Four Drive Theory | Behavior Matters! - Part 2

Tag: Four Drive Theory

What Drives Meaning?

What is it that drives meaning in work?  True, real meaning that goes beyond the obvious “completed this project” or “achieved that goal”?  I have some ideas, but would love to hear what other people have to say first.  I’ll keep a track of the responses we get and put up another post on this with some ideas at a later time.

So please, leave a thought in the comment section!

More on the Drive to Challenge & Comprehend

Why we do the things we do

I was reading an the transcribed copy from a conversation between Ira Flatow and Dr. Paul Bloom on the NPR show Science Friday.  This show was titled, “Why we like the things we like” and I think it highlights some very interesting insights that we could all learn from.

The following excerpt is a great example of the Drive to Challenge and Comprehend.

FLATOW: Well, you led into a topic I wanted to ask you about, and that is the pleasure of just learning about things. It’s – you know, just knowing more. I mean, I find that extremely pleasurable, and I’m sure a lot of our listeners do, or else they wouldn’t be tuned to this program.

Read More

3 Tips to Increase the Drive to Challenge & Comprehend

Challenge The 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation’s 3rd drive is the Drive to Challenge and Comprehend.   The drive focuses on our innate desire to learn more about the world around us and to not be bored.

I like to call this the “4-year old drive.”

If you’ve ever tried to get a 4-year old dressed quickly, you know what I mean – they want to do it themselves.  It is the challenge of being able to button their shirt or put on their own shoes that they are striving for.  Or think about a 4-year old sitting at dinner with a group of adults who are talking (i.e., boring) and think of the trouble that they get themselves into trying to add some excitement (or learn something new).  For instance, my 4-year old was bored and decided to see what meatballs in a glass of milk would taste like…you see what I mean.

So here are three tips to help increase the C drive:

Read More

The Power of Communication – best “save the date” announcement ever

Ok, this is too funny. I think it is real, but even if it isn’t, it is good. Shows you the power of being creative, using different types of media, and having good production…this is what every incentive compensation plan communications needs but rarely gets. Think of the power of this video being about your compensation plan and being introduced to your sales force at your next National Meeting…WOW!  Motivation is about more than just the reward – it is about how we communicate, how we actively engage, how we convey the message and get people to not only notice, but care…and maybe even have a little bit of fun!

Sales Motivation using the 4-Drive Model

Salespeople who are engaged in their roles, who are motivated to succeed, and who’s goals are aligned with the organizational goals have been shown to have a significant impact on helping an organization succeed (Badovick, Hadaway, & Kaminski, 1992). Successful organizations understand this and try to keep their sales employees motivated and engaged through a variety of motivational methods – mostly involving extrinsic rewards.

While much has been much written about how extrinsic rewards may have a detrimental effect of on a sales person’s intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, Kohn, or Pink – note: there is also a lot of research on how this extrinsic/intrinsic effect can be mitigated) there is little disagreement on the short-term impact that extrinsic rewards can have on a company’s performance . The short-term benefit of extrinsic rewards assures us that these rewards will be used in businesses no matter what Dan Pink has to say on the topic.   However, this does not mean that these types of programs can’t be improved.

Successful organizations and leaders of the future not only need to focus on the optimization of extrinsic reward programs but also on moving other levers within the organization that can drive sales motivation.  Using the Four-Drive Model of Employee Motivation (Lawrence and Nohria, 2002) provides a clear framework for how to do this.

Read More

Four Drive: Great Tips to Increase Employee Motivation

A few weeks ago during the Motivation Webinar, Kurt Nelson reviewed some practical everyday things you can do to increase employee motivation in each of the Four Drives.  Regardless if you attended or reviewed the webinar slides, the following tips are good reminders and may spark further ideas for you today on how to increase your employee’s motivation!

Drive to Achieve & Acquire:

  • Recognize or provide incentives for your employees in a customized manner (one size does not fit all)
  • Ensure recognition is timely and focuses on achievements
  • Reward your employees with appropriate and individualized tools, (i.e. a $20 gas card would not be a motivator for someone that telecommutes)
  • Make recognition a priority utilizing formal and informal methods – ensure you do this on a regular basis
  • Get creative, some of the best recognition is low cost but high in creativity

Creative Resource: 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Bob Nelson PhD

Drive to Bond & Belong:

  • Create and support opportunities for employees to connect on a personal level, i.e. potluck lunches, business book clubs, work softball teams, bowling leagues, etc.
  • Develop formal job sharing/rotation where peers learn other jobs on the team
  • Understand that there is a human need to connect with others, remember to balance the perspective of employees ‘goofing off’
  • Organize a share and tell day, where employees get together and share what they do within the company and how their job fits into the bigger picture


Drive to Comprehend & Challenge:

  • Provide challenging work assignments that allow your employees to grow
  • Create opportunities for your employees to cross train into other areas of the company that they might be interested in learning
  • Share fun/interesting magazines or journals with your employees, highlight interesting articles and then have them pass along to the next person
  • Set achievable but realistic stretch goals – have a goal setting meeting with employees

Resource: Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research and Practice by Gary Lathum

 Drive to Define & Defend:

  • Provide time off /company time for charitable work
  • Ensure you have a clear Mission
  • Be transparent with information, this will foster an environment of trust and pride
  • Actions speak louder than words, have your employees back, believe in them
  • Ask for testimonials from customers have them share their experience with your company and then share those with your employees

Resource: Driven HBR Article:

What tips do you have to increase employee motivation in each of the Four Drives? We would love to hear your ideas, leave a comment below.


If you know someone that might benefit from this article pay it forward and pass it along.


What really motivates employees?

Harvard Business Review discusses a study that looked at what really drives employee motivation. While the study is really looking at emotions and what satisfies employees and makes them happy (and not really “motivation” per se), it does reveal some interesting findings. The most important is that employees having a sense of progress is a key driver in this aspect.


Of course this ties right into two of the four drives: Acquire & Achieve and Challenge & Comprehend. As employees, we need to feel like we are Achieving something – i.e., making progress. When we feel we are stuck or not moving forward, we are not satisfying our drive to Achieve.  We also are motivated to be challenged – but we need to see progress in this arena in order to stay motivated by it.

While the study shed light on how progress motivates, it did not dig in deep to how this works.  For instance the HBR study did not explore what type of progress was greater motivator — progress on everyday simple tasks or those tasks that are challenging.  I would theorize that progress on the challenging goals has a higher impact.   Nor did it look at the effect of proximity to the end goal.  In other words, is it more motivating to achieve progress towards a goal at the very beginning or closer to the end (e.g., example of getting the first 1,000 miles towards your frequent flyer free trip or getting the 24,000 mile (when you need 25,000 to earn the free trip))?

Overall the HBR article brought up some key insights that will help us all in understanding what motivates us. Read the HBR article here

Four Drive Model: New Theory on Employee Motivation

The Four Drive Model of Employee Motivation was presented by Lawrence and Nohria in 2002. The model is a holistic way of looking at employee motivation beyond the typical “pay” model that is prevalent in the corporate world today. I will not go into detail regarding the model here, but just give  an overview and how this model presents a new way of thinking for organizational leaders (see here for how leader’s can impact performance using it).

The Four Drive theory is based on research that shows four underlying drives – the drive to Acquire & Achieve, to Bond & Belong, to be Challenged & Comprehend and to Define & Defend.

Each of these drives are important if we are to understand employee motivation. While companies typically focus on the drive to Acquire & Achieve (i.e., base pay, incentives, etc…), the other three drives play an integral part in  fully motivating employees. Thus, the new theory provides a model for employers to look at when they are trying to find ways to increase employee engagement and motivation.

For instance, companies often pay lip service to team building as they don’t see how it really impacts performance. The Four Drive model shows that team building relates directly to the drive to Bond & Belong – which in turn can influence an employees motivation. Thus conducting a team building session should no longer be just about having fun for a few hours, it should help a company’s employees positively build and enhance the bonds they have with their co-workers.

The drive to be Challenged & Comprehend  highlights the fact that we perform better when we are not bored or “not challenged” and learning on the job.  Instead of trying to automate and simplify all work, leaders should look at how they can enhance or create challenges for employees and provide them opportunities to learn and grow.  With this in mind, organizations must look at how they are structuring their jobs, their projects, their incentives.

Organizations do not typically think of the drive to Define & Defend when they are thinking about motivation. The Four Drive model indicates that a company’s reputation, its moral bearing, the culture and what it does can all be significant factors in how motivated employees are. Think of the different motivation an employee would have working for a pharmaceutical company that is providing life saving medicines for people or a one that is out to maximize shareholder returns. Which do you think would have the more motivated workforce?

Note: Alright, a theory that is almost seven years old really isn’t new, but theories moving from academics into the real world often require a much longer time to be accepted – so I’d give this a good grade! For more information, please go to or


We have done much work on increasing our understanding of the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation over the past year.  We are in the final stages of development for a 4-Drive Assessment that will help people understand how the four drives influence their individual motivation.  Another area of research for us was to look at how managers can use the 4-Drive Model to create programs, put in place systems, and change their behavior to increase their employee’s motivation.  All of this work has helped solidify our understanding of the 4-Drive Model and reconfirmed our belief that this is a very powerful employee motivation model.  We now understand that using this as an underlying architecture for creating a motivational workplace can be very beneficial for organizations.

Our work in this area has also shown that there are some weaknesses to the model.  For instance, “Purpose” isn’t really addressed in the model.  Purpose has been shown to be a key motivator in individuals – highlighted in Pink’s recent work but dating back to research done by Deci, Eisenberger, Locke, Lathum and most importantly Leider.  In the 4-Drive Model we have been forced to put passion under the Define & Defend Drive – but that stretches the current definition for that drive.  We are currently working on a way to integrate Purpose into the 4-Drive Model.

All in all, we still believe that the 4-Drive Model is one of the strongest and most robust models to help understand employee motivation and engagement.  We are working on developing more actionable tools and programs so that managers can both understand the model and be able to use it to increase their employee’s motivation.  It is with great anticipation that we are looking forward to the next year and taking this to the next level.


Please see Rethinking the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation for further thoughts on this model and how our thinking has led to new ideas.  Here are some other links to blogs we’ve written about the 4-drives Impact on Leaders here, and other four-drive info here, here, here, here and here.


Page 2 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén