What Motivates People? Seven Secrets to Motivating You and Your Team

We are all born with the same three universal needs: Competency, Autonomy and Relatedness

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What motivates people? This article reveals seven ways to motivate yourself and your team.

Do you really understand what motivates people? Or are you still trying to decipher and apply the Maslow or Herzberg theories, but struggling?

Motivational psychologists and researchers have, in recent years, discovered more about what motivates us than what we know from decades of past research. In particular, they have discovered that we are all born possessing three innate, universal needs (Deci and Ryan):

  • The need for Competency…being masterful
  • The need for Autonomy..being free to make our own choices
  • The need for Relatedness…being accepted and cherished by others

Then as we mature and become more socialized, we add extrinsic needs, such as PurposeMeaning and yes, even Money, Possessions and Power.  We sometimes even internalize these additional needs to such an extent that they transform from being extrinsic to intrinsic.

What motivates you?

Before you attempt to answer that question, consider how you spend your time. For example, to understand what motivates you at work, take a typical day, and examine what type of work draws you in, and what type of work you avoid.

The work that draws you in, does so because it meets your innate or intrinsic needs. It does so because you are achieving one or more of the following:

  • building a strength,
  • experiencing freedom of choice,
  • getting recognized by others,
  • pursuing a purpose,
  • experiencing a deeper meaning from your work,
  • acquiring tangible rewards, that you feel are equitable
  • gaining or holding on to power

You can probably add more motivators to this list, but in my experience, the seven above tend to be the main ones. They are a good starting point.

What motivates your team?

If some of your team members seem under-motivated, then it’s likely that one or more of these motivators is lacking in their work. You can gain insights on this by asking some simple questions:

Is the work designed to…

  1. Give people the opportunity to build on their strengths? (Competency)
  2. Provide a high degree of control over how the work gets completed? (Autonomy)
  3. Provide sufficient, appropriate and timely recognition for a job well done? (Relatedness)
  4. Contribute to a higher purpose, in particular, the organizations Mission/Vision/Values/Strategic Goals? (Purpose)
  5. Produce an output or outcome that has deep meaning for the person doing the work? (Meaning)
  6. Reward the person doing the work with what seems to them a fair return for the value they produce? (Rewards)
  7. Provide the person doing the work with opportunities for advancement? (Power)

So there you have it…seven key motivators that when attended to will energize you and your team!

Brian Ward