As managers, we must maintain awareness of our personal motivation schemes and take care to not assume we understand the motivations of others. We often refer to change-management models to guide actions for our teams, but these can provide an incomplete understanding of the work required, as we often neglect the importance of individual motivation management.
Motivations are the internal drivers that each of us possess: the forces that move us forward toward a goal. These drives include autonomy, achievement, relationships, balance and comfort, security, and power and influence. Few of us will identify only one of these in our personal motivation profiles, though we likely prioritize some over others.
Our views of the world are shaped in part by the lens of these motivations. Personally, I am primarily motivated by achievement and the drive to accomplish significant goals. When I hear my leadership talk about a challenging, clearly defined objective with measurable results, I am brimming with excitement and eager to rally my teammates to the cause. It’s the thrill of the climb and the fulfillment of reaching the summit!
Therefore, as a leader, I tend to highlight the significance of the objective, focusing on the complexity of the challenge. While that approach may appeal to some people on my teams, for others, it’s not always effective. This is because it doesn’t take into consideration their particular motivations. Conversely, when I take the time to identify and empathize with the motivations of my teammates, we get some pretty great results. By valuing their unique experiences and perspectives, everyone is a part of the solution and actively engaged. This, in turn, maximizes their contributions to the task at hand, enables me to develop more meaningful relationships and builds trust for all.
For instance, if I were to collaborate with someone who was more motivated by security, I might want to provide concrete goals and structured action steps, use a steady approach, frequently discuss progress, and provide regular feedback and encouragement. These actions would help that individual handle the pace of change, circumvent the urge to default to the previous ways of doing things and feel more prepared for the future.
Motivation profiles also cause tension. While my primary motivation is achievement, I also enjoy strong relationships, working autonomously and creatively, maintaining a good work-life balance, and being a formal leader in various efforts. In other words, motivations can oppose and conflict with one another. Those of us who are inspired by achievement may struggle to maintain work-life balance. For others, the drive for power and influence may get in the way of building relationships. And being motivated by autonomy and creativity may cause a struggle with regards to security and stability.
If the role of a manager is to bring out the best in the team, minimizing tensions may be every bit as important as the appeal to primary motivations. So, if a team member is experiencing tension created by a strong achievement motivation and a need for balance, his or her manager may help simplify and prioritize work efforts to avoid overextending or ensure that this person is taking adequate time off work for recovery and recharging.
Keep in mind also that motivation profiles often evolve. As with other facets in our lives, time and experience influence our priorities and drive. Individual circumstances also may shift, thereby altering motivations and potentially creating new tensions. For example, people with a strong motivation for achievement may struggle to reconcile that drive to excel when they get married, have their first child or undergo another life-changing event.
None of us can be neatly categorized to have all our actions explained by a series of conditions or attributes. Therefore, we managers must constantly think about motivation management for our teams. It is one of the many facets of our professional lives that make our work rewarding — and achieving this versatility makes us better.
Michael Morand, CFPIM, CSCP, CLTD, is senior manager, supply chain at Johnson & Johnson and a DBA candidate at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.