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How Do We Engage?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

On the 17th October, 2019, Senior Practitioners Aspirin Business Solutions hosted the Motivational Maps conference in Winchester. It was a jam-packed day, full of insight, knowledge-sharing, and hope for the future.

James Sale at the 2019 Motivational Maps Conference
James Sale at the 2019 Motivational Maps Conference

The conference opened with a short talk by James Sale, creator of Motivational Maps. He began on a note of victory. Last year’s conference (2018), they had 500 licensees with the Maps. This year, they had 700! His talk was about the future, and how they might change the way companies engage with people. The mission of Maps was made plain: to transform top-down command-and-control hierarchical management to a bottom up people-empowering approach. After a question posed from the audience about what James’ specific vision for the future of the Maps business was, he posed an interesting counter-statement about the three stages of a business’ development: firstly, a vision – a meaningful goal and objective and a driven team that want to achieve it. Secondly, a business. They monetize. Lastly, they become a racket: a money-making machine without heart. His goal was to keep Motivational Maps in the ‘Vision’ stage for as long as possible. Contrary to what most business owners want, which is to turn their businesses in cash-cows, James’ goal was precisely the opposite: to prevent it becoming a heartless corporate entity.

It was clear this resonated with the room, and this became a thematic through-line for the rest of the day. However, speaking with many of the attendants, it’s almost impossible to conceive Maps ever could become a racket, because the people that work for – or perhaps it would be better to say ‘with’ it – the Practitioners, are individual mavericks with their own purposeful missions.

This was picked up by Steve Jones, the second speaker. Steve Jones has co-written Mapping Motivation for Engagement with James, and was there to speak about the opportunities for employee engagement using Maps. He remarked that one of the things he liked most about the Maps was that unlike other tools, it was not prescriptive. He could use the Maps how he liked and incorporate it into his business model in whatever way best fitted. And, of course, people were discovering new ways to do this all the time.

Steve’s talk was powerful in that it revealed what an incredible opportunity there is for Maps in the engagement sector alone. Two-thirds of people in Britain are disengaged according to recent studies by Engage For Success, an organisation Steve works with whose mission is to re-engage Britain’s workforce. Motivation is absolutely critical to engagement, and being able to discover what drives people and help them fulfil those drives using Maps, is a powerful tool for change.

More statistics highlighted the prevalence of fear in the modern-day workforce. 47% of employees stay in their job because they fear they have no other option. Fear, and its role in both motivating and de-motivating, became another theme of the event.

The conference itself, however, was incredibly engaging, with a number of exercises that got the minds in the room working. One example is that every person was asked to put down one ‘recommended resource’ on a post-it note that was then shared and put onto a wall. At the end of the event, they put all of these recommendations into an email and sent it to everyone that’d attended. The majority of the resources were important books, which made for a powerful reading list! Another example is people were later asked to create their own ‘Maps story’ using Freytag as a template! These exercises also reminded us that, at heart, Maps may be theoretically brilliant, but it is a practical tool intended to achieve practical and measurable results.

A Volatile & Uncertain World

The next speaker, Robert Nunn, gave a phenomenal talk about the role Maps had played in helping Grosvenor – a 350 year old company that manages properties across the south of the UK – hire, retain, and motivate staff. Again, the ‘fluidity and agility’ of the Maps was a strong talking point. He described most of the people in the organisation as ‘time limited’, but the Maps had a ‘low diary impact’. He also said that the fact that it was based on numbers, therefore providing a solid and reliable metric, was also hugely appealing. He said that when he came to do yearly reviews, he noticed that there were numbers in every part of the company’s business plans, except for the ‘people’ aspect. However, Maps had closed that gap.

Robert introduced the concept of a VUCA world, a term originally coined by the American military, which is an acronym for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Maps are an ideal tool for dealing with this world, because they allow us to remove ambiguity and gain clarity on what is really driving people. They provide a simple language – the nine motivators – to describe complex problems. And, they help us measure change and change-readiness.

Several speakers throughout the day would return to the idea of our ‘volatile’ and ‘complex’ world, specifically with reference to exponential technology, and the curve that will soon reach the continuum, where we won’t be able to predict what is happening next. Maps has remained current with technology (some speakers could remember when the Maps were manually calculated – it has changed a lot in 13 years!), but soon it may need to move again.

Untapped Opportunities

Linda Sale, Managing Director of Motivational Maps, gave a brief talk about several updates happening within the Maps community, including exciting opportunities for e-learning modules. She handed over to Kate Turner, who pointed out how little-used the e-learning module is, and what a brilliant opportunity it is for larger organisations who may not be able to afford or wish to pay for every mapped member of staff to have a one-to-one coaching session. Again, the opportunities and possibilities of the Maps were pre-eminently apparent; it was a case of each person finding their way in to these untapped markets.

The international spread of the Maps became apparent with a talk from Marie Ball, a Maps Business Practitioner operating in Australia. She shared a powerful case-study about the difference she had made to two teams in the Australian government, a total of around 120 people, using the Maps. Some of her strategies were unique and even experienced Mappers had not come across them before. For example, she did not share the PMA (Personal Motivation Score) of the staff she worked with, as many did not wish to be singled out and picked on by other staff for having low motivation. This empathetic and caring approach startled many people, and showed the power of the Maps from an entirely different angle. Yes, the Maps provide clarity and dis-ambiguity, but they can also still be used in a nuanced and sensitive manner. Marie also allowed staff to define their own "why" using Simon Sinek's "golden circle" model, then sealed this in an envelope, and mailed it to them after 6 weeks. This served to re-affirm and remind them of their purpose once the coaching sessions were done.

Don’t Be A Hero, Be A Guide

Mark Terrell was the next speaker: a Business Practitioner, owner of the Reluctant Leader podcast which has featured many key Mappers, and one of the first people to have ever encountered Maps. He talked about his journey with the Maps, from selling his retail business, to becoming a Licensed Practitioner and then subsequently a Business Practitioner. During his journey, he conducted all kinds of research (because of his Expert motivator), and he shared much of that with the audience. There was a stack of five or more books beside him and he shared each one as the topics came up. He explored the difference between marketing and selling, the exponential changes the world is going through and keeping ahead of change, and, perhaps most profoundly of all, how to become more appealing to clients. ‘Most people sell themselves as a hero who is going to solve their client’s problems, but no one wants to work with a hero, they want to work with a guide.’ This reflects a powerful psychological shift that society needs to make. We need to empower other people to be heroes, rather than forcing others to recognise us as heroes.

Susannah Brade-Waring, Senior Practitioner of Aspirin Business Solutions, who expertly emceed the event, stepped forward and delivered a short but revelatory talk on the power of storytelling and how we needed to do more storytelling in order to reach people and demonstrate the power of the Maps. She told a story about an early client that she mapped. There was a man in the team she was mapping – whom she called ‘Jason’ for the purposes of anonymity – who subsequently turned up to one of her sessions and said: ‘I divorced my wife because of the Maps.’ Susannah was aghast, feeling terrible responsibility. She asked for more information. He said: ‘The Maps clearly reflected what was important to me and who I am. I realised I like who I am and that my wife doesn’t and never will.’

The story gripped the audience by the throat, and demonstrated that the Maps has application far beyond the realms of business. Jason was now happily re-married, she told them, much more confident, and a Director and shareholder of his business. Susannah then announced Aspirin’s plan to create a book of ‘War Stories’, or powerful Maps stories, and publish it in eBook format, as a resource and inspiration for Mappers. It was clear even from brief conversation with those in the room that there would be no shortage of incredible narratives for this collection.

Motivation & Fear

After Susannah, we heard from Zsusza Czagler, who is a Business Practitioner operating in Hungary and driving the Maps internationally with extraordinary energy and vision. That vision was made plain when she said what became the strap-line for the Maps Conference: ‘Maps are the tool that humanity needs!’ She shared her inspiring journey to becoming a BP and how the Maps facilitated her in realising why she had been so frustrated at her former multi-national company, why she hadn’t been able to stop people from leaving, and what she could do to make a difference in the world going forward and impact lives positively.

The last speaker was James Sale once more, who powerfully observed that he was staggered by the growth of the Maps community, to the point where there were people ‘in the room today’ whom had never been trained by him! The Maps had truly gone beyond one person’s reach. ‘Those of you who have not been trained by me will never know just how weird that is,’ he said, to laughter. ‘The power of this is that so many new ideas come into the business. But of course, the slight downside, is that there is a risk of dilution. So, I want to share some of my thinking with you.’

He outlined some of the fundamental concepts behind Maps, the ‘law of three’ (more on this anon), a staggering three-part model that dealt with the tripartite Self Concept, affirmation-denial-reconciliation, think-feel-know, and, of course, the Maps’ very own Relationship, Achievement, and Growth (RAG) motivational clusters. He ended by returning to the theme of fear, asking: ‘What do people in each of the clusters fear?’

  • Relationship motivators fear failure

  • Achievement motivators fear people – they don’t understand or want to deal with them

  • Growth motivators fear stopping, because stopping is decline and death

These fears had powerful implications for the application of Maps, and of course, the practice of the licensees themselves.

As our world increasingly becomes more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous too, fear is on the rise. The Maps Conference made apparent that we need to understand fear, and how to counteract it with motivation, more than ever before. Thankfully, there is a room full of people, and more besides, passionately committed to doing it.

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