This edition of Professional Military Education (PME) discusses motivation and delves into motivation theory in relation to military motivation. This article, 'Carrots and Sticks', discusses intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and argues that Army relies too heavily on extrinsic reward. Take a read through it and be prepared to discuss the subject in a group setting.

Want More?

If you want to think more deeply about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation this article, 'Leadership Behaviour: A ‘Good Human’ Approach for Effective Leadership', looks at motivation in relation to leadership behaviour by discussing the motivation of followers, as a leader. As you read the article, think about the best leaders you have observed and the ways they motivated their subordinates.

'On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B' is a detailed analysis of when our reward systems can fail to generate the desired outcome. It’s a great article that dives into the difficult to accept reality that although we may have every intention of achieving a desired outcome, our reward systems may in fact be working against achieving that outcome.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think of some times that you have felt unmotivated. What were the key factors that led to your lack of motivation? Share your thoughts with others.
  2. Think of some times that you have felt highly motivated. What were the key factors that led to your motivation? Was it caused by your own internal thoughts, positive feedback from your leader, or a physical reward?
  3. Think of an example where you have seen a reward system generate an outcome that was not desired. What went wrong? What could have been changed to motivate people to achieve the desired outcome?
  4. Think of an example where you have seen a reward system work well to generate motivation. What made it so successful?
  5. Do you think commanders can lead without being able to motivate their subordinates? How much ‘Army Leadership’ is made up of command authority given through rank and how much is based on leadership style and approach?
  6. What are some of the strategies you have used to motivate your subordinates? Are they intrinsic or extrinsic? Do you think they are achieving the desired outcomes you want?
  7. Do you think our performance appraisal system generates motivation, or does it have the potential to de-motivate our people? How do we provide accurate and timely feedback without demotivating?
  8. Do you agree that Army over uses ‘reward and punishment’ reward systems?
  9. How can Army improve its use of reward systems to generate higher levels of engagement and motivation?
  10. How will you adjust the way you motivate your staff moving forward as a result of this PME? What can you do to be better at motivating those around you?

Other Activities

If you enjoyed this activity, why not try the other PMEs available on The Cove?

Want more material? For JNCOs to conduct with their soldiers, here is a link to our Quick Military Education resources. For Junior Officers here is a link to our Junior Officer PME sessions.

Concluding Comments

If you have suggestions for improvements – additional readings or reference material, alternative discussion points, new delivery methods – or just wish to provide feedback, please contact The Cove Team via

Here are the Facilitator Notes for this PME.