Great Speakers: How Daniel Pink Inspires High Performance in the Workplace


Inspirational speakers motivate an audience to change their beliefs and behaviors. Daniel Pink is inspirational because he knows how to fire up an audience to improve their workplace performance. He is an expert in the workplace, having written five books on business and management, including Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In Drive, Pink divulges some valuable advice on how you can inspire your team and get them on board with your business objectives. The key is moving away from the traditional, fear-based approach to management and using a strategy that emphasizes internal motivation. He brings to life the ethos of Drive in his presentations.

Inspiration Is Intrinsic

Pink’s talks center on the notion that motivation is an intrinsic human quality: traditional models of inspiration focusing on extrinsic factors aren’t as effective in motivating your team. By “extrinsic,” Pink is referring to the old approach of balancing reward and fear of punishment as a way to get your employees to strive toward business objectives. A company owner or manager who holds the keys to their success, by means of money or other financial incentive, is motivating via extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic motivation focuses on encouraging your team to look inward for inspiration. According to Pink’s theory, intrinsic factors can be divided into three categories: autonomy, mastery and purpose. He does an outstanding job articulating these points:

  1. Motivation Through Autonomy: this aspect of intrinsic motivation derives from the human desire to have control over the fruits of your labor. Managers who appeal to their team’s sense of autonomy engender a sense of control – and not just over their work. An employee who feels truly autonomous also has the power over their own lives and destiny, which contributes to higher levels of employee satisfaction.
  1. Becoming a Master: human beings want to achieve higher levels of performance and get better at what they do. Encouragement to do more, be more productive, and more efficient, will result in employees seeing themselves as masters at their tasks. Not only are they more motivated to continue reaching higher, but they’re also inspired to help other members of the team become masters.
  1. High Performance Is Purposeful: deep down, your team wants to be a part of something that transcends their individual contribution. They want to have a hand in creating something that’s bigger than they are and have a reason to be engaged in projects.

His ideas are thoughtful. But the second major reason he is a compelling speaker is that he knows how to deliver those ideas. For instance, in the following recording of a presentation he delivered in London, notice how within the first few minutes he engages the audience. He starts his talk with a question (“Has anyone here not eaten dinner?”) and then shares a ham and cheese sandwich with a member of the audience. Then he invites an audience member to come up on stage, and promises him 10 pounds if he will hold a copy of Drive for 30 seconds for the cameras streaming the presentation. After the audience member fulfills his end of the agreement, Pink gives him 10 pounds.

The moments are not just attention-grabbing devices; he’s making the point that we are all motivated by rewards such as satisfying hunger and earning money.

“We respond exquisitely to rewards and punishment in our environment,” he asserts. “Typically if you reward something you get more of the behavior.” He elaborates that we are fulfilled by drives more complicated than hunger and making money, though; we are complex creatures who are motivated by doing interesting things, by contributing to a larger purpose, and to be entertained. He then segues into the ideas he advocates in Drive.

Through his engaging style, Pink delivers a wealth of more great advice on how you can inspire high performance in the workplace. You can keep in mind these tips on motivation, mastery and purpose to encourage your team to go the distance in helping you accomplish your company’s goals.

Image source: TED Talks

We Love Live. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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