What Motivates You May Not Motivate Me

Motivation is personal: What motivates me may not motivate you. Well, duh!

Let’s use a company’s sales staff as an example. Put yourself in a sales manager’s shoes.

What motivates your sales staff? Is it money? Some will say all good sales people are motivated by money, and that’s why commission works. But does it? I’ve talked with some extremely successful sales people who say that once they have their basic needs covered, more money isn’t the motivation. It’s the challenge, the knowledge that they’re doing something special, that they’re contributing to something bigger than just them, that they’re connecting with people… that’s what motivates them. And that falls directly inline with what Daniel Pink wrote about in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He refers to what motivates today’s workforce as Motivation 3.0.

Instead of looking at your sales staff and pointing the finger at their lack of success, look in the mirror and ask, “Am I doing everything I can to make my sales people successful? Am I doing what’s necessary to motivate my staff?”

In a discussion about compensation plans, commissions, perks, bonuses, and all sorts of other incentives and so-called motivators, a manager I was talking to recently suggested a bonus of a trip to Hawaii for the leading sales person. I then asked, “Would that motivate all your staff?” He looked at me with a face that said, “Well, why not?”

What motivates you may not motivate your sales staff. For example, what if the leading sales person – the one that won the trip to Hawaii – hates to travel. In fact, she is terrified of flying. What if? So, while a trip to some exotic destination may be a motivator to you, it may not be to someone else. Personally, I find it hard to imagine someone not wanting to go to Hawaii, but it could happen. In fact, I’ve met people who think a trip like that would be painful.

How can you motivate someone if you don’t know what drives them? Using a blanket approach to this – using the same method to motivate all people – does not work.

The top three things that a great manager of people does is provide clear expectations, provide lots of feedback, and develops a personal connection with her people. As part of the latter, a great manager should learn about what motivates her staff.

If I walked up to you right now and asked, “What motivates each member of your staff?” how would you respond? Could you give me a solid answer?

This doesn’t apply just to people that report to you. It works for everyone whom you want to help perform better. It can apply to your boss, your co-workers, teammates, peers. Do you know what motivates your boss?

How do you determine what motivates someone? Well, you could ask them! As part of the process of developing a good working relationship, perhaps a discussion about what motivates you both is a great place to start. Understanding that what motivates you may not motivate me or anyone else, and then determining what does motivate people, will lead to better performance.

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One Response to “What Motivates You May Not Motivate Me”

  1. Patrick says:

    I got behind a little on my reading of your articles. I read this one . Outstanding and how true.