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Each person on the planet has their own unique ideas, interests, talents, skills, and motivators. Even twins who share similar DNA have different opinions, interests, and motivators. So if we understand this, why do so many organizations have one set of motivators to try and change the behavior of the masses? 

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?

Our society is moving toward more and more customization. Have you noticed the increase in choices you have every day, from customizing your morning mocha to creating your own webpage.  So why is it that many organizations continue to do things the old way? You might hear the old adages: “change is hard, we do not have the budget for such customization this year, (insert your own phrase here), etc.”  Motivation is not just paying people more or offering them more perks and bonuses.  Has anyone seen or taken an MBA course on how to motivate your employees that entails more than reviewing Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs? I believe that managers in this new economy and beyond need a different set of skills in order to harness the potential of knowledge workers.

Most managers understand that part of their job is to motivate and engage their employees. Some of the typical avenues might be: one on one status meetings, periodic outings for lunch or coffee, or maybe sitting in on project meetings to see how things are going. These three instances are an example that there is ample opportunity and time to customize an employee’s motivation. So why does it not happen on a regular basis?

When customizing an employee’s motivation a manager needs to be skilled at understanding the employee’s four drives; Acquire and Achieve, Bond and Belong, Challenge and Comprehend, and Defend and Define. Once they understand their employee’s individual four drives the next step is to discover what the employee is not saying about what motivates and drives them.  Many times when you ask someone, “What Motivates You?” they will probably give you an answer fairly quickly – but by digging and reflecting a little bit deeper into their answer you may discover something else entirely.  There is more to motivating employees than just utilizing one model and tools.

The four drive model is a good start but a manager also needs to understand reflective questioning techniques, asking open ended questions, utilizing gap analysis, and paying attention to body language, etc.   Managers need to customize their motivational methods based on these insights. 

For instance, Employee A really likes to be seen as an expert – so provide opportunities for that person to shine and be recognized as the expert (i.e., lead a brown bag lunch, ask them to help present at a Senior Leadership meeting about something they know well).  Employee B wants to feel part of a close knit group so create avenues for that to happen (i.e., hold small team lunches with two or three people, set up small work teams to address some particular issue).  Employee C has the drive to Acquire so the manager must focus that person on what they can do to earn more (i.e., review the incentive or recognition program with them, work with them on what they need to do to get a raise).  The important part is to understand how each person is motivated and to tap into that motivation.  This isn’t easy. 

As I stated in the beginning of this post, every person on the planet is unique.  Managers have an incredible opportunity to develop and grow their employees but it will take adopting and learning some new skills and a genuine time commitment.

 Employees are more than just their paycheck; they are each contributing their time, skills, knowledge, and talents to an organization. I believe they deserve our time and attention, what about you?