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Lead Smarter: Unlock the 9 Core Human Motivations

In the bustling corridors of business, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, a common challenge persists – how do you, as a leader, inspire your team to work more effectively and passionately? The answer lies in understanding that motivation is not one-size-fits-all. As an executive coach, I've seen firsthand the power of tailored motivation strategies. Drawing on the Hogan Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI) and insights from reputable sources like McKinsey, let's explore how different motivations can be harnessed to drive team success and how you can figure out what makes your team members tick.

1. Recognition: The Spotlight Motivators

For those driven by recognition, the spotlight is their energy source. A McKinsey study revealed that praise and commendation from managers were consistently top motivators. These individuals thrive on public acknowledgment and awards. As a leader, make it a point to celebrate their achievements in team meetings or company newsletters. It's not just about saying 'good job'; it's about showing them that their efforts are seen and valued.

Those with Recognition as a core motivator might say:

  • "I felt really proud when my project was highlighted during the last team meeting,"

  • "It's important for me to know that my work is recognized and appreciated."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I enjoy getting feedback on my work,"

  • "Seeing my work mentioned in the company newsletter was a highlight for me."

2. Power: The Influence Seekers

Power-motivated team members are fueled by influence and leadership opportunities. They want to lead projects, make decisions, and have their expertise recognized. Empower them by delegating meaningful responsibilities and offering roles that position them as subject matter experts. This not only satisfies their motivational needs but also leverages their strengths for the team's benefit.

Those with Power as a core motivator might say:

  • "I'm looking for opportunities where I can lead and make key decisions,"

  • "I thrive when I have authority over projects and can drive change."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I like being involved in strategy discussions,"

  • "It's rewarding to mentor and guide others in their roles."

3. Hedonism: The Joy Pursuers

Those who score high on hedonism seek pleasure and enjoyment in their work. Google's famous 20% time, where employees spend a fifth of their time on projects they are passionate about, is a perfect example of catering to this motivation. Encourage these team members to engage in projects that ignite their passion and allow for creative expression.

Those with Hedonism as a core motivator might say:

  • "I'm at my best when I'm truly passionate about what I'm working on,"

  • "I value flexibility and fun in my work environment."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I value a good work-life balance,"

  • "Creative challenges really energize me."

4. Altruism: The Givers

Altruistic individuals are motivated by opportunities to help others and contribute to the greater good. Highlight how their work makes a difference. Initiatives like mentorship programs or community service activities can be particularly fulfilling for them. Remember, for these individuals, the impact of their work often matters more than personal gain.

Those with Altruism as a core motivator might say:

  • "I feel fulfilled when I can help others or contribute to a cause,"

  • "For me, the impact of our work on the community is what really matters."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I'm glad our company supports community initiatives,"

  • "It's important to me that my work helps people in some way."

5. Affiliation: The Team Players

People high in affiliation value relationships and being part of a team. They thrive in collaborative environments. Foster this by creating opportunities for team-building and collaborative projects. Ensuring they're part of a cohesive group where they can form meaningful connections will keep them motivated.

Those with Affiliation as a core motivator might say:

  • "I enjoy working in collaborative teams,"

  • "Building strong relationships at work is really important to me."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I enjoy the camaraderie of working in a team,"

  • "I believe in the power of teamwork to solve problems."

6. Tradition: The Values-Driven

Those motivated by tradition place high importance on well-established methods and values. They resonate with missions and visions that align with their personal beliefs. As a leader, it's crucial to communicate the company's values clearly and demonstrate how their work aligns with these principles.

Those with Tradition as a core motivator might say:

  • "I respect established ways of doing things,"

  • "It's important that my work aligns with my personal values."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I respect the legacy of our company,"

  • "It's important to uphold high standards in our work."

7. Security: The Stability Seekers

In the realm of motivation, security stands as a cornerstone for many. Individuals driven by this value seek stability and predictability in their professional lives. They are the ones who appreciate clear guidelines, consistent policies, and a sense of order. As a leader, your role is to provide a structured environment, where expectations are transparent and changes are communicated well in advance. A McKinsey study highlights that employees who feel secure in their roles are 50% more productive. To cater to this motivation, consider regular one-on-one check-ins to reassure them of their standing and the stability of their role.

Those with Security as a core motivator might say:

  • "I appreciate clear guidelines and a predictable environment,"

  • "Job stability and security are top priorities for me."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I appreciate when expectations are clear and consistent,"

  • "Long-term planning gives me a sense of security."

8. Commerce: The Success-Oriented

Next, let's talk about those motivated by commerce. These individuals are driven by success, achievement, and tangible rewards. They are often the goal-setters and go-getters, thriving in environments where their achievements are recognized and rewarded. As a leader, setting clear targets and linking them to specific rewards can be highly effective. This could be in the form of bonuses, public recognition, or career advancement opportunities. Remember, for these individuals, the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of a tangible reward are powerful motivators.

Those with Commerce as a core motivator might say:

  • "I'm driven by targets and tangible results,"

  • "I'm motivated by opportunities for financial success and career advancement."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • "I keep a close eye on our performance metrics,"

  • "I'm always looking for ways to improve our bottom line."

9. Aesthetics: The Creativity Appreciators

Then, there are those who are motivated by aesthetics. This doesn't just mean a love for the arts; it's about appreciating beauty, creativity, and innovation in all forms. These team members thrive in environments where they can express their creativity and are often the ones with fresh, out-of-the-box ideas. To inspire them, foster a workplace that values and encourages creative thinking. Give them projects that allow for creative freedom and acknowledge their unique perspectives. Their innovation can be a driving force in problem-solving and product development.

Those with Aesthetics as a core motivator might say:

  • "I'm inspired by beauty and creativity in my work,"

  • "I value innovative and out-of-the-box thinking."

They might also drop subtle cues like:

  • “I enjoy when there's a fresh approach to a project,"

  • "An aesthetically pleasing workspace is important to me."

Closing Thoughts: Discovering Your Team's Core Motivations

Understanding what motivates your team is not just about observing their behavior; it's also about listening to the language they use when discussing their professional aspirations. Pay attention to the words and themes that come up repeatedly in these conversations. Do they talk about seeking challenges, achieving stability, making an impact, or craving recognition? These clues can be invaluable in understanding their core values and motivations.

The best approach is to engage in open, honest conversations. Ask your team members about their professional goals and what they find most fulfilling in their work. This not only shows that you care about their aspirations but also gives you insights into how best to motivate and lead them.

Remember, in the words of Brené Brown, "Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior." Combine this with a direct, results-oriented approach, and you're on your way to becoming a leader who not only achieves but inspires.


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