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March 2021

How do - Personality, Self-Concept and Expectations – contribute to motivation?

Chapter 2 Figure 5 Three Sources of Motivation

I recently joined a webinar run by a leading Motivational Mapper which was designed to study one chapter a month of my book, Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams. Naturally, it was great to find so many people wanting me to provide more levels of expertise on the book I have written, and of course if coaches, trainers and consultants aren’t desirous of deeper levels of knowledge and skill, what chance is there for other people? We who work in this consultancy/coaching field must constantly be striving to go further in what our capabilities can offer the client, which means going beyond some of the superficial memes and jargons that pass for wisdom on social media.

One specific question I was asked I’d like to share with you now. It related to Figure 2.5 in the book, which is the image heading this article. The question centred around how the three concepts in the image – Personality, Self-Concept and Expectations – contributed to motivation. Before answering that question directly (and there is more on it in Mapping Motivation chapter 2) I suggested we need to take a step back.

Motivational Maps Ltd sounds like a company that ‘sells’ motivation; but it doesn’t, at least most of the time. Motivation is, in the sales lingo, not a benefit but a feature. Time and again we find that whilst managers want motivation, to pay for it seems a luxury; no, what they want is the benefit of motivation. So what we sell – in ‘wrapping the mapping’ – is the benefit, which is Performance. Sometimes even that benefit is not enough: we need the benefit of the benefit! And that is Productivity. High performance levels lead to high levels of productivity, unless either the leadership or the strategy is pretty useless, and so all efforts are misdirected. And lo! The third P – that is, the benefit of the benefit of the benefit, one that can totally preoccupy managers and bosses – is higher productivity leads to increased Profits. Voila!

That’s, then, at the end of the chain. But if we come back to the process whereby the coach, consultant or trainer is working with the organisation, we are working with teams and individuals, and when we come to individuals sometimes we need to break down concepts into smaller units so that we can see the object for what it really is, and so administer the appropriate tonic that is going to nurture, sustain and develop the individual and the organisation.

I liken this process to thinking about matter. What is matter? Well, it’s made up of molecules in a certain configuration (think Performance). But what are molecules? They are made are made up of specific atoms (think Motivation and the 9 ‘atoms’ that populate this universe). Finally, what are atoms? These are made up from three major ingredients, namely, protons, neutrons and electrons (think Personality, the Self-Concept and Expectations). In other words, we can go right back to points more primary in understanding how motivation works and can be influenced.

Now somebody might say: ‘But what are protons, neutrons and electrons made up of?’ They might, but my response is that this is going too far, getting into an area outside the domain of what we can deal with in managerial situations. For all practical purposes, therefore, we have reached the basic units that can help us with people, work with change, and get results.

Thus, by way of detour, we come to the question itself. And this is the fascinating thing about it: there are three elements that comprise our motivations, and one is largely fixed – our personality – but the other two are malleable and changeable, and represent a fabulous opportunity to reframe poor performance, lack of success and underachievement. And of course, these elements of personality, the self-concept and expectations are ideal aspects of the Self not only for coaches to investigate with their clients, but also mentors, counsellors, psychotherapists and those generally interested in this subjective space where our real sense of being resides.

In Part 2 of this article I shall explore this in more detail.