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Does Motivation Really Work?

Published on Jul 11, 2024

This morning, I took my 4-year-old Mini Goldendoodle, Bella, for a 3-mile run. She started off strong, her little legs powering her ahead of me. But as we progressed into the second mile, her pace slowed, and I found myself encouraging her with enthusiastic words: "Bella, you got this, come on, keep it going!" Each time I spoke, she would spring back to life, sprinting ahead, only to lag behind again shortly after. This cycle reminded me of the fleeting nature of motivation. So, does motivation really work? Despite my years in business and life experience, I find myself still grappling with this question.

From the books I've read, it seems clear that data from leading psychologists and entrepreneurs shows that motivation is real and beneficial. For instance, Daniel Pink, in his book "Drive," highlights the power of intrinsic motivation, focusing on autonomy, mastery, and purpose as key drivers of motivation. He states, “The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

However, much like the controversy surrounding nutrition, where opinions can be vastly different, motivation isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Dave Asprey might argue that dairy has no place in a healthy diet, while a dairy farmer living a healthy life into his 100s might credit milk for his longevity. Similarly, my good friend likens motivation to taking a daily shower—necessary to maintain a baseline of good health, even if its effects wear off quickly.

I had a profound experience with a top producer at my old insurance company. I used to meet with her monthly to motivate and set goals, a strategy that worked well with others but not with her. Over time, I realized that my intense motivational sessions were actually causing her anxiety. When I finally asked what truly motivated her, I learned that my approach was counterproductive. This taught me a crucial lesson: motivation is deeply personal and varies significantly from person to person.

Here are some unique ways to motivate different personality types, supported by insights from various books and experts:

Ways to Motivate Different Personality Types

  1. Autonomous Individuals:
    • Strategy: Give them control over their work and the freedom to make decisions.
    • Reference: Daniel Pink, "Drive" - Emphasizes the importance of autonomy in motivation.
  2. Achievement-Oriented Individuals:
    • Strategy: Set challenging but attainable goals and celebrate their achievements.
    • Reference: Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, "A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance" - Highlights the role of specific and challenging goals in enhancing performance.
  3. Socially-Driven Individuals:
    • Strategy: Foster a collaborative environment and recognize their contributions in group settings.
    • Reference: Shawn Achor, "The Happiness Advantage" - Discusses how social connections can boost motivation and happiness.
  4. Learning-Oriented Individuals:
    • Strategy: Provide opportunities for growth and learning, such as training sessions and new projects.
    • Reference: Carol Dweck, "Mindset" - Explores the importance of a growth mindset in personal and professional development.
  5. Security-Oriented Individuals:
    • Strategy: Offer stability and clear expectations, ensuring they feel secure in their role.
    • Reference: Frederick Herzberg, "The Motivation to Work" - Differentiates between hygiene factors (like job security) and motivators.

Personality Assessment Tools

To better understand and effectively motivate your team, consider using these personality assessment tools:

  1. Culture Index:
    • Overview: Helps employers understand how their employees' traits align with job roles and company culture.
    • Website: Culture Index
  2. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI):
    • Overview: Categorizes individuals into 16 personality types based on preferences in how they perceive the world and make decisions.
    • Website: MBTI
  3. DISC Assessment:
    • Overview: Focuses on four main personality traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.
    • Website: DISC Assessment
  4. CliftonStrengths by Gallup:

Motivation is a complex and multifaceted concept, working differently for everyone. By understanding and adapting to the unique drivers of each team member, leaders can foster a more motivated and productive workplace. Utilizing personality assessment tools can provide valuable insights into individual motivations, helping to tailor motivational strategies effectively. As leaders, recognizing these differences and being flexible in our approach can make all the difference in achieving success and fostering a positive work environment.

Author: George Zimny, Co-Founder of ProducifyX

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