What Drives Us

January 25, 2010 by
Filed under: Leadership, People, Teamwork 

What motivates you? Chances are that it is not one particular thing but a mix of a wide range of things. Chances are even greater that if you look at the other people on your team, their mix of important motivators are quite different from yours. If we know what motivates us in our environment, we can behave in a manner that feeds these motives and results in a much more rewarding experience.

Based on a number of different surveys, here is a list of items that may or may not be important to you for motivation:

  • Independence
  • Achievement
  • Interaction
  • Recognition
  • Leisure Time
  • Power
  • Prestige
  • Money
  • Pressure
  • Self-Esteem
  • Family Life
  • Security
  • Personal Growth
  • Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Service
  • Problem Solving

While many attempts at motivating people centre around extrinsic motivational factors (recall Dan Pink’s TED Talk and my Rotten Carrots post), notice how few in this list fall in that category. Power, prestige and money are commonly identified as important motivating factors for initiatives, but most employee studies rank them down below a number of intrinsic factors.

If we map these factors on to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it appears that while physiological needs are a given in most project environments (…though not all: I recall going to meetings in Montreal 25 years ago and sitting in a windowless room with cigar and pipe smokers…), and safety needs are the focus of most motivation initiatives, this is not enough to motivate most knowledge-based workers today.

Many of the drivers for true motivation in a project environment fall into the higher categories of Maslow’s Hierarchy, and the more we can:

  • Recognize those motivating factors at these higher levels that are important to ourselves and others,
  • Identify whether there is an environment in place where these factors are supported, and
  • Craft an approach for adjusting the project environment to better support those factors that are important to all of us

The more we can develop a strategy for motivation that is far more likely to provide results.

Consider the list of motivational factors above, and prioritize them from your perspective. Are they being reasonably supported in your project environment? What can be done to change the environment for the most important ones as necessary?

Consider others on your project team, and what may motivate them. How do their priorities differ from yours? Can the environment you are in sustain your different needs?

If we know what drives us, can we work towards ensuring we get what we need? – JB

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