages people so they find the courage to venture out and stretch. Be that leader.