UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 2: REVENGE OF THE DIRTY COFFEE CUP
Last week, we began our journey with the first in this webseries, entitled Unlocking Motivation. We talked about how we are all driven by nine motivators, but these nine motivators are ordered differently within us. We talked briefly about reward strategies, and how we can move from treating everyone ‘the same’ to customising our approach to each individual person based not on a false meritocracy, but on what drives them.
RECAP: The nine motivators are: the Defender, the need for security, the Friend, the need for belonging, the Star, the need for recognition, the Director, the need for control, the Builder, the need for material gain, the Expert, the need for knowledge and skills, the Creator, the need to either bring new things into the world or improve existing things, the Spirit, the need for autonomy and independence, and the Searcher, the desire to make a difference to others, or, in fact, to the world.
This week, I want to talk about what the Maps can reveal about human relationships and the startling way they can be used to improve communication and teamwork in an office.
Most of our arguments with people are not about the thing we are arguing about. We all know this at an intuitive level. It isn’t really all that angering that someone has left a dirty coffee mug in the communal area, or that they talk loudly on the phone. It is the messages behind these, what we call in literature ‘subtext’. One of my first great loves was writing, and it remains so to this day. Mainly poetry and non-fiction. My wife, Linda, the Managing Director of Motivational Maps, avidly reads probably 60 or more novels a year. Our interests overlap when it comes to watching Game of Thrones, and we have lots of interesting discussions about stories from this! The thing about narrative and storytelling is that if you want your characters to feel deep, three-dimensional and fully-realised – like George R. R. Martin’s – you need to understand that when people talk, most of the time they are not saying what they really mean. The same applies to the things we do. Sometimes, even seemingly altruistic actions can actually have hidden subtexts, agendas, and intended meanings. We sense these, often, at a kind of primitive animal-level, but it can be very hard without experience to decipher them.
So, back to the dirty coffee cup. What does that symbolise? Perhaps, to someone who likes things to be clean and ordered, it makes the statement: I don’t care about my working environment or the other people in it. If someone said these words to you directly, it would be pretty shocking and cause for alarm. The anger is understandable and it arises from a conflict of values. Another way of looking at this is that people do not disagree over things, or words even, they disagree over values. The motivational drives within us directly correlate to our values, therefore they are deeply important to us.
What the Maps does is give us a language to firstly understand where people are coming from, and from that, talk about any conflicts of values. Let’s look at this in a little more detail to see what I mean. Let’s say there is someone in the office with Director as their number one motivator. The Director is fuelled by the desire for control. They want to have control over their life, environment, and yes, also their work colleagues and friends. They want to be organisational chief. It is likely that if you have someone in your office who has a tendency to micro-manage, who likes to tidy up, and who is always volunteering to be in charge of one committee or another, they are a Director motivator. Now, the Director motivator has one immediate and obvious point of conflict within the Maps. How well did you study the nine motivators? Here’s an exercise:
EXERCISE: Write down a list of two or three possible motivators that could clash with the Director based on their drives / values. Ask yourself if you have seen any of these conflicts in action. If you are already familiar with the Maps, try picking a more unusual motivator or a motivator that you would normally consider cooperative with the Director and investigate where there might be tension points.
So, hopefully you have come up with some interesting answers there. For me, the number one conflicting motivator with the Director is the Spirit. The Spirit represents the drive for independence. Spirits don’t like to be controlled or told what to do. They abhor hierarchy. When they work, they like to go about things in their own way and reject repetitious process. One of the great strengths of the Spirits is that they are pro-active go-getters. However, you can probably immediately see that the relationship between these two motivational drives can be antagonistic if not managed correctly. In simple terms, they want opposite things.
Now, the purpose of the Maps is not simply to just provide words for existing things you are already aware of. It is not a label. Your motivators change with time, experience, and circumstance. A classic change I often see is when people first start their own business, suddenly they find the Builder in their top three motivators where it had never been before. Of course, money concerns starting a new business have meant that the need for material gain has shifted and become more of a priority. No, the Maps are a practical tool. Having a neutral language to discuss these difference of value allows the individuals themselves to have open, frank, adult conversations, as well as providing management and leaders with insights on how to go about solving the issue.
“We need to constantly fine tune our teams because as I said before the law of entropy means they will run down without inputs.” – Mapping Motivation
Something I’ve observed in a lot of businesses, particularly in the UK, is the blame culture. Every process is designed to mitigate potential blame allocation. In fact, many people in offices spend more time covering their backs (sending emails confirming what so-and-so said to so-and-so or what instructions were given at what time), than they do getting on with work, and it is not their fault by any means. It is the societal culture we have created where every boss lives in fear that if they fire someone they will get sued, and everyone else lives in fear they will be held responsible for the actions of their superiors. We can become blame-culture enthusiasts in our personal life and our work relationships too. We blame people for things they do (or don’t do). The beauty of understanding our values and motivators is that it removes this blame-language. It moves from Why don’t you follow my instructions? to I can see that maybe my Director motivator is trying to control your Spirit. How can we work in a different way to avoid this?
It opens up a bounteous treasure-trove of possible solutions. Maybe the Spirit can work alone and then present their work to the Director at the end of the process, rather than getting feedback along the way. Maybe the Director can give the Spirit a lot of information and background and then step back and let them take the project away and finish it without intervention.
EXERCISE: I want you now to pick two other motivators from the remaining seven: Creator, Defender, Friend, Star, Searcher, Expert, Builder – and explore ways in which they might conflict given their drives and values.
So, the more we understand about one another and what drives us, the more sympathetic and communicative we can be. In the next blog, we’ll explore the further benefits of motivation in a team and why making a difference to the people who work for an organisation is ultimately going to benefit every other face of the business, including the bottom line.