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The Origins of Motivational Maps - Updated 2022

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Motivational Maps Ltd. is a UK-based training organization pioneering a unique model of motivation, the Motivational Maps®, a tool that allows motivation to be measured and quantified. Motivational Maps Ltd. currently has over 1000 licensed practitioners (consultants) around the globe in 15 countries, including the USA, Canada, Hungary, South Africa, and Australia. The Map questionnaire has been translated into 10 other languages besides English (German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Slovak, Greek and Lithuanian,). Over 90,000 Maps have been completed worldwide. Motivational Maps® is ISO-accredited (17065) and the Maps have been used in several significant national and multi-national organisations, including Ordnance Survey, Liverpool Victoria, Motorpoint, John Lewis Partnership, the Australian Government, and the United Nations.


The Creation of the Original Map

The Motivational Map® product was designed, tested and created over a five-year period by James Sale prior to the founding of the company, Motivational Maps Ltd., in 2006 by James and Linda Sale. At which point, the product became available online. Their primary aim was to create a diagnostic tool that could accurately measure human motivation. The Motivational Map® is not a personality or psychometric test but a “self-perception inventory” (in the same vein as Belbin's Nine Team Roles). The models used to create the Motivational Map® were primarily derived from three sources: Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors, and The Enneagram.

The Map takes the form of an online questionnaire and produces a 15-page report identifying to what extent someone is motivated and what their motivators are. According to James Sale, there are nine “motivators”, each of which represents a different driver of human behaviour: “Within each person, there are nine motivators – we all have these motivators, and we all have the full nine. The difference is that each individual has the nine in a different order and at different levels of intensity.” Unlike personality and psychometric-based tests, the motivators are not “fixed”: “Motivators change over time. This happens because our beliefs change over time and these belief changes affect how we feel and therefore what motivates us.”

The Creation of Team, Organisational, and Youth Maps

In 2008 and 2016 respectively, the Motivational Team Map and Motivational Organisational Map were added. The Team Map aggregates individual motivational profiles into a 22-page report in order to ascertain motivational direction, identify potential internal conflicts, and improve performance. The Organisational Map is able to aggregate multiple Team Maps, providing a holistic overview of an entire organisation, and producing a 44-page report. In 2011 the Youth Map was added, intended for school students between the ages of 11 and 18: “The Motivational Youth Map is different from the other Maps in that it has three outputs: one for the student, one for the teacher, and one for the parent; all designed to help motivate the student to succeed at school and college” The Youth Motivational Map uses revised terminology and strategies to take account of a younger audience.


In 2016, the first Mapping Motivation book, authored solely by James Sale, was published by Gower. Since then, James Sale has authored four more books with Routledge: Mapping Motivation for Coaching (2018), co-authored with Bevis Moynan; Mapping Motivation for Engagement, coauthored with Steve Jones (2019); and Mapping Motivation for Leadership (2020), co-authored with Jane Thomas. The final book, written solely by James, in the “Mapping Motivation” series: Mapping Motivation for Top-Performing Teams, was published in 2021 by Routledge. Mapping Motivation for Coaching (2018), co-authored with Bevis Moynan, was also published in a Hungarian translation by Z-Press in 2018.

Motivational Maps® has also been discussed in other titles, including The Constant Leader, Max Coates, (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2008); Teaching for Motivation, Andrew Hammond, (John Catt Educational Ltd, 2016); Leading for a Change, Paul Canon Harris (Kevin Mayhew Ltd, 2016); Turning On Your P.R.O.F.I.T.S Tap: The 7 Secrets to Generating Revenue in your Business, Steve Jones (independently published, 2018); Leading Beyond the Ego, Edited by John Knights et al. (Routledge, 2018); Evolve To Succeed: The Entrepreneur's Journey, Warren Munson (independently published, 2019); CREATE Motivation: Unlock the Leader Within, Kate Turner (Rethink Press, 2020); and MOTIVATED: The Reluctant Leader's guide to building a business that sets you free by Mark Terrell (Nielsen Book Services, 2022).

Mapping Motivation series

  • Mapping Motivation by James Sale

  • Mapping Motivation for Coaching by James Sale and Bevis Moynan

  • Mapping Motivation for Engagement by James Sale and Steve Jones

  • Mapping Motivation for Leadership by James Sale and Jane Thomas

  • Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams by James Sale

All are available from Routledge and Amazon

Articles citing or discussing Motivational Maps® include:

Motivational Theory/Model

Understanding Motivation

Motivational Maps' unique model is a significant contribution to the field of motivation and differs from any existing model of motivation in several key ways. Unlike self-determination theory, Reiss’s “16 basic desires”, goal-orientation, and cognitive motivational theories, it does not distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. James Sale identifies “three primary sources” of motivation: “personality, self-concept, and expectations” which are also correlated with Carl Roger’s tripartite division of the “self”: “self-image, self-esteem, and ideal self”. This divides the nine motivators into three “clusters” orientated around the past, present, and future.

James Sale summarises this theory in his article “The Origins of the Motivational Map”: “by cross-examining the Career Anchors, Hierarchy of Needs, and Enneagram, I discovered that there were nine motivators driving human behaviour and that these nine motivators were grouped into three sets of three due to properties that they shared. For example, some motivators were directed toward the future: creating new things, seeking freedom and independence, and making a difference to others. Others were more rooted in the past: security and predictability, belonging, and recognition. This was also correlated by the models I had used to construct the Maps, as the Career Anchors were more focused on “work goals” (therefore future-orientated), the Hierarchy of Needs on present concerns (present “needs” literally), and the Enneagram on a more fixed and rooted “past self”… It should be noted that in terms of the “pyramid” of Maslow’s Hierarchy, the nine motivators sit above the level of “survival” or “biological needs” (such as food, and shelter). Therefore, they are what might be called “secondary” drivers.”

The nine motivators are defined as:

  • DEFENDER – the need for security

  • FRIEND – the need for belonging

  • STAR – the need for recognition

  • DIRECTOR – the need for control

  • BUILDER – the need for material gain

  • EXPERT – the need for knowledge

  • CREATOR – the need to create

  • SPIRIT – the need for independence and freedom

  • SEARCHER – the need to make a difference

The meaning of a Maps profile is not solely derived from what an individual’s top motivator is, but takes into account the entire profile, including the lowest motivator (which may indicate motivational aversion), the “spread of motivational scores” (which may indicate myopic focus versus broader motivation), concepts such as “polarity reinforcement” (when the bottom motivator increases the “strength” of the top motivator) and also “internal opposition” (when a profile has two conflict priorities in the top three motivators).

Work Paradigm Shift

Motivational Maps® advocates for a paradigm shift from traditional top-down management styles to a more bottom-up and employee-centric approach. “We have, then, a revolutionary paradigm: instead of trying to manipulate behaviour, we are saying why not seek to understand the drivers...” In his introduction to Motivational Maps® at a conference in London, he stated, “what my business is about: it’s about people, it’s about performance, and how we get the best out of people… we’re all acorns looking to grow into strong oaks.” In the same talk, he concluded that “The more we become aware of these drives, the more we can guide our life to a successful conclusion.”

Motivational Maps help coaches and organisations create motivated individuals and productive teams that work together to make a positive difference at work, and beyond.


All of this information is from James Sale's new whitepaper titled "An Introduction to Motivational Maps 2022", released in June 2022. To download the full whitepaper, which includes a full list of references, click the link below 👇

An Introduction to Motivational Maps 2022 FV
Download PDF • 312KB

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