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Motivation 101a: The 2 Essential Drives

Motivation 101a: The 2 Essential Drives

To motivate folks, you need to know what makes them tick, right?

Well, maybe not.  You can make them do stuff through intimidation.  And you can bribe them.  Tempting!  But neither strategy is sustainable.  (And the first one’s not very humane, either.)  If you want motivation to dwell inside your employees, then you have to know what drives them toward success.  And yeah, people are complicated, but it might not be as hard as you think…

Basically, two things make your folks tick, regardless of their personality variances….

(Okay, this is an over-generalization.  And yet, it’s still useful.  There are two essential drives of all living things, including humans — even your problem-child employee [keep her in mind as you read this].  Knowing these two drives — and working with them effectively — can make you a much, much better leader.)

Drum roll, please.  Here they are:

  1. Self-determination
  2. Connection

I’ll unpack these one at a time in next Thursday’s and the following Thursday’s posts, but to summarize for now:

Self-determination: What is it that drives bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics?  Even at that level, every living thing is programmed to want to survive, to grow, to thrive, to stay healthy.  At the human level, we can add “to make the most of what we have to offer.”  Now, I’m sure you can look around and see employees (and, I bet, family members) in whom that impulse seems dead.  But don’t be fooled.  It’s there — buried under emotional crap, maybe — but there, nonetheless.  You might see it expressed in negative ways — defensiveness, or territoriality, or retreats into safety.  How can you convert the “drive to thrive” into something that works for both the individual and the team?

Connection: At the same time that they’re needing to individuate, your employees are driven to belong. Again, even single-celled organisms must co-exist in harmony with their environment — or they die.  And again, if that need for belonging seems dead in that surly guy who keeps to himself, it’s only thwarted.  How can you tap into his need for connection — with the team, with the mission, with anything larger than or outside himself — so he can become more fulfilled, and in so doing, become  more of a contribution?

The bottom-line questions here for leaders who want to be motivators — the questions we should be asking ourselves daily, in the background of every interaction, are these:  What can I do to foster my employees’ need for self-determination?  What can I do to foster my employees’ need for connection? The answers will fuel job satisfaction for all concerned, and make your team more successful.

YOUR PATH FORWARD: Schedule one day in your work life to ask yourself the above two questions in every meeting and every interaction.  At the end of the day, take 2 minutes to reflect on what you learned, and what’s possible, from keeping those questions alive in you.

And check back here same time next week, when I’ll further unpack the concept of self-determination, and how to apply its motivational quality to the workplace — and the week after, when I’ll do the same with “connection.”

About the Author

Steve Motenko
Steve Motenko is an executive coach, leadership trainer, and co-host of The Boss Show, a weekly podcast on workplace dynamics. Steve and his Boss Show co-host, Jim Hessler, are co-authors of Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guide to Building Your Leadership Platform. Steve lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, with his wife and dog, whom he loves, and a cat he tolerates usually pretty well.

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