How to Avoid Over-Simplification With The Alchemy of Motivational Maps


The human brain loves shortcuts.

This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, creating neurological shorthands allows us to “automate” certain functions and therefore devote more brainpower to the big picture. On the other hand, this conceals the true nature of reality from us. How many times have you driven to work only to realise, once you arrived, that you cannot remember a single detail of what you thought about or what happened on the drive? Or, even worse, how many times have you exchanged polite pleasantries with a work colleague only to realise afterwards that you cannot remember a single pertinent detail of the exchange? We don’t do this maliciously or because we don’t care, simply because our brains are hardwired to make as many functions as easy and simple as possible for us.

Because of this, we have a tendency to over-simplify things. We reduce politics to two camps, when the reality is more nuanced. We reduce life itself to two camps: work and pleasure, when there are many shades in between. We offer up innumerable simplifications of the formula for success, happiness, or wellbeing, when anyone who has explored these topics in any depth knows that there is no simple formula.

We take complex and nuanced systems and try to boil them down to the essentials. But often, in doing this, we lose a great deal of the meaning, elegance, and perhaps most importantly the efficacy of these systems. The power often lies in the complexity.

The Motivational Maps is a self-perception inventory. Unlike personality profiling tools or skills-based tools, a Motivational Maps profile does not assign a person a single grand “archetype” that becomes emblematic of their personhood. All of us have all nine motivators, but we hold these motivators in an order of priority. In other words, most of us tend to have two or three motivators that are more dominant than the others. And most of us tend to have one or two motivators which are so low in our priority that we actively avoid them!

However, because of the human hardwiring, it’s often the case that we look at the top motivator in our profile and take that as our grand archetype. It’s much easier and simpler to do this, of course, than looking at the complex alchemy of how all our motivators might interrelate.

But we must do our best to avoid this at all costs. As I said in my introduction, using these intellectual “shorthands” denies us the pleasure and fullness of reality. If we truly want to understand ourselves, and understand our motivations, then we have to fully embrace the complexity even though it is harder.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

So, with Motivational Maps, we take the harder path. But the reward—an enviable life—is worth it!

If you would like to know more about Motivational Maps then contact one of our licensed Motivational Maps Practitioners - you can find some of them HERE.

Using Motivational Maps as a leadership tool?

9 reasons for using Motivational Maps as leadership tool...

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Everywhere in the business, management and even national presses and social media sites we go, we find the constant refrain of a lack of productivity in the UK, and this has been going on since the financial crisis of 2008. It has been exacerbated, of course, by the Covid epidemic which has proved an unexpected game changer, particularly for those organisations that simply cannot get their staff back into their offices. There is much wringing-of-hands and wailings of despair as not much seems to improve as we ‘progress’ to we know not where!

But one thing is very clear to me: that every single level in our society we need to improve the quality of our leadership. Indeed, I think most people would concede that the general level of leadership we see around us is – at best – poor. So many of our leaders seem clueless or simply corrupt: the Post Office scandal, HS2, Nat West and De-Banking, and more and more besides. As Sun Tzu observed long ago, ‘… competitive success … is determined by leadership skill alone’. Our almost complete failure in this area is indicative of the problem.

What, then, can be done to improve the situation? The first thing is to understand what leadership is and I would refer people to my book, co-written with Jane Thomas, Mapping Motivation for Leadership (Routledge, 2019) for an in-depth look. The title of the book, though, gives one thing away: motivation is central to being an effective leader. They are in fact a hand-in-glove combo. Leaders who do not motivate people do not, and cannot, achieve anything like what truly motivational leaders do!

Here are nine reasons for using Motivational Maps in your leadership practice.

Personalized Leadership Approach

First, Motivational Maps provides what might be termed a personalized leadership approach. They provide insights into the unique drivers and needs of each team member, allowing leaders to tailor their leadership approach to individuals rather than employing a one-size-fits-all strategy. In our culture today, this is vital. With staff shortages prevalent, it is no good being ignorant of what the differences between Baby Boomers, generation X, Millenials and generation Alpha entering the work force are. Being really clear on the cultural differences and what the motivational profiles are can only be a major asset to the leader. Actually, understanding what staff really want is a major plus and leap forward in any generation.

Enhanced Employee Engagement

Second, and this follows from point 1: Understanding what motivates employees can lead to higher levels of engagement as leaders can align tasks and responsibilities with individuals' intrinsic motivations, resulting in a more fulfilling work experience. Add to this the Reward Strategy ideas that are inherent in all Motivational Map work, and you have a simple and easy-to-follow recipe for enhanced employee engagement.

Improved Communication

Third, by their very nature Motivational Maps facilitate open and honest conversations between leaders and team members about their motivations, preferences, and goals; this fosters better understanding and communication within the team. I think it was Brian Tracy who maintained that 85% of any organisations’ problems were down to communication issues. Thus, using Motivational Maps – and its objective, non-judgemental, non-stereo-typing language – leads to seriously improved communication.

Increased Productivity

Fourth, increased productivity. By aligning tasks and goals with employees' motivations, leaders can increase productivity as individuals are more likely to be energized and committed to their work, resulting in higher levels of output and efficiency. High levels of performance correlate with high levels of energy (motivation) multiplied by high levels of skill (and knowledge). This is core, and the general movement away from considering performance as the number one issue for an organisation (that is, for the leader to address), and substituting for it instead political ideologies and virtue-signalling, is a pathology that can only undermine the organisation in the long run.

Effective Talent Management

Fifth, Motivational Maps can help leaders identify and nurture talent within their teams by recognizing individuals' unique strengths, motivations, and potential areas for development. This means: effective talent management. In a world in which the Talent Wars are real, and in which there is a shortage of talent, this is a major competitive advantage, because not only does it mean that one retains the best but also …

Reduced Staff Turnover

Sixth, it leads to reduced staff turnover. A better understanding of employees' motivations allows leaders to create a work environment that meets their needs and fosters a sense of belonging, reducing turnover rates and retaining top talent within the organization. Of course, this reduces costs and so can contribute to profitability.

Enhanced Team Dynamics

Seventh, by assembling teams based on complementary motivational profiles, leaders can promote collaboration, creativity, and synergy among team members, leading to improved team dynamics and performance (again, this word!). These enhanced team dynamics unlock not just synergy but unforeseen potentialities. It truly promotes diversity: of motivations and so of thinking – and so of possibilities.

Proactive Conflict Resolution

Eighth, Motivational Maps enable leaders to anticipate and address potential conflicts arising from differences in motivations, preferences, and work styles, leading to more effective conflict resolution and reduced tension within the team. The objective language of Motivational Maps enables time and again the a-ha moments that come when people realise that other members are not the enemy, but just different in their motivational drives; this can be so helpful and so healing. Motivational Maps, then, promote proactive conflict resolution.

Strategic Decision-Making

Finally, and ninth, leaders can use insights from Motivational Maps to make more informed decisions about resource allocation, task assignment, and organizational strategy, ensuring that initiatives are aligned with employees' motivations and the overall goals of the organization. Effectively, contribute to strategic decision-making. This is particularly true when the Organisational Motivational Map is deployed; it has a suite of tools that enable leaders to be able to pinpoint where discrepancies occur between the leaders’ motivations and organisational values, and the employees’ view of, and feelings about, things.

Ultimately, incorporating Motivational Maps into leadership practices can lead to a more engaged, productive, and cohesive teams, driving better business outcomes and greater organizational success. Why not find a practitioner and experience this for yourself?


The Roots of Top Performance

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Practical activities from the Mapping Motivation books.

Welcome back for the final instalment of this series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. Over the course of this series, we have explored the Roots of Motivation, Coaching, Teamwork, Leadership, and Engagement. In this final article, we shall explore the Roots of Top Performance, which is of course interrelated with all of the previous topics, but in particular Motivation and Teamwork.

In Mapping Motivation For Top Performing Teams, we return to the idea of how a true team is distinct from a mere group (for more information on this, please read the article The Roots of Teamwork) but also take it one step further.

The basic concept is that teams have four distinctive factors that distinguish them from groups:

  • teams have REMIT
  • they practice INTERDEPENDENCY
  • they have a strong BELIEF about the power and importance of teams
  • and they are ACCOUNTABLE

These four pillars create the foundation for truly great team performance. However, they are not the whole story, because whilst we may build our house with these four pillars, we then have to live in it! Many teams (like any venture) start strong, but soon waver. It is easy to perform well at the start of a venture when the energy is high. But what do we do when performance begins to decline? Organisational leaders need a strategy. Let’s turn to the practical exercise.

This activity comes from Chapter 1, Activity 1.8, page 22 of Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams.

“I discussed earlier about addressing issues and we now come to that point. What would you recommend as activities that this team/company might do to strengthen its teamwork… and to become more successful?”

As we have mentioned in previous articles, it helps to write the answers down physically, rather than just thinking about them. This engages a different part of the brain and helps concretises the link between ideation and action. And taking action is what this series is all about!

Before we reveal our answer to this question, it is worth bearing in mind a few points. These may or may not guide your own responses.

In our article on The Roots of Engagement we shared the not-so-secret formula for Performance, which is:

Performance = (Skills + Motivation) x Commitment

Where Commitment = The Value of a Goal + Likelihood of Success.

Chapter 1 fig 6 Performance Formula Number 2 (2018_05_02 14_50_02 UTC)

from Mapping Motivation for Engagement

Already, this gives us a lot to think about when it comes to measuring and predicting performance in our employees. At a basic level, all the skills in the world are worthless if the employee has no motivation, aka, no energy. Similarly, if the employee is highly motivated and energetic, but has no commitment to what they are doing, then this will result in a deteriorating performance over the long haul!

Measuring Commitment is complex, but two key indicators are derived from the Value of a Goal (to that individual person, bear in mind) plus the Likelihood of Success (consider that if you give your employee a goal that is absolutely impossible, then their Commitment to said goal is likely to waver dramatically). So, if Commitment is 0, then even having both Skills and Motivation will not help achieve high performance in – an important qualification – the long run! The issue in this case is neither energy nor competence but the how that energy is deployed. If Skills and Motivation constitute the engineering and fuel of a car (respectively), then Commitment reflects its quality, its sustainability, its resistance to break-downs.

Let’s look at a basic example: If I am a skilled and highly motivated programmer, but you ask me to do a week’s worth of administrative data-entry in a single day, then you can expect very poor performance despite the fact I have lots of skills and high energy levels. This is because:

  • I am highly unlikely to value the goal (it’s not relevant to my interests or skills)
  • and, the likelihood of me succeeding given the amount of work is next to zero

Of course, this is what some organisations do all the time: we erode high performing individuals’ skill and energy levels by undermining their commitment – via valueless work (as perceived by them) and unachievable targets (usually through absurd and restricted time frames)! We have perhaps laboured the point, but it is worth exploring the nuances of this model as fully as possible in this brief space because of what it reveals about the way businesses are run. You can likely already see how so many organisations completely miss one element or other when it comes to considering their employees’ performance.

So, how might a strategy designed to improve performance in a team (or indeed an individual) in decline relate to the equation of Performance? The answer is startlingly simple, and yet, it is often the simple and obvious things we miss. Rewards.

Since our earliest childhoods, most of us were conditioned to perform via rewards. When we take our first steps, our parents clap and praise us. When we do well in school, we are given a gold star. When we behave well, we get treats from family. There may be some people reading this who reject this methodology on principle, and they are welcome to challenge the status quo (indeed, the status quo needs to be regularly challenged and questioned for society to remain healthy). However, this does not change the fact that the majority of us, bar some tragic or specific exceptions, were raised with this simple formula: perform well and get rewards.

Therefore, any business or organisation looking to get the best out of its people must formulate a reward strategy. But what we find is that even the organisations that do use reward strategies fail spectacularly in implementing them. We even see many instances where the rewards actually begin to demotivate the staff, having the reverse of the desired effect. Why is this? Well, one reason is that generally organisations take a “one size fits all approach”. The majority of organisations offer rewards that align only with one of the nine motivators of human behaviour, aka The Builder, which is focused on material gain and tangible rewards. In other words, they offer financial bonuses.

But our studies show that only about one in seven people have Builder in their top three motivators. One might argue that extra money never hurt anyone, but we beg to differ. For a start, these financial rewards usually are not rewards in the true sense, because they come with a whole load of strings attached: expectations of additional responsibilities or hours to work. This can mean many employees actively seek to avoid being noticed, cultivating mediocrity so they don’t stand out from the crowd! We need not explain the deleterious effect this has on productivity!

Secondly, we find that when financial bonuses are administered without sensitivity and care, they can often breed resentment and conflict. For example, if everyone in the organisation receives a bonus based on organisational performance, it can seem unfair to those exceptional individuals who really do go the extra mile. Should Sally in HR really get that extra money when she slacked off two days a week? Conversely, if only the stars get huge, grandiose bonuses, it can lead people to question by what metric performance is assessed and bonuses deemed appropriate.

A friend of mine once told me a harrowing story that illustrates this latter point. He (we shall call him Damon) and a colleague (we shall call him Billy) essentially possessed the same level of responsibility as financial directors in an insurance organisation; they had parity in all but a single word in their job title, which indicated Billy was senior. By the end of the financial year, Billy had taken a whopping twenty weeks of the year off in order to resolve various issues with his house, spend time with his kids, and also through recurring illness. Damon resented none of this—he had no children himself and thought it was great to see a dad spending so much time with his kids despite a demanding corporate job. Damon was happy to take up the majority of the slack at work as he loved his job. Though at times it was gruelling and difficult doing two people’s work, Damon not only kept the company going but also proactively started several cost-saving initiatives, such as improving the organisation’s customer experience (specifically around their online checkout experience), with the end result of saving the company in excess of 1.5 million pounds. Damon arrived at the end of the year exhausted but feeling positive about having made a massive contribution to the organisation and shown himself to be an exceptional employee.

Then came the bonuses. Damon discovered—he had no choice or agency in the matter—what bonus Billy had been paid versus himself. Damon told me quietly, “If I had received half of what Billy got, I would now be a millionaire. I worked myself half to death this year.” The company had completed disregarded his contribution and minimized him for the sake of appeasing Billy, who had worked at the company longer than Damon, and was technically senior. It is also perhaps relevant that Damon suspected the powers that be at the organisation believed he would be satisfied with a smaller amount because of his age, that he was not yet mature enough to roll in the “big leagues”. Needless to say, Damon tendered his resignation shortly afterwards, and the company lost one of its most competent and hardest working members of staff.

This is obviously an extreme example, but it serves to show just how badly organisations can get rewards wrong. So, how do we get it right? It goes without saying we need to find out what is really driving our people, what motivates them, and then customise our rewards in line with those motivations. In Damon’s case, he actually was a Builder motivator, which makes the shortcomings of his “reward” for a year of monumental work all the more staggering.

In Mapping Motivation For Top Performing Teams we include, in the Resources at the back of the book, a comprehensive list of Reward Strategies for all nine motivators. This is too exhaustive to reprint here, so instead we shall simply give you a sample of five Reward Strategies that apply to the Spirit motivator, the motivator driven by the need for autonomy, independence, and freedom.

Chapter 1 figure 8 Team Map Reward Strategies for Spirit as top motivator (2019_11_16 13_25_17 UTC)from Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams

As you can see, these rewards are geared around the employee’s specific needs—which is the true secret to unlocking top performance!

For more information on this topic, consult Chapter 1 of Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams as well as the Resources on page 165.

Visit the Mapping Motivation Books website for more information about Mapping Motivation For Top Performing Teams and the other books in the series.

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners