When you were a kid, what motivated you to do your chores? Did your parents dangle a carrot to make you take out the trash? Or use threats? Or were you just one of those kids who got your work done because you wanted to?

Psychologists now tell us what good parents and teachers have always known: Self-motivation is far more powerful than promised rewards or threats.

But how can you tap into team members' internal motivation to help produce better results at your meetings? For that matter, how do you learn what gets each person pumped up and ready to give his or her best effort?

What's in It for Them? There are two ways to approach internal motivation. The first is to uncover it. Smart facilitators often begin meetings by asking each person to state his or her reason for being there. We call this the "What's in it for you?" conversation.

Say the leader sets up the meeting by stating that the objective is to leave the room having made a decision about a certain issue. He or she would then go around the room and ask each attendee, "What's in it for you to get this nailed down today?" If an attendee gives an answer such as "So-and-so told me to attend," the leader would dig deeper, asking, for example, "And when you do what so-and-so asks, how does that serve you?" If the attendee answers something like, "I get to keep my job," the leader would press on until that individual recognized there really was a benefit to be obtained from participating.

The second way to tap into an individual's internal motivation is to inspire it. Recognition and praise are important tools for creating happy, productive, self-motivated children. This is also true in business. Managers whose specialty is picking their employees' work to pieces end up with demotivated employees on their staffs. The opposite is also true: Encouraging managers create confident, responsive employees.

Meetings as Rewards Company meetings are an excellent forum for public acknowledgment. While most firms acknowledge their top few performers at the annual meeting or incentive program, how many praise their people regularly at routine staff meetings? Consider creating awards for the most creative solution to a problem, or for taking "the bullet" for the rest of the staff, or for being the best team player.

Motivation keeps people going from day to day. It differs from inspiration, which is typically short-lived. While inspirational speakers can help to launch projects or add energy to major "pump 'em up" companywide meetings, motivation sustains people and keeps them focused and inspired.

Search for reasons to acknowledge your people frequently--and transform your routine staff meetings into special occasions to motivate your staff. When you start looking for things to appreciate about people, it's amazing what you will find.

1. Remember: Self-motivation is more powerful than promised rewards or threats--Find out what motivates your employees and tap into that.

2. Use your staff meetings as a forum for public acknowledgement--Create awards for accomplishments that often go unrecognized, such as "making the team look good to a customer" or "hanging in there when most people would have given up."

3. Search for reasons to acknowledge people frequently--Create self-motivated employees with the same tools you would use to raise confident kids: recognition and praise.