The Motivational Triad

We never lose our desire for autonomy. In fact, for me, autonomy has increased as I have matured and have come to know myself better. My coach feels that Strengths are my “Red Thread”. Reflecting on her insights, I now realize that my desire for autonomy, my “Red Thread” leading from my Strengths, is woven throughout my fabric and intertwined with my value of Freedom. The “Red Thread” has symbolized similar concepts throughout various cultures, concepts and processes. It represents a common theme, a destiny, fate, unity, a commonality, a connectedness and a bringing together. The “Red Thread” of unity, of drawing the whole together, resonates most with me.

When I am given autonomy to do what needs to be done I am more motivated and significantly more productive. My Activator, Command and Self-Assurance Strengths love to play here. When meaning and purpose or relatedness are added to my Strengths mix, Belief and Connectedness Strengths are unlocked and triggered into high gear — here I can make things happen.

Which of your Strengths spark your motivation? How does your personal experience inform your leadership and your success in motivating others?

Staff will disconnect and disengage with pressure to perform and no regard sense of contribution. Click To Tweet

Red Thread, basic drives, Autonomy, increase productivity, Relatedness, need to feel connected, contributing, Strengths, Strengths Based Leadership, StrengthsFinder, leadership coach

The book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, by consultant Susan Fowler, serves as a good reminder of how leaders are not tapping into the basic drives of their employees:


Motivational Triad

1. Autonomy

“Autonomy is our human need to perceive we have choices. It is our need to feel that what we are doing is of our own volition. It is our perception that we are the source of our actions.” Fowler, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging

As adults, we never lose our desire for autonomy. Productivity significantly increases for blue-collar workers in manufacturing plants when they are given the ability to stop the line. White-collar workers in major investment banks who report a high sense of autonomy also show increased productivity.

When you coach with an agenda, encourage in an overbearing manner or push people to be productive, you risk undermining their sense of autonomy. It‘s a fine line that requires leaders to understand the Strengths of their people and helpfully coach them in how to use their Strengths to get things done.

Of course, as a leader, your challenge is to be aware of how much attention is too much (and perceived as over-managing) and how much is not enough. What does helpful encouragement look like? What does championing your people look like? This requires an awareness of individuals Strengths.

The second key element you will need to be sensitive to is the degree of relatedness provided for individuals. Some need more; others less.

2. Relatedness

Relatedness is defined as our need to care about, and be cared for by others. “It is our need to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives,” Fowler notes. She writes, “It is our need to feel that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves.”

In 1924, Western Electric conducted one of the first studies on workplace behaviors at Hawthorne Works, a plant located just outside of Chicago. Researchers found that workers were more productive when they knew they were being observed and were included in social interactions. George Elton Mayo described this as a positive emotional effect stemming from worker’s awareness of a sympathetic, interested observer.

We are social animals. When offered opportunities to work together, as in teams, our engagement and productivity increase. Humans thrive on connection. Think about it: you spend an enormous percentage of your time at work, getting ready for work, preparing for meetings and presentations, and thinking about what you are going to say or do. Some experts estimate you spend 75 percent of your waking hours focused on work. We are connected beings.

You have enormous opportunities to help your people find meaning in their workplace experiences. People want to be impactful and feel as if they are contributing. If you make the mistake of applying pressure to perform without regarding how people feel or their sense of contribution, they will likely interpret your actions as self-serving. This never works. Your staff will instead disconnect and disengage.

What are your greatest challenges with motivating people? Contact me here and on LinkedIn.


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