Do You Know Your Motives?

Leaders who have an accurate understanding of motives are more frequently successful than those who do not. But pinpointing peoples’ motivational needs and inspiring them can be like panning for gold in a river: What you’re looking for is usually below the waterline. In fact, most people are not aware completely of what their motives are.

Regardless of culture, gender, or ethnicity, people are driven by three motives: achievement, affiliation, and influence.

People driven by achievement like to test themselves against their environment and attain standards of excellence. They thrive on outperforming the norm. They find ways to perform more efficiently, to invent new ways of doing things, or to create “breakthrough” products.

Those who are driven by affiliation are most concerned about the quality of their relationships. They enter into relationships for the sake of the relationship — not for gain or influence. They are not as concerned with the quantity of relationships but with how harmonious and reliable their relationships are. They are likely to be upset when there are disruptions to relationships.

People motivated by influence are concerned about their impact on other people — convincing someone of their point of view or empowering others around them. They thrive on making a difference and finding ways to connect with and influence powerful people.

Healthy adults in all cultures possess all three motivations to one degree or another. However, one is usually dominant for you, and it is critical to know which one this is. Knowing what is driving you can help you grow as a manager and leader. Failing to know can be costly.

People with achievement motives are engaged by a clear standard of excellence; clearly delineated roles and responsibilities; and concrete, timely feedback from a credible source. Those with affiliation motives are engaged when they can accomplish things with people they know and trust. And the influence motive is activated when people are allowed to have an impact, impress those in power, or beat competitors.

Summing-up: Uncover your own motives and understand the impact they have on your behavior. Uncover the motives of your colleagues and staff, and create an environment that is emotionally compelling for them. And help them to channel that energy.

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