The intention of these articles is to provide you with five key aspects of motivation that will help you, and perhaps your team too, understand what motivating people is really all about. Each article will tackle a new aspect in five-part series.
But first, what is motivation? It seems a simple question, on the surface, but as soon as one thinks about it a little longer, we realise that it is not straightforward. Motivation is a slightly nebulous concept and there have been many definitions over the years. For example, motivation is about “goal pursuit” or “the reason for doing something.” However, I find these definitions to be largely inadequate, especially when it comes to measuring an individual, team, or organisation’s motivation, which is the name of the game.
As a society, I think our perception of motivation has been warped over time. It evokes athletes pushing their bodies to the limit and advertisement for sports drinks. However, this is not what motivation is about. Yes, there are certain individuals who can motivate themselves to do extreme things, and there are others – gurus – who can motivate othersto do one-off challenges that might seem frightening or even ludicrous, but this says nothing of our day-to-day personal motivation. Why do some people wake up energised and willing to go to work, and some don’t? Why are some people fulfilled by what they do (a small number of people relatively speaking, but significant), and some people trapped in a paroxysm of negativity? Why are some people motivated and some not?
And why is motivation so important? Because motivation leads not just to greater happiness (which is perhaps the ideal outcome for the individual) but also increased productivity and performance (which is perhaps the ideal outcome for the organisation or employer). The British attitude of “grin and bear it” is particularly unhelpful here. It encourages us not to listen to how we really feel about things, to keep on doing the same things that demotivate us and drain our energy. Ah, I have let the word slip. Motivation is energy. It’s our fuel in the tank that helps us achieve what we want. And, to keep our motivation levels and energy high, we have to learn how to feed our motivators.
Much like cars, our motivational engines require different types of fuel. There is no “one activity feeds all” approach that so many gurus claim to have discovered. We each have nine motivators, though they are ranked in a priority order. Our top motivators determine the type of fuel that is most effective for kick-starting our “engines”, though, the lower motivators can be very important too in certain circumstances. By discovering our motivators, we can learn how to feed our engines more effectively and keep us motivated through whatever storm, whether it’s technological displacement, societal changes, changes to our working conditions or management, or even personal struggles.
So, onto the first aspect of motivation…
Like love; it’s easy to think we have motivation when we haven’t. It’s also easy to think it’s not important, but it is. Just because we can force ourselves to do jobs we take, or cope in environments that are detrimental to our health, doesn’t mean we should! Motivation is conceptual even though it does have a physical manifestation in that we feel energy levels. Therefore, getting someone to come into your organisation and talk about motivation is never going to be a hundred percent effective. For one, each employee will have a different definition of what motivation is. Secondly, only some of your employees will find talks motivating in and of themselves. Remember I said that each motivator (of the nine) needs a different type of fuel? Each motivational profile is made up of unique cocktail of these nine motivators in different quantities, if you will. Therefore, an Expert motivator is far more likely to find talks motivating and engaging, than, for example, a Friend motivator.
In addition, away-days and activities – such as company-organised paintballing or a special night out on the town – are also never going to work long term. They can temporarily boost motivation, don’t get me wrong. But it often wears off after a few weeks, and the return to normality can sometimes be so brutal that it actually causes motivation to lower, a bit like artificial economic spikes that then lead to long term slumps. Again, certain motivators will find these events more motivating than others (here, the Friend might be in their element) but others might find it less so or evenly actively de-motivating (such as the Spirit).
Sometimes, you don’t need a tool or an expert to see someone is de-motivated, it’s true. You can take one look at someone’s body posture and listen to the way they’re talking and realise something is deeply amiss and they are likely to either leave the company or continue a downward performance spiral. However, by the time it gets to that point, it is often too late. You need to pre-empt motivational slumps and help people to re-align their day-to-day work activities with their motivational profile, so they are getting the fuel they need.
This is why, above all, we need visibility. We need to make the invisible visible. That is what our tool, the Motivational Map, achieves. It makes motivation, which was previously intangible, tangible. It provides a numeric metric that is clear and easily understood. It not only tells you to what extent someone is motivated (with a percentage) but also the extent to which each individual motivator is met and, perhaps most importantly, what order that person’s nine motivators fall in.
The Maps is not prescriptive, however. This is not a psychometric test where you get your results and say: “Yeah, that sounds like me” and nothing comes of it, or, worse, you feel like you’ve been put in a box. For one, your motivational profile changes over time. Psychometrics measure the 20-30% of your personality thought to be fixed or attributable to biology or “nature”. The Maps measures the 70- 80% that is “nurture” or experiential – and therefore fluctuates. In addition, no profile in Maps is defined by one attribute. Everybody is a nuanced and complex assembly of the nine motivators, which are grounded in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors, and the Enneagram.
So, let’s get some visibility on our motivation levels. Let’s make the invisible visible. Because it’s the invisible things in life (like love) that truly drive us, not the visible. Our desire for money, or to do volunteer work, or to create a new beautiful canvas, are driven by something deeper that is less easy to articulate without scientific tools. In the words of the Ancient Egyptians: “All the world which lies below has been set in order and filled in contents by the things which are placed above; for the things below have not the power to set in order the world above” – Book of the Dead.
Thank you for tuning in!
Tune in for further entries in this blog series to discover more about motivation!
Want to discover your motivators? You can also discover them 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 for a pin-point accurate motivational profile, you can buy Mapping Motivation: Unlocking The Key to Employee Energy and Engagement.