Motivating your people

LET’S begin by demystifying motivation in relation to behavioral science. I know, from 20 years as a development professional, some people find motivation to be fluff without substance. So, think about associating the concept of motivation as ‘drive’ towards any purpose: if your fridge is empty you’ll likely drive to a store to stock up produce or groceries. Everyone has drive towards purpose. And generally speaking we can put intrinsic motivation initially into three categories.

Chemical or biological — If you’re hungry you’re going to eat

External — Being motivated by reward, recognition or punishment

Intrinsic — Self-realisation, autonomy, mastery, and purpose

As a leader, the two you can focus on are the external and intrinsic, with the latter being the more powerful. After all, which goals are you passionately driven to achieve: the ones someone else decides or tells you to do, or the ones you’ve discovered and set yourself?

So now lets dive into better understanding intrinsic motivators. Imagine for a moment if you were to independently ask all individuals in your team an ideal travel destination. Chances are you’ll get a variety of answers, with possibly no two the same. What you would get, though, would be patterns: Rome and Venice are different destinations yet they fall under Italy and the broader umbrella of Europe.

A key secret to therefore motivating your team is to learn that intrinsic motivators also still fall under similar ‘umbrellas’. And, like the continents, six categories, based on the Workplace Motivators tool:

Knowledge — Love to learn, including new skills and personal development

Utility — Best use of resources, including maximizing ROI, money and time

Social — Driven to help or support others, professionally or philanthropically

Individualistic — Devising and implementing a personal winning strategy

Aesthetic – New experiences and adventures, (including travel!)

Traditional — Living by a set of values and principles

Once you learn to discover the truest, intrinsic motivators of your people you can then tailor or adapt external rewards and recognition (or even general language, positioning or context of any messages) to appeal to their driving ‘why’.

In business, I find a common mistake leaders frequently make is assuming the same motivator for everyone: In sales environments that misnomer frequently being associated with money, or ‘Utility’, as the primary motivation.

The final point to consider with motivation is that, again, like a favourite or preferred travel destination, primary motivators may change over periods of time so be sure to regularly check in.

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