by Paul Matthews

People are different

When it comes to motivation, people are different. Much as we might prefer to have an easy one-size-fits-all approach to motivation, this just will not work. As a manager, you will need to tailor your motivation interventions to suit the individual.

In effect, you need to understand how motivation arises within each person so that you can intervene within that process. Motivation obviously also becomes more difficult when we seek to motivate a team or a group of people since you will be dealing with a range of motivational strategies.

Some may cry ‘manipulation’ and they would be right. We all seek to manipulate; the real question is ‘What is the intent?’ So when you seek to motivate or influence another, ask yourself, ‘What is my intent for me, and what is my intent for them?’

If your intent is simply to make them more like you, think again. The differences between people are to be valued; you will always need to head a somewhat diverse group if you are to achieve your goals as a manager. A team of clones may be easier to manage, but they will not get you the results you want over the longer term.

Usually, motivation interventions will be a combination of things, some of which you already know how to do and some of which you will learn here. You see, you already have within you a model of how people get motivated, and this guides the way you seek to influence people at the moment.

Chances are this model would work well for you, as intuitively you already understand how you yourself get motivated. The question is, given the complex nature of motivation, is this the way others would get motivated? The answer will often be ‘no’, which is why you are reading this topic.

You therefore need to expand your model so it is more useful and applies to more people than just yourself and a few others very like you in personality and nature.

How to motivate others

You cannot actually motivate someone. This is something they have to do for themselves. Motivation is often described as an inside job. What you can do is change things such that their reaction to the change is to raise or lower their level of motivation to do something.

We do this all the time: ‘You will really enjoy visiting the Jones’s for dinner. David is such a funny guy and Louise’s cooking is just the best.’ Or you could say, ‘Maybe visiting the Jones’s is not such a good idea. I hear David is quite a bore and Louise can’t cook. On the other hand, we could go that movie I talked about; you know, the one with the great reviews.’

An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.

Bob Nelson

We are motivated to do many things at the same time. We have options on what we could be doing. The activity with the highest level of motivation will trump the others and get done. So in order to motivate others to do what you want, you need to influence their motivation to do the task you want so it is higher than any other option they have.

There are lots of ways to affect and influence the level of motivation you or someone else has for an activity. Unfortunately there is no single approach that will work for everyone as we are all different.