• Jan Feeley

Motivational Maps and Zig Ziglar

“Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

Salesman, motivational speaker, and author Zig Ziglar once wrote these words about employee needs. Can you have only three prime needs? Can these needs be broken down to be better understood? Is anything missing? Using Motivational Maps, let’s find out!

Interesting Work

Numerous studies over the past few decades have investigated what is motivating at work, and work being ‘interesting’ has become a common theme. What is perhaps more surprising is that many of these studies have found that interesting work is rated as more valuable and more motivating than job security, working conditions, and even money. But what can Motivational Maps tell us about interesting work?

Interesting work in my opinion is linked to a feeling of achievement as well as developing. If you are familiar with motivational Maps then you will know that there are three motivators that come under the cluster of ‘achievement’, and three under the cluster of ‘growth; some of these are tied closely to the idea of interesting work.

The Expert motivator represents a want and need for mastery, understanding, and self-development. Not only is feeling proficient at work rewarding, but the opportunity to have interesting work that furthers our feelings of competence is understandably motivating. Being motivated by mastery is underpinned by being challenged, and interesting work does that whilst also relieving us from boredom.

What is interesting is also new futuristic, and so the more future-orientated motivators may help to explain why a prime need for employees is interesting work. The Searcher motivator is all about purpose and meaning, but that purpose and meaning must be interesting. There is no doubt that taking care of society’s teeth may be interesting work to many dentists, but it isn’t for everyone; we all have our own interests. With 80% of those mapped showing the Searcher in their top three motivators, there is little doubt that finding purpose in work interesting to us is an integral to intrinsic motivation.

Searcher is not the only Growth motivator linked to interesting work, as the Creator motivator also highlights the need for new and engaging tasks. Interesting work needn’t solely have a purpose or be challenging, but it can also be interesting if it is creative, novel, and expressive. Choreographing a dance for example may not create widespread societal change or have a clear purpose, but the opportunity to be creative is interesting and can therefore be highly motivating.


Recognition for doing a good job is arguably a very broad need but can be nicely explained by three motivators. Firstly, if we look to social recognition, we can use what we know about the Star motivator. When we do a good job in school we might get a sticker or a house point, and as we grow older this social recognition remains invaluable. Whether we are praised through commendations, awards, or just words of encouragement, all of us like to feel like we belong as someone exceptional in some aspect.

Whilst social recognition is great, it is likely that Zig Ziglar wasn’t limiting his idea of recognition to this. A more traditional and formal method of recognising good work is material or monetary. This is known as the Builder motivator, and is also effective! Based more on recognising achievement through rewards than relationships, all employees need some level of monetary recognition for the work they do. By recognising good work with additional money or rewards, it then becomes clear to the employee not only what the business wants them to do (usually continue with what they are doing), but also that their hard work is recognised. This makes it all the more worth it and motivates them to keep going!

The Director motivator is all to do with being driven by control, power, and responsibility, which may sound egotistical but is actually very necessary in business. This desire for leadership fills the gap in recognising good work left by the Star and Builder motivators Some people might want both social recognition and a higher salary, but often together through a leadership position. This isn’t quite the same as giving simple social esteem or increased salary, as some people like to be rewarded with responsibility and the possibility to work well at an even higher level. It seems that, together, these three motivators encompass what Ziglar meant by recognising good work.


Knowing what is going on in a business is all to do with clear and transparent communication. It has been found that whether this is to do with changes in the business, the aims of the business, or even policy on salaries, clear communication boosts morale, pride, and job satisfaction. Motivational Maps can help to give this a clearer framework so that it is possible to communicate effectively to employees.

Unsurprisingly, relationship motivators are key here, and the first is Defender. People with Defender as a top motivator are motivated by a sense of security and stability, but is somewhat important to everyone at work. It is no longer possible to promise jobs-for-life, especially not in recent years, but a sense of stability can be provided by letting employees know how the business is doing, what the future looks like, and what it means for everybody in the business. Letting people know what is going on in the business is integral to motivating people who are motivated knowing that they are secure at work.

Communication is not only about security, but also about belonging. If you have read some of my other articles you will know that I believe strongly in businesses being forces for good through cultivating communities for employees; being in the loop is key for this. Belonging and meaningful relationships have positive effects in all aspects of life including business and being clear and open with members of a business can help to elicit these benefits. It might not always be good news or positive feedback for employees, but keeping them in the know allows for meaningful and functional relationships to form that can’t exist without genuine communication or through shallow LinkedIn connections.

Anything Else?

So, what has Zig Ziglar missed? In terms of motivators, Motivational Maps can explain, and help us to understand, all three of Ziglar’s prime needs. Interestingly though, these prime needs fail to account for the Spirit motivator. A motivator characterised by freedom, autonomy, and independence, this is perhaps not covered as it is a luxury more than a need. Self-actualisation sits atop Maslow’s Hierarchy and refers primarily to the finding of meaning (explained in interesting work), but also touches upon freedom. Without the freedom to explore ones’ purpose and potential, one cannot reach self-actualisation. I would argue that Ziglar can be forgiven for not considering the drive for freedom at work, as although all other motivators help to add value to the prime needs, the Spirit motivator might be understood as the freedom experienced once all the other needs (Maslow’s or Ziglar’s) are met.