Why You’re Arguing With Your Colleagues, and What To Do About It


The “workplace” is often fraught with unspoken, or sometimes very loudly spoken, tension. It’s rare – and precious – that one finds a cohesive team environment, with good leadership, that is at once productive and fun to be in. Most businesses operate under the assumption that “people are professionals and we hire professional people”, therefore there’s no problem: people will get on with it. But the fact remains that the lived experience of the majority of employees is precisely the opposite of this. We find certain people are unbearable to work with, and we don’t understand the causes, we just feel it; this friction causes untold problems for the operational efficiency and creativity.




Well, a simplistic answer might be that we, as human mammals, are social and emotional creatures. Therefore, it’s inevitable that in large groups, there will be conflicts and disagreements between different “factions”. However, this is partly missing the point. It’s not what we all share that causes these conflicts. Nor is it what makes us different externally – except in the case of extremely prejudiced outliers. No, more often than not, it is something deeper and more internal that causes these rifts, something that is rarely truthfully acknowledged at the workplace: our motivations.


When I say motivation, I am not referring to “ra ra” motivation: pep talks, quarterly financial goals, quirky bonus packages. I am referring to a deeper constructed value system that we all possess, but often don’t know even ourselves. It has been my “mission from God”, to quote the Blues Brothers, over the last 13 years to measure and accurately quantify these internal motivators. The results have been startling, and one of the best outcomes of discovering these internal drivers, is the resolution of workplace tensions and conflicts.




Let me start by laying out the basics. There are nine motivators within each of us. Each of them sits above the level of survival. In other words, once we get beyond food, shelter, warmth, water, etc, we begin to move on to these nine “secondary” motivators. But of course, to call them “secondary” is to undermine their power. These motivators are extremely powerful, and trying to go against them can have disastrous impact on our mental health and wellbeing, our energy levels, and our self esteem. But more on that later.


I should point out very clearly that this is not a psychometric system. You are not x motivator or y motivator, fixed, forever. Your motivators change over time as you grow and develop. In addition, we all have all nine motivators, but we simply have them in a priority order. For example, my number one motivator is Creator. It’s not my only motivator, but it’s my most powerful and tends to trump the others. Therefore, it’s often my most important, motivator. What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t just mean that I like to create things (most people could probably tell that about me anyway). It also means that I (a) am risk-friendly (b) am future-orientated & (c) results, not efficiency, driven (d) that I prioritise personal growth over achievements or even relationships. Now, these are not hard and fast rules, because as I said, a profile is made up of the nine motivators in order, and these can produce incredible combinations that actually reflect the nuance and complexity of the human interior. However, even this surface level single-motivator insight gives us a pretty strong idea of what drives me and how to make me happy. You see, understanding your motivators, whatreally drives you, provides a shared language to talk about our desires and wants in a work-appropriate way.


So, returning to the concept of conflict-resolution… how does this help? Well, when we understand the motivators more clearly, we not only understand ourselves better, but we understand other people and their motivations. Certain motivators are opposed, or seemingly so. For example, the Defender motivator values security and regularity. They are risk-averse. They are past orientated. They prioritise relationships over everything else. And they are efficiency over results, process over productivity. The Defender naturally conflicts with the Creator’s desire to change things and take risks to develop new ideas or methodologies. However, when both parties are aware of the motivations of the other, it leads to the first step in the process of breaking down these barriers. It also gives people a non-personal, non-accusatory language to speak about their differences. For example: The Creator might be very frustrated that the Defender is always squashing / throwing out their ideas. However, if the Creator knows that person is a Defender, they can approach them in a different way: “Hey, I know that we need to be careful and not take too many risks, but if this idea works, it could actually yield us more financial security.” Or, the other way around, the Defender could approach the Creator: “Hey, I know that you’re a really creative person, but right now, the R&D budget is getting tighter and tighter, so maybe we should explore some options together that we know will get approved before committing to further development?”


This is only the beginning, the “tip of the iceberg” as it were. But it shows clearly that conflicts in the workplace are almost never about the decisions or situations themselves, they are about the underlying value system that is derived from our motivation. When our key motivators are blocked, we can become very de-motivated and unhappy very quickly. If we are Creator motivators working in an accountancy firm, for example, that will be a very tough environment to thrive in, because our creativity will constantly be being checked and limited. Similarly, a Defender motivator is unlikely to have much joy in a risky tech-start up!


So, how can you discover your motivators? Well, we have a tool, the Motivational Map, which allows you to discover your motivators with pin-point accuracy. But, you can also discover it yourself, or get close to it, by doing a few simple exercises. I have created a nine-part blog series Unlocking Motivation, to help take you through this process. It’s completely free, and will tell you a hell of a lot about the Maps and what they’re all about. To get started, you can go to part 1 here.


Alternatively, for a deeper dive into the language and metrics of motivation, as well as a Motivational Map code, you can buy Mapping Motivation: Unlocking The Key to Employee Energy and Engagement.







Interview with a BP #7: Sonia Gavira

'It’s a financial and time commitment that you have to be ready for and you need to be clear who your target market is going to be. But it is really rewarding seeing others realise how amazing the information that the Maps gives you is.'

Becoming a Business Practitioner is a big step, but the rewards are also tremendous. We wanted to speak with our BPs and get a sense of what they felt the biggest challenges and rewards of being a BP were, as well as foreground the amazing work they do. This interview with Sonia Gavira is our seventh instalment, revealing the secrets of life as a BP and the incredible difference they make in the Maps community and beyond. 

Sonia gavira

Sonia’s journey with Motivational Maps began when she met Susannah Brade-Waring at an Employee Engagement event organised by someone at Merlin. ‘I had just finished working on a global project of engagement for Ford Motor Company and they’d asked me to present to a group of local leaders interested in engagement. I sat next to Susannah we immediately hit it off – it’s easy to do with her!’


HR Searcher

As might be expected of a Searcher, the real moment of connection with the Maps came when Sonia received some feedback for the work she’d done:

'I have recently licensed some people who are loving the Maps and really starting to use them in their business - one of them thanked me and said that she had nearly given up her business and that the work with the Maps has given her a new lease of life.’

As someone licensed in a number of tools – Myers Briggs, True Colors, Disc, PIAV, Strenghtscope to name just a few – Sonia found herself experiencing the same feelings that many others have expressed on first encountering the Map: ‘Not another tool!’ However, her concerns were quickly soothed: ‘A little while after the event, Susannah contacted me about Motivational Maps. I really liked Susannah, so I did it despite misgivings and found the information really interesting. It was talking to me about where I was in that moment and resonated deeply.’

It turned out Sonia’s motivation was declining. ‘And I knew why - I no longer had a huge project that was making a huge difference (Searcher). I no longer had that community of coaches globally (Friend). And I was starting to think I might have to go back into employment (Spirit) in order to keep some form of regular income.’ Sonia’s next remark is intriguing, because it points towards the therapeutic power of the Maps: ‘The Map really was telling me my story as I was living it then.’ Another way to word this might be it was reflecting her real story and journey, which is what therapists naturally do with their clients in order to help them grasp their narrative.

'What it also told me,’ Sonia continues. ‘Was that my dislike of talking about myself and putting myself in the limelight (Star was then my lowest motivator), was getting in the way - how could I go out and do the work I wanted to do if I was reluctant to promote myself?’

It’s not only the drivers that speak volumes and ‘tell the story’ but also the lower motivators. In some ways, we can get more information on the ‘way forward’ from a difficult situation by looking at the lowest motivator than the highest. Or, at least, that was the case for Sonia, as she underwent a transformation: ‘I set out to work on that and reframe how I saw promoting myself, in a way that would plug into what really drives me. So I said to myself: ‘Sonia, if you want to make a difference, build a community, and keep your independence, you have to talk about yourself and what you offer. That way, talking about yourself will help you make a difference, build a community, and keep you working for yourself.’ Sonia uses the Maps ‘language’ to help communicate with her inner psyche. The results are fascinating and surprising: ‘Six months later, I redid my own map and the Star motivator had moved up to number 4! That is what then sold me on maps and that’s what lead me to train with Susannah to become a BP.’

'I now use the maps as part of my intake session - the session that I use to get to know my client and set up the coaching contract. And what I’ve found is that most of my clients want to repeat the Map towards the end of our working together as they sense that there has been a change. The maps are also becoming an integral part of my work in employee engagement and leadership development where we explore motivation as the missing piece in engagement and leadership performance. The piece which has always been there as an intangible and now can be tangible.’

You can check out videos of Sonia Gavira explaining the concepts behind motivation and discovering our inner drives here. To discover your motivation, click here.

Interview with a BP #6: Christopher Lawrence

It’s not just about your job, it’s about your whole life. It’s never just about your job. 80% of the reason people walk through the door is because of their career or job, but when they leave they’re saying: ‘You changed my life’.”

Becoming a Business Practitioner is a big step, but the rewards are also tremendous. We wanted to speak with our BPs and get a sense of what they felt the biggest challenges and rewards of being a BP were, as well as foreground the amazing work they do. This interview with Christopher Lawrence is our sixth, revealing the secrets of life as a BP and the incredible difference they make in the Maps community and beyond. 

Canada Christopher Lawrence



Christopher is a Motivational Maps Business Practitioner, Life Leadership Coach, Entrepreneur, Change Coach, Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP) and trainer, and founder of Change My Life coaching. Christopher also has a book published: GO BEYOND PASSION: DISCOVER YOUR DREAM JOB


HR Searcher

Christopher Lawrence’s journey to the Maps was intriguing and indirect. “I started a little life-coaching business. Just me originally. I guess I was like everyone else out there trying to run a life-coaching business! I had always wanted an assessment of some kind but I wasn’t too keen on what was out there. I wanted something that was a little more holistic, a little bit more on the emotions and feelings side. The last thing I needed was another personality test.”


Soon, Christopher got the opportunity to complete a Map and “I fell in love with it and said: ‘I want in’.” The Maps were a unique selling point for Christopher’s life-coaching business, to the point where he used Maps as a lead-generator to get clients through the door: “I would advertise ‘Discover your top three motivators today!’ People would reach out, we’d go through the assessment, then do coaching with me.”

"We build the rest of the day around our careers. We bookend our lives around our career. It’s the time in our life when we have the most decision-making ability, so you better find some connection!"

Since the early days, Christopher’s business, Change My Life, has grown tremendously. “I don’t use that advertisement anymore,” he says. “But although we have other tools, we still use the Maps with 80 – 90% of our clients. We use them corporately as well.” Running such a large organisation, however, requires not only expertise in dealing with clients but also management of increasing numbers of internal staff, including other coaches. “One thing I equate it to is that it’s like the chef who opens the restaurant. They open the restaurant and then they’re trying to run it: front of house, back of house, the kitchen and all the financials. But I realised I am a chef in this kitchen! I would much rather keep my hand in. I do enjoy some of my entrepreneurial tasks, but I needed someone to actually run the operation day-to-day. That’s why I brought on my business partner Kyle Kalloo.”


Christopher says that he loves working with clients, so for him the “entrepreneurial tasks” are a means to getting to do more of what he loves: “cooking in this kitchen for lack of a better analogy!” He also uses the Maps internally. “We brought another business on. We use the Motivational Maps as part of a precursor to starting a business. We also use it through periods of change.” There’s a clear sense that Christopher has a philosophy of practice-what-you-preach. If an organisation is going to coach with Maps, then they have to use them themselves!


“My current top three motivators are Searcher, Spirit, Expert. Typically I would have Searcher, Spirit, Creator,” Christopher says, which immediately sparks curiosity. Searcher as the immovable top motivator is fairly common among coaches, as it is the desire to make a difference to other people. But it is intriguing that other aspects of his profile change so significantly. “We’re working on ten different initiatives. It’s a little bit crazy! So my motivators have changed. Right now, my number four is Defender. Weird! It’s normally in the bottom three for me. It’s actually choking out Creator. I think it has to do with the fact we’re pushing so many initiatives. Me thinking: Jeez, I hope something works!”


This deft self-analysis leads to two important points. Firstly, that our motivators outside the top three can tell us something really important. We have to look at the Map holistically. Secondly, that even our top motivators are not fixed and can change if we are going through transformative circumstances. With ten initiatives on, Christopher’s Creator motivator is being met in abundance (perhaps even overloaded), so it has dropped in terms of priority. It will be interesting to see if “order” is restored once the initiatives are completed and the profile resumes a more typical alignment.


This goes to show that one of the most valuable aspects of the Maps, in terms of significance, meaning, and insight, as well as financially, are that the Maps are an ongoing process of discovery, not a one-off. If we can build Maps into our culture and practice, rather than doing it as a one-time initiative, imagine the insight we can obtain and provide, and the difference we can make.


"Motivation is the thing that starts the fire. Without motivation there’s nothing that starts the fire. Motivation doesn’t necessarily keep the fire going… but it starts it. So it’s important that we check in on it. It’s a lot of things, but it’s also an emotion. How you are emotionally driven."


What is "Interview with a BP"?


BP stands for "Business Practitioner". Within Motivational Maps, there are three "tiers" of practitioner: Licensed Practitioners (LPs) who sell and interpret Maps to help companies motivate and improve the wellbeing of staff. Business Practitioners who can recruit and train LPs as well as tackling bigger Maps opportunities. And Senior Practitioners (SPs) who can train and create Business Practitioners, coordinate large networks, and develop Motivational Maps.





Welcome to the last instalment of the "law of three". In part 1, we examined what the "law of three" is on a macro-logical level and looked at affirmation, denial, and reconciliation. In part 2, we drilled down into how this applies to business and the Self Concept. In this final part we will be looking at the way fear interacts with motivation! 

In Motivational Maps, we have a system we call RAG. It stands for Relationship, Achievement, and Growth. These are three clusters of motivators. There are nine motivators, in all, which are modelled off of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Edgar Schrein’s Career Anchors, and the Enneagram. And, obeying the “law of three”, they fall into three groups of three, representing their tendencies.


  • Relationship motivators deal with emotional / interpersonal needs: security (Defender), belonging (Friend), and recognition (Star)


  • Achievement motivators deal with professional or career-orientated needs: control (Director), financial or material gain (Builder), and skills and knowledge acquisition (Expert)


  • Growth motivators deal with personal development and the spiritual self: freedom and independence (Spirit), creativity and imagination (Creator), and making a difference / meaning (Searcher)


Relationship motivators are past-focused, and change-resistant. Achievement motivators are present-focused and change-ambivalent. Growth motivators are future-focused and change-friendly. It’s not good or bad to belong to any one of these groups, they merely reflect our internal drives that, if not met, may cause us to become demotivated.


How do they fit into the Self Concept model? Well, very simply.


  • Relationship

    • Past

    • Self Esteem

    • Feeling


  • Achievement

    • Present

    • Self Image

    • Thinking



  • Growth

    • Future

    • Ideal Self

    • Knowing


It should be noted that at this level, the Affirm, Deny, Reconcile model becomes more complex, because any one of these can Affirm, Deny, or Reconcile dependent on circumstances. For example, the Ideal Self may affirm a bright future, which is denied by past experience (Self Esteem) and then reconciled by present Self Image. These forces are constantly in motion. So, we must observe them in action. Clive Barker understood this when writing his fiction that his three “players” or characters could, at any given time, take on a different role. And, indeed they do. His Reconciler, Gentle, is at times the Denier. His Denier, the assassin Pie’oh’pah, becomes an Affirmer in many instances. So, in real life, do we switch roles dependent on context and circumstance.


There is one more level of overlay to complete this “law of three”. We have spoken about how the Self Concept not only works at an individual level, but an organisational one too. This is also true of RAG. Organisations will have an overall tendency toward Relationship motivators, Achievement motivators or Growth motivators, depending on the type of people they have employed. Theoretically, of course, certain types of job will attract certain types of motivator. But of course, there will also be a host of people in a job that is not an ideal fit for their motivators – or else, a more complex fit.


When we observe these organisation tendencies, this changes how we approach addressing the “hygiene factors” or self-care of the people involved. Due to RAG, every organisation will have a leaning towards a priority. This leads to another trinity: Values, Mission & Vision.


  • Relationship cluster organisations will prioritise values, because these are shared beliefs, and communal. This is what will drive them.


  • Achievement cluster organisations will prioritise the mission.


  • Growth cluster motivators will prioritise the vision.


Some people might ask whether there is a difference between a mission and a vision. The difference is subtle. A vision is a projected future, an ideal to strive towards, such as “to transform the way management is approached worldwide”. A mission is more concrete. It’s to sell ten-thousand units or to “impact a million people”. Consider how these differences might affect your organisation or clients, and how you might make different decisions based on understanding these deeper drives.


Finally, I want to talk about fear. Motivation and fear are intrisically linked. Motivation is a source of energy. We feed our motivation by meeting our motivational needs (and it’s worth re-iterating, that we all have all nine motivators, we simply have some we prioritise more than others). However, when we do not feed our motivators, that is when fear sets in. We can start to move away from things that de-motivate us rather than moving towards what motivates us. For example, if we have Spirit as our top motivator, which is the desire for independence, we begin to rebel against controlling people in our organisation, rather than quitting our job and striking out on our own. Or, choosing to influence the parts of our job we can control.


Decisions based on fear are never healthy. Yet, we see the majority of people are paralysed by fear. They cannot quit their jobs for fear of never finding another. They cannot create new things for fear they will be ridiculed. And so on. When every decision his made out of fear, we only deepen the quagmire into which we are sinking. It is only by breaking loose from the fear that we can seize our own destiny and become our true selves. Businesses make the same mistake. They move away from opportunities out of fear of risk, or, they recklessly take every opportunity, because they are scared of missing out on what their competitors might have.


Each motivational RAG cluster has a specific fear that is attached to it. Being aware of this fear will help you, at an individual, team, and organisational level, not to make decisions based on fear.


Relationship cluster motivators fear failure. It’s often said of Defender, Friend, and Star motivators that when they are demotivated or struggling they spend more time avoiding mistakes, covering their backs, than being productive. We see this in numerous organisations too, where bureaucratic covering (the endless sending of emails to verify who said what and who is accountable) takes up more of the daily routine than actually working.


Achievement cluster motivators fear people. Or rather, the ambiguity of people. This expresses itself in a number of ways. The Director motivator, for example, wants to control people, perhaps because it doesn’t like the thought of unpredictable behaviour, so it keeps people on lockdown. The Expert motivator, typified by the IT guru or “geek”, doesn’t like people because they are ambiguous. There are exceptions, of course, such as someone who perhaps has their expertise in the study of people (re: psychology), but even then don’t we observe an attempt to quantify the unknown? Finally, Builder motivators fear people because they are by nature the most competitive motivator. Who else is hot on their tail? Organisations that are Achievement cluster tend to neglect the people in their organisation because they do not understand them. The classic situation is that they offer bonuses and financial perks which only serve to demotivate people further. Strange, but true!


Growth cluster motivators fear stopping. To stand still is death to the Growth motivators. They are constantly driving forward (with their future orientation), trying to create new things and broaden their horizons. As a result, the past – and retrogression – scares them. We see organisations like this too, where all their products are rushed to market, where they are endlessly updating their software or offerings, because they simply cannot sit still and regroup.


So, let’s recap on the many levels of the “law of three”:


  • Relationship

    • Past

    • Self Esteem

    • Feeling

    • Values driven

    • Fear failure


  • Achievement

    • Present

    • Self Image

    • Thinking

    • Mission driven

    • Fear people



  • Growth

    • Future

    • Ideal Self

    • Knowing

    • Vision driven

    • Fear stopping


There are many more aspects to the “law of three”, and have no doubt that members of the Maps community will continue to expand upon this model, but hopefully this has given you some insight into the secret law of the universe, and how to use it to navigate the complexity of dealing with people and teams.

For more information on RAG, Self Concept, motivation and leadership, check out James Sale's book series Mapping Motivation