What’s in it for me?


I have been meaning to cover the topic of different ways to motivate people for ages. But with the book (named after this very blog!) taking up any writing time, it’s been on the back burner.

Lucky for me, I have been coaching a senior client who decided to take the writing into his own hands after one of our sessions!

The results of focusing on different motivations have been pretty impressive for him. Tangible and measurable. Trust him. He’s a lawyer…

Motivation Blog – John Kushnick, MD Garvins Law


The issue of what motivates individual members of staff arose as a result of some very useful feedback from my direct Reports – it appears that I didn’t know what made them drag themselves into work every morning.

I had never really thought much about this before, assuming that everyone would obviously be the same as me. Why wouldn’t they?!

My first port of call after some tips from my inspirational coach Dulcie was that font of all knowledge, google. This took me to a couple of very useful articles: 9 Types of Motivation that Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams by Dylan Buckley and 10 Types of Motivation: What They Are & How to Use Them, by Evan Tarver. Are these the best, the last word on these subjects? Who knows! It’s a long time since I’ve immersed myself in academia. What I can say is that they pricked my interest, unlocking that part of my brain that was looking at motivation but hadn’t let me know. Tricky things these brains.

I started by boiling down their work into 2 categories and 9 types of motivation.

The Categories are overarching and the types of motivationcan appear in each:

1. Intrinsic: these people are motivated by internal rewards like fulfilment and contentment. This is about what is within that person rather than external rewards. It might also include the desire to avoid negative outcomes that are self- rather than externally-imposed. For example, they may have a strong fear of making mistakes, of failure, whereas the employer puts no such pressure on them.
2. Extrinsic: these people are motivated by external rewards like a bonus or raise as well as negative external factors like getting fired.

I then narrowed down the Types of Motivations to 9. The articles use slightly different terms but I was satisfied in the end that the following was the best way for me to separate out the key motivating factors:

1. Incentive/Salary – commit to actions due to the expected rewards. This is a classic motivation and one that is as valid as any other, although perhaps not destined to lead to the most truly rewarding working life.
2. Fear – act to avoid painful consequences of failure. This may be intrinsic (the employee’s own fear of failure) or extrinsic (where the employer has a history of moving on those who fail to meet targets). This is not necessarily one to encourage but it can be effective – please bear with me! One of my Reports is driven by a fear of the regulator and this means that she will ensure that her team work diligently and accurately so as to ward off the perceived risk of the firm being shut down for poor performance. It will not be a surprise that this person’s other main motivating factor was Recognition (see below).
3. Power – act in order to control own working life and/or others. This can appear to be somewhat negative but the employee motivation for power may be altruistic, to get the job done effectively rather than power for its own sake.
4. Recognition – I am recognized & respected by others. This is a powerful motivator. Who among us didn’t blush with pride when given a compliment by a teacher? If as a manager you get this right then you have an employee who will be self-motivated to go above and beyond for you; just top them up with praise and awards, step back and watch the needle go off the graph.
5. Competence & Learning – learning new skills is reward enough. Work should always be about challenges and I can’t think of any business where there’s been anything but radical change over the last few years.  This makes this employee an invaluable member of the team. While many want certainty and stability (see below) others want to rise to the challenge and help make your business future proof – or at least keep up with the breakneck changes. It is therefore vital to provide these employee’s with the right environment to stay ahead of the learning curve.
6. Autonomy – “I do it my way”. This is a more individual based version of Power in many ways; maybe more of an introvert. A valuable member of your team with this motivation will need to be protected from those trying to exert Power over them.  The challenge will be to manage and harness their talents within the framework of the needs of the business without letting them disappear into their world at one extreme or feel micro managed at the other.
7. Stability – “I like to know the future”. Not everyone wants or can cope with constant change. They will work best in an atmosphere where they are given very set tasks and sheltered from change while it is still being debated. They will have to be carefully managed when change becomes inevitable so that they can focus on all that stays the same rather than stress about the changes.
8. Status – “I have social standing” This can go hand in hand with Competence & Learning and is a more visible version of Recognition. It may sound a little big headed but need not be. For example, the status as an expert may be required to make it easier for that employee to train others.
9. Teamwork – “I am a member of the group”. This is a classic motivator and one that must always be encouraged. Like ants we all achieve far more together than we can on our own.

Having reviewed the subject and written the Motivation Pro Forma I sent it, ahead of their meeting, to my Reports together with a copy of the articles and a summary of what I was trying to achieve. I asked them all to think about theirtop 2 motivating factors ahead of the meeting so that we could discuss what they were and how I could best motivate them.

What was interesting was the degree that those who had (correctly) fed back about my lack of knowledge of their motivation actually lacked any real knowledge of it themselves! While this may at first blush appear to be a disadvantage it actually proved extremely useful in opening up the process so that we could both truly understand what motivated them.

We went through the categories and types of motivation and discussed what each meant to them. This allowed us to get a far more nuanced version of what their key motivating factors were, rather than just using the headline names. For example, while some saw Power as a negative, denying that they wanted the raw sounding control over others, one employee saw Power more as a way to obtain the best results for the company by controlling their work processes proactively.

By taking notes about their views about each motivation type and highlighting their top 2 Motivation Types I was able to get a full picture of what they needed from me. Interestingly it also gave my Reports some insight into what they wanted from their jobs. It is amazing how easy it is to spend so much time at work without ever really thinking what we want out of it!

Something else that was a pleasant surprise was that no one chose Incentive/Salary in their top 2: this is not to say that it was not seen as important, but rather that this is an outcome rather than an aim in and of itself. We all go to work in order to be paid (that’s why it’s called work and not play) but it’s a sad state of affairs if that’s our main reason.

By understanding my Report’s true motivation I can achieve the perfect Win Win scenario of improving their experience at work which should also lead to their becoming more productive and effective. Now why wouldn’t I be motivated by that?

Here is a version of John’s questionnaire that you are welcome to download and use.

Motivation Type – Pro Forma

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *