Due to the lockdown, many businesses and families are struggling. For most of us, quite rightly, the pandemic has been a time to reflect on what is most important, and to cut down to the bare essentials. This means that many services, including coaching, training, mentoring, and “strategic mapping”, are no longer top priority for organisations. Though, in the UK, lockdown measures are lifting, it is warily. Many people are still furloughed, or worse: jobless. For those reintegrating with work after long periods in isolation or furloughed, simultaneously adapting to a new way of working, and picking up the old threads, can be challenging in the extreme. For those seeking new work, having been made redundant, they face a period of uncertainty – as many roles are becoming obsolete with the advent of remote working and new methodologies resulting from the pandemic. In short, this is a time of upheaval, change, adaptability, and perhaps most significantly: a time where a huge majority of people feel uncertain, de-motivated and de-energised, and in need of guidance.


Contrary to what organisations may be saying, motivation is now more important than ever before. Whilst it is tempting to disregard what is seen as extraneous to making ends meet, on the contrary, it is through inspiring people and bringing them together that the challenges of coronavirus and lockdown can be overcome – whether financial, in terms of delivering to customers, or otherwise. Whilst this might all sound “airy fairy”, there is a seriously pragmatic approach behind this. Inspiring people and energising them is not a one-time activity (a mistake many companies make), it is an ongoing process that requires monitoring and nurturing in the same way that financial experts continually monitor the metrics of profitability. With Maps, we have the capability to see these metrics and therefore monitor them, but I am skipping ahead.

Firstly, we need to understand a few key things about the lockdown and how it might be affecting people’s motivations (and therefore energy and mood).


1) Some people will like working from home, and some won’t.

It sounds obvious, but it is amazing how organisations seem very uncertain about how to manage remote-working staff. The Maps clearly reveals that depending on your motivations, you may get a boost from working from home or not. The more socially-driven motivators, or “Relationship Cluster” as we call them, such as Defender, Friend, and Star may find self-isolation a very haunting and troubling experience. On the other hand, the more Growth-orientated motivators, such as Creator and Spirit, may find it liberating and exhilarating – people with these motivators in their profile have likely been campaigning to be allowed to work from home long before lockdown!


2) Zoom changes the dynamics of communication

Zoom is a wonderful tool and has helped keep us “together” through lockdown. However, as wonderful as Zoom is, it is limited. A friend of mine, who is a film-director, said, “Nothing compares to the energy of two creative people in the same room.” I think there is a lot of truth in this, especially if the people in question have motivators that are more socially aligned. We can have great conversations on Zoom, we can share ideas and work using Google Docs and Trello and other online tools, but it will never compare to being in the same room; we need to be aware of this, because it means that the dynamics of your teams are going to change. If you have an expected output, you may have to alter expectations of that output. Working remotely might not mean less productivity, necessarily, but it will certainly mean that the nature of what the teams produce (whether that’s a physical product, or sales, or copy, or strategies – whatever) – is going to change.


3) Some motivators are going to become more prevalent in this time than others

The Motivational Map, unlike psychometrics, measures the part of us that is “nurture”. Aka, not the biological and intrinsic part of us that is unchangeable and fixed, but our inner drives, which can change in correspondence with our inner beliefs, particularly when they are influenced by experience. The pandemic has been a pretty drastic and life-altering experience for many, and so it’s natural that our motivators may shift. It is very likely that the Defender motivator will be a lot higher in the rankings for many people, or perhaps even become their number-one motivator. The Defender seeks security, stability, and predictability. It is very easy to see how these values might be expressed in our current situation: being hygienic, wearing a face-mask, maintaining social distancing, minimising contact with others. Of course, these are the guidelines that all of us should be following, but we will find that high Defenders will practice them religiously and even to the detriment of their relationships with others (getting into arguments, accusing others of malpractice, perhaps even reporting other people to the police if they perceive them to have broken “the rules”). Please note that I am not in any way criticising people that have a high Defender motivator, or people who follow the guidelines, as I myself follow them as assiduously as possible! - but I merely wish to draw attention to the fact that we must take this new dominant motivational preference into consideration when dealing with our staff, our customers, our clients, and yes, even our friends and families!


It should be noted that, for some people, the reverse is going to occur. Their Defender motivators may drop to the very bottom of their rankings. This might seem paradoxical, but it will be linked with inner beliefs. A good example of this would be a self-employed freelancer I know. Before lockdown, Defender was never a high motivator, and usually floated around number 7 or 8 (out of 9). So, a very low priority for them. But in lockdown, it has dropped to 9. Discussing this with them, it’s my understanding that they have an inner belief about creativity and hard work. They pride themselves on the fact that they are able to survive in lockdown on the basis of their ingenuity and sales-ability. The whole world has been turned upside down, and everything is changing, so what use is predictability to them?


You can see from this how the pandemic is polarising, and that people will respond differently depending on their beliefs and motivations. For the freelancer, the pandemic was proof that a stable job was bad idea – you were likely to get fired or furloughed. However, for others, it will have intensified the importance of a stable role.


So, now we understand these conditions, let’s look at some actions we can take in relation to motivating people!


1) Optimise and empower our staff by letting them work in the way that is most motivating for them.

We need to make sure that rather than having “blanket” rules (such as, “Everyone will come back to work in the office as soon as possible”) we instead let people play to their strengths. When we are motivated, we have more energy, we’re happier, and so we’re far more productive. A lot of researchers are now looking into whether working from home is more or less productive, but as always, the reality is “it depends” - on how motivated someone is and whether their motivations align with the methodology of home-working.


Here would be one idea for an action plan: have all your staff (whether furloughed, working, remote, or onsite) complete a Motivational Map, and then get feedback from a Maps practitioner on whether any staff are in a non-ideal position.


2) Learn about how communication styles impact teamwork

I use a tool called the Five Elements model. This is outlined in my book, co-authored with Jane Thomas, Mapping Motivation for Leadership. To give you a rough overview, the Five Elements model asserts there are five key styles of communication, and each one has a corresponding preferred medium of communication (such as speech, or written, for example). Therefore, we have to understand that communicating online is going to change the “balance of power”, for want of a better phrase, in your teams. Some voices are going to be louder, because their preferred mediums are the dominant one used by the organisation, whereas others may wane, as they feel they have no avenues to make their voice heard.


Here’s an action plan: speak with a coach about the communication styles in your teams, and endeavour to discover how lockdown and remote-working may have changed the dynamics of those teams, and communicate the findings (respectfully and transparently) with the teams, so that everyone is aware of potential blindspots.


3) Customise your approach to take into account the new dominant motivators

We cannot simply ignore such a tremendous cultural shift, or pine for “business as usual”. It’s very clear that even when coronavirus clears, it will be a long time before we return to “normal”, if indeed we ever do. I think it highly likely that the lockdown will usher in several longterm changes to the way we do things in the world. Lots of businesses are also trying to establish what the “new normal” is, but they are mostly doing this from a practical and logistical viewpoint, rather than a motivational one. This is missing a trick, because it is the motivational, “inner” landscape that will affect and drive the external one. How people feel will determine what the “new normal” looks like, not the other way around.


So, now we understand this, it becomes clear that we have to cater what we do going forward toward reaching the “new normal” motivators: Defender. We also have to recognise the motivators that will have been massively under-met (or “unfulfilled” might be a better term) during lockdown, such as the Friend. Finally, we have to think creatively about how we can appeal and utilise the “radicals”, the ones who have relegated “safety and security” in favour of thriving on their own creative abundance. What can we learn from them about self-sufficiency, and thriving without dependency on government loans or corporate institutions? Equally, if you are one of these “radicals”, what can you learn from the stability of connectedness and playing things a little safer?


Ultimately, it’s clear that we have a lot to learn from this pandemic, at a global, national, organisational and personal level. However, if there is one key takeaway or “top-line”, then it would be: put motivation at the centre of your focus, because without motivation, we have no fuel in the engine, and roadblocks like this will stop us for good.



Find out more about Motivational Maps here.


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Jane Thomas

Thank you James for another great insight into the benefits of Motivational Maps.

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