How understanding motives can leverage effective motivation

How do you motivate your team?

Sir, I take them for get-together and parties, we go out for movie together once in a month, I praise them for their good job and take training’s for them.

Does that sound familiar?

This is one of the common beliefs and tactics that professionals at Manager or Assistant Manager feel and do, and sometimes it implies to Department Heads as well.

If parties & get-together motivated people, there would a pub in the backyard of every Business unit and there would be no attrition.

Let me tell you a short story.

A friend of mine loves going to KFC, and I personally prefer Mc Donald’s. One afternoon we wanted to go out for lunch. You guessed it right, we landed at KFC and ordered our stuff. I got a burger for myself and she ordered a longer (kind of a hot-dog).

I asked her, why do you like KFC?

I come here to eat the Longer, she replied, and that’s what I always order.

Inquisitively I asked her “Why do you like this longer so much”

She replied with longer still in her mouth and eyes closed– umm, I like the sauce. I could sense the emotional satisfaction she was overwhelmed with.

And what if they remove the sauce, I asked

She gave me a surprised look and retorted; please don’t say that. I won’t eat it then.

I realized that her motive was to have the sauce not the longer itself. If the sauce is put in the burger, she will have the burger and if that sauce doesn’t exist, then probably she might not even come to KFC next time.

When I reflected on this story in the context of Motivation, what I discovered for myself was interesting.

Satisfying the Hunger was the Motive. This motive could have been achieved by eating anything, but the sauce was the motivation, which guided her behavior in a certain way to walk in KFC and order it.

Motive is reason for doing something and motivation is a set of action for acting or behaving in a particular way; essentially to achieve the motive. Essentially, as managers one can only motivate a behavior, not the motive. Knowing the motive of a person, is an essential key to motivate them effectively.

Motives do change for everyone with every stage of life and sometimes it changes every year. What my motives were yesterday might not be the same today. All these years of speaking to colleagues in exit interviews and my friends and colleagues from different industry is, “Motives are Personal, and hence Motivation has to be Personalized”.

Let’s get it straight, no one works for money. They work for what that money can do for them. Just like you don’t buy a car to fill fuel. You buy a car to drive, to reach from one destination to another, to enjoy the scenic beauty, and fuel is what makes the car run. Similarly, money is a fuel to run life. Money is not life.

And as we cross different stages of life, our motives changes. It changes from recognition to promotion, city life, work life balance, children’s education, their schools, proximity of office from home, peace of mind, savings, self-esteem, contributing to society, doing something for environment and other delicate ones.

Get-together, Team building activities, Appreciation, Praising, Outings etc are not real motivators. They are a combination of social & managerial activities to create a work culture and engaging environment, and these environment gives the manager an opportunity to discover the motives of his people, because that’s when they speak their heart out.

It’s not the activity that has worked. It’s what you have done during that activity which has worked. Every time when you have stood with your associate with a glass of beer in hand, they spoke their heart out. Every time when you shared a cigarette with someone, the same thing happened. And it continues in every activity.

Wouldn’t you agree with me that most of the counselling sessions happens either happens over a smoke or drink. The key thing to notice here is that you speak to that person one on one. She / He gets all your attention and you get to understand where it is coming from.

Spend a lot of time with your people and just to understand them. There’s a Human behind every professional, and every human has a motive for doing what they are doing. Your primary job is to act like a catalyst and fuel his behavior in an encouraging way to achieve whatever he wants to.

Wouldn’t it be easy for you to motivate, if you knew what your team’s motive is?

If someone’s motive is just to do good work, get salary on time and go back home, all he needs is praise and support.

If someone’s motive is to grow in his position in next 2 years, he would need coaching and training which is making him feel that he is moving towards his goal.

If someone ‘s motive is a transfer to a certain city, you have to prepare him to be ready for a transfer and help him getting it.

If someone’s motive is to take learn P&L, you must give him tasks that builds his knowledge in understanding P&L.

Do you know the motive of all the associates in your team? Time to find out.


“Motives are Personal; and hence Motivation has to be Personalized”

Photo by Mikechie Esparagoza from Pexels

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