Motivating others – a personality perspective

Different things drive different people. Neuroscience suggests that in fact it’s a combination of six core things. Let’s take a look at what they are along with a few wider principles.

I’ve been trying to find an angle on the ‘motivating people’ topic for a while, it is a pretty wide topic with lots of complexities. I think this is what makes it hard to write about, and you either end up being superficial or writing a book. So I have decided to take one piece on and perhaps take another piece later. If your interested in any particular area or context then drop me a line.

I mentioned six core motivation levers in the intro. The interesting development in personality models these days is that they have shifted from observational and somewhat theoretical modelling to being scientifically measured and correlated. But before you run away muttering ‘I can’t be pigeon holed’ let me reassure you that you won’t be. Here is a short intro into each of them from a motivational point of view.

Spontaneity: A percentage of us are motivated by something new. In relationships this translates to things like spontaneous trips, varied activities and new things. Things are generally unplanned and the shift of focus moves quickly. At work this translates to wanting new tasks, varied jobs and chasing the latest and greatest.

Vision: Usually in opposition to those motivated by ‘New’ are those of us who look to a future ideal. We are motivated by future concepts/visions/potentials to be reached. At work this may translate wanting to do planning, concept creation and do theoretical type thinking (or discussions). In relationships again the motivation is for long term goal setting; when to have a family, retirement etc. In both cases ‘something greater’ is the target. There is a hint of fantasy/idealism in what the future will be.

Logic: Many of us are practical thinkers, things have to be objective and methodical and logical. Crazy ideas and concepts do nothing except maybe infuriate. There is a desire for rules to be adhered to and everything has a place, order and purpose. In relationships the family structure and expectations of each member is clear with everything that implies. At work there will be a desire to work in teams and well defined structures. Roles and responsibilities need to be clear.

Enthusiasm: Everything is done with passion and enthusiasm. Competition and being the best at whatever task selected is the goal. It’s almost pure energy. At work the desire is to be the top performer, always pushing to take on the next big challenge and wanting to earn lots of money. In relationships there is a desire to have the best partner/family. There is a large amount of passion and devotion to making the relationship successful.

Info: Think accountant, researcher or scientist for this one. Those of us in this group love detail, evidence, analysis, data, specifics etc. At work the desire is to be solving complex analysis tasks, collecting and reporting on business data/information. Or perhaps knowing specific details or facts related to the job. In relationships everything must weighed and measured, purchases are well researched and recorded.

EQ: Those of us with this emotional intelligence quotient are empathetic, sensitive, people oriented, loving etc. At work and in relationships there is a need to make sure people are doing well, personally. There is deep sensitivity to how people are feeling. At work the motivation is great teamwork (everyone succeeds) and personal relationships. In relationships support and protection is strong with a strong sense of family.

So they are the six levers. You will probably relate with at least one but hopefully two or three of them. Generally each of us can be motivated by combinations and different degrees of three of these. Let’s take an example; someone who is spontaneous, enthusiastic and EQ oriented. Given the information above what sort of conversation would you have with them to get them on board with where you are going? …….. How about “”I have a great new challenge for you, you will need to use your solid relationships to get everyone on board. It will require flexibility but quick wins.””

When you hit the nail on the head with these levers it is absolutely amazing what a difference it makes. Its like finding the key to what has been a padlocked door.

Apart from these levers I think there are a couple of other key factors to motivating people;


  • Make sure they are capable. Either at work or at home, if the person is not capable then they are going to fail, a huge demotivator. If you were the one who encouraged and prompted them then they are going to have trouble taking on your next motivational speech or suggestion.
  • Ensure the environment enables success. In some ways this ties into the levers, what people need and where a group/team/family/friend sit in comparison to each other. But really simply, if regardless of someone’s capability there is no way the environment will allow them to be successful then there is no point. This doesn’t mean don’t bother trying anything tough though.
  • Be honest and considerate. There will always be occasions where we need to get people inline with our direction or thinking etc. This doesn’t mean we need to sell them a line. Your own motivations/desires/needs are a pretty key part in any communication and this is no exception.
  • Be prepared to do yourself whatever your asking of others. This will not only motivate people but also earn you respect and trust.

Hope that was helpful, you should definitely not be afraid of giving the levers a try. It may feel a bit funny at times if your trying to speak from a different lever than you operate from but see how you go. Even if you just focus on talking to one lever.


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