Nine ways to… empower your people

9 hands

One of the great paradoxes of life is that in giving, we receive. In empowering others, we give power to ourselves. It is a weird principle, but the older I get, the more I realise its truth. If you want to be adored by many people, first, you have to shine the spotlight on them. If you want wealth, you have to invest. If you want to create, you have to engage with and honour the creations and innovations of others. And so on and so forth. So, appropriately, today I wanted to share with you some key ways that you can empower others. We have selected nine methods, because, in fact there are nine motivators! If you do these nine things, then you are really going to be covering all the potential bases, and appealing to every type of motivator.

  1. Have a leader prepared to change the culture (Searcher)

Your motivational profile not only tells us how motivated you are—or another word for this might be “energised”—in your current role, but it also gives us an indication of how “change friendly” or “change averse” you might be. Unfortunately, many leaders are actually very change averse in a real sense, which means they will actively block perceived threats to the established workplace culture: they hire the same types of people, they use the same working methodologies even if they are outdated, and they manage with the same top-down style management approach that has proved largely ineffective for the last 60 years. Many leaders try to show willing by implementing small changes: re-arranging the office seating, or introducing a new piece of software here and there (there has been a particular craze at the moment for internal work-specific social media sites, for reasons unknown!). However, the kind of change that is often needed is of a far deeper kind.

As new generations show up to work with new expectations, and as the landscape of business is continually transformed by innovation, technology, and the rise and fall of corporate empires, we cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting good results. If we want to succeed, we need to empower our people. In order to empower our people, we have to be willing to allow the culture of our workplace to change. Or, even better, to spearhead the charge. It’s important, however, that this is not done in a way that tramples over people. Take note of point 5 on this list, and you will be in a far better position!

  1. Build a management team who share the vision (Spirit)

 The most important thing isn’t the method, it’s the mission. Most businesses spend weeks and weeks trying to establish whether someone has the right technical skills for the job, and then subsequently drilling deadlines and objectives into them, but they do not really delve very deeply into who they are as a person and whether they understand the “mission”. Not just the daily and weekly goals, but the actual mission of the organisation, whether that is to become pre-eminent in a field, to help one-million people, or anything in between. When everyone within a team, particularly a management or highly responsible team, is “on mission” and aligned with the ultimate aim, then things will start falling into place. The key is to place less emphasis on how they perform their tasks. Give them the mission statement, and then let them fulfil their objectives in their own way. So long as you are “singing from the same hymn book”, alignment and results will follow.

  1. Ensure your top people are top communicators (Star)

 Communication is key. This is a well-worn adage. However, it is so popular because it’s incredibly true. So many problems occur in the workplace (and indeed outside it!) due to poor communication, whether that is a goal or deadline that has not been clearly explained, a complex process that was glossed over in training, or, far more importantly, a major decision that is going to impact employees which has not been clarified by upper management. This also applies externally as well. When communicating with clients, customers, stakeholders, and investors, poor communication can be catastrophic. Therefore, when considering your appointments and promotions, be sure to pay close attention to whether you are making these appointments based on hard skills, or their abilities as communicators, and ask yourself which is truly more important. Who are your Star people, who shine radiantly when they have an audience?

  1. Train people in skills that are key to your business (Expert)

Whilst we have advocated strongly for what some people call “soft skills”, such as communication, make no mistake that it’s important to train your people! Especially the Experts who are vital to the running of your business, whether they are programmers, financial advisors, sales experts, marketers, or designers—whatever their unique skillset, develop it further! Experts often enjoy the acquisition of knowledge, and sometimes this is more valuable to them even than money! So, if you reward them for their efforts with further training, not only will their enhanced abilities serve the business’s aims, but it will also endear them to the company that feeds their hunger. Finally, there is another common idiom in business worth bearing in mind: “What if I train my people and then they leave?” The reply being, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

  1. Build trust with your people by listening to them (Friend)

Most businesses do not listen to their employees. They conduct surveys. They tick the boxes. But they do not actually sit down and really “hear” what they are being told. This normally means that, at some stage, disaster overtakes the company. To the “top brass”, it seems to happen suddenly and without warning. It comes as no surprise to the people on the ground, because they have been warning about it for some time!

In businesses / organisations where people feel listened to, and there are strong relationships between upper management and those “on the ground”, a sense of community and teamwork more easily evolves. Teamwork leads to communication. Communication means less blindspots and likelihood of error. It also means that the machine is oiled, running far more smoothly than if everyone is operating in a silo, or under the impression that management only take an interest in them when there’s a problem! The latter leads to secrecy which leads, needless to say, to big problems down the line. Learn to listen, and all of this can be averted.

  1. Fix things that don’t work (Defender)

 In many ways this connects to the previous suggestion. I have worked in many companies where the employees continually raised issues, such as: there was a software system that kept crashing, or a toilet that was broken, or a telephone that had some kind of crossed wire and didn’t feed calls properly. Yet, these very small problems were constantly ignored, because they were considered unimportant. Over time, they completely wore the staff down and, small though they were, led to many quitting!! “Management don’t care about me, they cannot even be bothered to fix a toilet, it’s a basic human comfort,” was the sentiment they were left with after working for these organisations. Small things matter. In the words of Sherlock Holmes, “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

  1. Give your supervisors real power (Director)

 Some people enjoy responsibility. I am not one of them, as it happens! But because of the Motivational Maps, I understand that for some having responsibility over people, financial resources, or inventory is not a headache or a stressor, but a real pleasure. They feel energised by having control. If you have supervisors like this, who really relish the chance to take responsibility and properly manage their teams or resources, then the worst thing you can do is micromanage them and take away power from them. If you have hired someone to be a supervisor, presumably you trust them sufficiently to run the operational side of things. Let go, give them real power, and if they overstep the mark, at that point you can always rein them in. But often you will find they respect the authority they have been given, and simply wish to wield it to efficacious purpose. Not only does this free up time for you, but by empowering your supervisors, you will get the best possible work, commitment, and energy out of them.

  1. Give people the budget to go with responsibility (Builder)

Often, organisations ask people to achieve goals without the necessary resources, particularly finances, to support those endeavours. A simplified version of what I said in the introduction is that we have to spend money to make money. If you want your sales team to reach ten thousand new customers, but you are unwilling to reward them with a commission, or to hire enough salespeople to get the calls done, then it’s likely you will fail. If your sales team need to drive all over the country, but you’re unwilling to pay for their fuel, then you will see them only doing the bare minimum to save on costs, or quitting (if this example seems outlandish, note that I worked for a company that did exactly this!). We have to give people the budget and backing to do what they need to do. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail—another common but wise adage. When we don’t give people financial resources, we are not adequately preparing them.

  1. Make innovation a core part of everyone’s job (Creator)

Peter Drucker once observed that only two things actually made money for a business: marketing and innovation. Whilst not everyone is motivated by creativity in a big way—such as making new products or coming up with radical new ideas for the organisation—every person can play a small role in improving the company, by however a small a margin. If every person is looking to improve their own personal process, or perhaps one small element, then soon all these small improvements or micro-innovations add up to a big difference, whether in efficiency, customer-experience, or something else. However, people will not innovate, whether small-scale or large-scale, if they don’t feel that innovation is encouraged. How many businesses actively discourage their employees from contributing new ideas? (This comes back again to point number 5, and listening to what people have to say). It also connects to point number 7, and giving people real power and responsibility. If people feel they are in charge, that they can control their own destiny and work practices, rather than having it dictated to them by a micro-manager, then they are far more likely to begin to make proactive changes rather than waiting for the “official line” from on high. If every person in your company is innovating, then you are maximising human potential on a grand scale, and a new and brilliant idea could come from any corner.

I hope these nine suggestions for empowering your people gives you some actionable concepts to make your workplace more dynamic, more innovative, and most importantly: more motivated! To find out more about motivation and Motivational Maps contact one of our Motivational Map Practitioners

Leadership isn’t a fad...

Chess pieces

Today, we’re talking about leadership, and I’m going to start with something a little bit esoteric. The reason for this is I think it’s important to understand that leadership isn’t a fad, or a simply modern concern: human beings have always been concerned with leadership, and perhaps always will be!

We can see examples of this from many ancient texts from Gilgamesh to the Egyptian Pharoahs and through to the Greeks, from whom we get our word ‘strategy’. A ‘strategos’ in Greek was a military general or commander-in-chief– a leader! And in the Old Testament we have Moses. Before Moses emerges from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, the mountain itself is enveloped with lightning, cloud, and flame. The Israelites are stunned by this cataclysmic display of power and majesty. Then, Moses delivers the commandments from God.

One would think, given the potency of this supernatural occurrence, an entire mountain being wreathed in unnatural flames, lightning storms, cloud, and smoke, that the commandments would have impressed very deeply upon the Israelites and that they would have done God’s bidding to the letter. However, human nature is a fickle thing, and before long the Israelites are doing exactly what they have been forbidden from doing: worshipping a golden ox.

We are naturally attracted to that which glitters, aka gold! But whilst gold is very beautiful, it is only useful in very specific circumstances. This is the same in leadership. We may be drawn to charismatic “celebrity”-type personalities, we may wish to find a new guru to worship, but charisma does not always constitute brilliant leadership.

It seems that it is human nature—a deep part of us—to make gods out of all kinds of things, from the rather obvious money and status, to the subtler forms of idolatry, such as the way we elevate celebrities and personalities to godlike levels. We take a person who is perfectly human and fallible, and esteem that they can do no wrong. In Japan, they actively use the English word “idol” to describe their pop singers. This is why celebrity scandals seem to rock the world - whereas in fact, it should be highly predictable to all of us that those with power and money are often likely to use it, and not always for selfless aims. We are all human.

According to Gallup, “less than 2 in 10 employees agree that the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization. Less than 2 in 10 employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them feel enthusiastic about the future. Less than one quarter of employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.”[1] Despite the abundance of data and research over the last 60 years, there is clearly a leadership crisis on our hands! How can we fix it? Well, first, we have to examine the nature of the problem.

First, researchers often ask the wrong people about leadership. Rarely do they question staff about what they want in a leader. Instead, we keep interviewing the CEOs, CFOs, Directors, and other people largely disconnected from the “view on the ground” or the day-to-day mechanics of keeping a business alive and thriving.

Secondly, as we mentioned earlier, human nature has a tendency to be drawn, like moths to a flame, towards the bright, shining personalities we see on TV: actors, sportspeople, musicians, etc. Not to take away from their talent, but we have to question what these individuals can really tell us about the everyday leadership that will keep a business running, or a team of employees highly motivated. This is not to say we cannot pick up valuable insights from people such as Ernest Shackleton, the incredible explorer who brought back his team from the brink of icy death, football coach Jürgen Klopp, or gurus such as Brian Tracy. However, their situations are so different from most managers’ that we have to take the essence of what they’re saying and find relevant and practical ways to apply it.

A fourth and final problem is that these charismatic role models are almost exclusively male. Yet studies frequently rate female managers more highly than their male counterparts!

What we need is a leader who has a practical and diverse toolkit for motivating their teams. I have avoided using the word “inspire” because whilst I love the word—especially its root in the Greek which means, quite literally, to “breathe life into”—this word, to me, represents a more rare and cosmic level of “lightning strike” epiphany, not the energy and fuel that we need day-to-day! The Motivational Map ( ), of course, is one such tool. The 5 Elements (  is another. However, the important thing is that leaders are prepared to “tend their flock” day in and day out. They don’t believe that one heroic speech will see their people to the Promised Land. They understand – as Moses clearly did - that leadership is a daily practice, and sometimes arduous, beset with adversity both without and more importantly within. Having said that, let me be clear on one final point: becoming a great leader can also be one of the most rewarding things you could ever do!



Why Nine Motivators? What The Lord of the Rings has to tell us about Motivational Maps!


There is a common perception nowadays that movies or novels – fiction – is just light entertainment designed to distract us from the boring mundanity of everyday lives. But of course the ancients understood differently, that fictional narratives could contain great wisdom and understanding, with the greatest of them going on to become mythology – another level altogether! So, we often see wisdom cropping up in surprising places, even the Hollywood blockbuster. Having said that, it should be no surprise that Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, which is so richly steeped in mythology, has some interesting things to tell us about personal development and even motivation!

Before we look at this intriguing parallel, however, it is worth briefly examining the history of personality profiling, psychometric tests, and the boom of diagnostic tools that allow us to measure unseen aspects of the human psyche. We can see a surprising degree of variation in terms of (1) what people are looking for in a diagnostic, (2) the output of the diagnostic, (3) and whether the diagnostic reflects an unchangeable element, or something that does evolve and change over time. It’s clear the academically-minded prefer diagnostics such as Myers Briggs and the 4-Colours precisely because they measure aspects of the self that are fixed and cannot change; they are therefore “repeatable” under study conditions. Interestingly, both of these systems are based on the multiples of “4” (16 types of personality in the case of Myers Briggs, 4 in the case of Colours).

Maps, on the other hand, is based on 9 motivators, which correlate to the Enneagram and the wisdom of the ancient tradition. There are many further reasons for this difference. One is due to the fact that the Map is not a personality profile but rather self-perception inventory that measures the circa-80% of human nature that is experientially evolved, or, in other words, malleable. Our motivations shift over time. Not only that, but our motivation levels increase and decrease. Rather than putting people in a limited box and saying, “This is who you are” we say, “At this moment in time, these things are driving you and doing more of them will give you more energy.” Motivation is directly correlated with energy (for more information on this, it is worth reading Mapping Motivation

However, this doesn’t fully answer the question of “why 9 motivators?”. Why not 7, or 8, or 16? Why are there 9? There are many answers to the question, including some highly esoteric ones about the mystical properties of the number 9 itself, but a surprising and perhaps more helpful answer can be found in The Lords of the Rings!

If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, then you will probably have already put two and two together and worked out that there are 9 members of the Fellowship of the Ring, which are diametrically opposed to the 9 evil Ringwraiths. 9 is deemed the optimum number by the wise elven Lord Elrond to provide enough strength to fight off attackers, but also to pass unnoticed if need be. But deeper than this plot-driven reason, we see that the Fellowship is a perfectly balanced unit. Together, the Fellowship lacks nothing.

If we examine the Fellowship members, we will see that each of them resembles a motivational driver. Remember, we each have all nine motivators within us, but we tend to prioritise one or more (and can also have an aversion to some). However, we do need all nine, otherwise we begin to wilt energetically. We might view the motivators as nine energies that, when synergised, provide balance. The Fellowship exemplifies this.

  • We have Frodo, who represents the Searcher motivator – the desire to make a difference;
  • Samwise, who is the Friend motivator – who wants to belong and have meaningful connection;
  • Gandalf, the wizard, who is a Creator motivator – he desires change and to bring new things into the world (and note when we meet him he shows off his homemade fireworks);
  • Aragorn, the ranger, who is a Spirit motivator – he desires independence and freedom (ironically, his character arc is to move towards accepting more responsibility);
  • and speaking of responsibility, we have Director-motivator Merry, who is constantly giving orders “We have to fight”, who asks for the responsibility of serving King Theoden in battle, and ends up rallying the Ents for their last heroic march;
  • Pippin, on the other hand, is the Star – he wants to be the centre of attention, he wants recognition (and often does slapstick things in order to get it!);
  • Gimli, the dwarf warrior, is a Builder – he values material possessions which embody his progress (note how he asks the Lady Galadriel for a lock of her golden hair: the memory is not enough, he needs the physical talisman of the experience!);
  • Legolas is an Expert motivator, constantly giving advice: “A red sun rises: blood has been spilled this night” and “The elves began it [the process of waking up the trees]” – he wants to share his expertise;
  • And lastly we have Boromir, who is a Defender motivator, constantly concerned with the security of his nation and city, “We should strike out from a place of strength!”.

Of course, Tolkien died before the creation of Motivational Maps, and I do not believe he would have much interest in such a tool, but I do believe that he tapped into a universal truth about these nine energies, just as Motivational Maps has done in the process of extensively researching motivation. You may think I am reading too much into The Lord of the Rings, but note how the tensions that we often see in a workplace arising between certain motivators are reflected in the dynamics between the Fellowship members!

For example, Gandalf is eternally frustrated with Boromir, and the two argue on a regular basis. The Creator motivator (Gandalf) seeks change, but the Defender (Boromir) wants things to stay the same, and wants everything to be safe. This split priority creates conflict. Note as well that although Boromir is often viewed as the “bad one” or the runt of the litter, there are many instances where Boromir’s strength and ox-like stubbornness, derived from his grounded motivator, see the Fellowship through difficult scenarios (and of course, he heroically sacrifices himself at the end to save Merry and Pippin).

To view another example, Aragorn and Boromir are often at loggerheads. Aragorn’s Spirit, to be independent and free, clashes with Boromir who is constantly insisting that they do the logical and safe thing and return to the city of Minas Tirith. We also see tensions arise between Legolas and Aragorn in The Two Towers. Legolas, as an Expert, cannot see why Aragorn is allowing himself to be dragged into the battle of Helm’s Deep with such hopeless odds. He looks around at the warriors who have either “seen too many winters” or “too few” (i.e. they are too old or too young for true combat), and is disdainful. The Expert is a critical eye who can always see a better way to do something. Aragorn, however, recognises that there is no process or knowledge that can help them at this desperate stage, only action!

So, when you next do a Motivational Map, ask yourself: which member of the Fellowship am I most like! As stated before, the Maps are not prescriptive. We all have all nine motivators, but it might be that one or more of the motivators is leading the pack (in charge of the Fellowship) at a particular stage in your life. If you then consider that character’s wider arc and journey, it might surprise you what insight this can offer to help you in your current predicament!