Wellbeing is an essential prerequisite for performance. And now, more than ever, organisations have a responsibility to provide an environment in which employees can grow and flourish. Companies who appreciate this are experiencing improved performance and delivering superior returns to shareholders.
Dr John Demartini is a respected human behavioural specialist who describes the underlying motivators of people as ‘voids’. Motivators or values are an attempt to fill what is missing or to solve what is unknown. Our motivations originate from whatever we perceive to be missing in our lives. Your perceived emptiness drives your search for meaning. Motivators define how we view the world through our own lens and seek fulfilment. When we are young, our yearning for these helped to influence our skills and development pathway. Dr Demartini was a special needs student and therefore particularly values knowledge.
If we grow up believing we were never tall enough, we develop an array of skills to cope with this perceived inequality. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense, as motivations help us to build important life skills from childhood around what might be missing in our environment, so we can correct the emptiness, when we make our contribution in adulthood. As a species, this has ensured our success through a massive expansion of roles and capability.
How different motivators influence every aspects of our lives
Motivations are the personal drivers or ‘the Why’ of what we do to pursue goals with energy and persistence. The more we know our likes and dislikes, the more we begin to understand our feelings towards other people and situations. We can then apply this awareness to manage relationships and to help achieve our goals. Motivators or our values are the things we are passionate about; they motivate our strengths that we perceive as important, or the associations that provide us with purpose and direction in life. Playing to our strengths builds self-confidence and keeps us moving forward.
Whereas as our value system tends to embody our biological sense of belonging, including safety, and being supported for sustenance, our motivations express our physiological or fulfilment needs that help to shape our identity. These become deeply intertwined and express who we are. This is why motivations and values are used interchangeably. We respect the experience, we are more likely to be engaged, participate in a discussion, activity or work in alignment with our values. If we are not aligned to our values, we are indifferent or even negative, possibly stressed. The more we understand our priorities or hierarchy of values, the more we can communicate, educate and empower ourselves to grow.
Our motivations can change over time as we grow, learn new knowledge and skills, and become accustomed and comfortable with them. They are felt intuitively as our instincts and are centred in the core of our body and indicate our pathway to growth. Intuition embodies our values by recording a lifetime of emotional associations as our common-sense or gutfeel. As adults’ the more we are aware of our instincts, the more we can drive them purposely. Setting goals around our purpose sets the mind into overdrive. When emotionally mature, our intuition will deliver creative solutions to our perceived childhood problems and the energy, passion and charisma to accomplish them. Respecting, trusting and satisfying our motivations increase our self-awareness and happiness.
Learning to define our motivators and values
Every experience, decision and action is determined by our hierarchy of values and based upon what we feel will provide us with the most advantage and reward over risk to our highest values. The more managers understand their own and their employees’ motivations, the more they can communicate, educate and empower growth. Therefore it is important to ensure employees’ values are not only aligned to their role, but also to the organisation. In his book entitled Types of Men (a little sexist) in 1928, Eduard Spranger identified six major motivational groupings or world views giving rise to The WHY behind our behaviours and actions. They are:
- Theoretical — A passion to discover truth.
- Utilitarian / Economic – A practical interest in money and a passion for what is useful.
- Aesthetic — Interest in form and harmony.
- Social — Inherent love of people.
- Individualistic / Political – Primary interest is self-improvement or power, not necessarily politics in the traditional sense.
- Traditional / Regulatory — unity and order.
Each of these motivational groupings can be designated in a job role. Most employees tend to align themselves accordingly, although disenfranchised employees may simply be in the wrong role. There are many assessment tools in the market to assist people to understand their motivations.
Motivations also influence our behaviours, so combined motivational and behavioural (e.g. DiSC or MBTi) assessments empower employees to understand their strengths, limiting beliefs and personal development requirements to define pathways to growth. Managers need a measure of emotional intelligence to display empathy and trust when coaching for employee development objectives. Employees love managers who lead with their heart. Providing an open, supportive environment for employees to express their strengths, vulnerabilities and be encouraged to grow creates an inclusive, high-performance culture. Allowing them the freedom to be imperfect, to drop their guard, avoid groupthink, make informed mistakes, talk through resolutions and challenge themselves is all part of creating an ‘deliberately developmental organization’.
Determining individual employee and organisational values
Avoid forcing value systems on employees as it disrespects the need for employees to grow. Use an open-source change (bottom-up) approach. Employees’ values change as they develop the skills and knowledge to balance them, so it’s important to revisit them regularly. A manager may choose to review an individual’s values during the annual performance review and goal setting. Available motivational tests may not be necessary if the employee has a firm understanding of their own motivational drivers and strengths.
When an employee is revisiting or determining their values, suggest they present them using a motivational framework (e.g. Eduard Spranger), where they prioritise their motivational groupings from the one that most resonates to the least. Cross out the ones at the bottom that have no association, and then under each motivational grouping, ask the employee to list in their own words their values that resonate most– what they feel they need to get a handle on.
The motivations should be personal, but may include some career motivators if that helps them clarify their drivers. Talk through the values selected with your employees and how they influence
their strengths, and help prioritise them so the manager understands them better and can ensure their development plans and role alignment address their needs and ability to achieve their strengths and goals.
Once all employees have determined their values, have a group session with your team to openly discuss motivations, strengths and goals. This will help team members understand what their colleagues want to achieve. Use the session to try to align individual preferences, keeping in mind the organisation’s strategy. Let the team agree on the values and goals for the period and how they support the organisation.
Canvassing employee motivations across an organisation is a powerful way of defining a purpose driven culture. By building a bottom up view of an organisations values, and openly communicating the process and results, you will ensure you have employee buy-in and alignment. Representing these at a community level will define the success of future organisations. This is where meaning starts and ends for the employee – it’s their playground to experience, grow and develop skills driven by motivational desires. Collaborative, inclusive, organic environments challenged to transfer skills and share knowledge is where the future is at.
The rise of agile or strengths based teams and self-awareness
The current trend for businesses to move to open environments and agile teams where we represent our interests, our likes over dislikes, are how we can play to our strengths and build confidence and a strong identity. Self-supporting teams where a manager coaches and facilitates, allow team members to better present arguments, analyse and learn logical decision making. Once self-confident, self-awareness and emotional growth is our next objective especially for management and coaches. Learn to feel and share your environment with empathy. Just being grateful for the beauty and bounty around you helps to fuel your awareness. When emotionally aware, we are more able to trust our capability and employ a growth mindset. A growth mindset allows us to address any shortcomings or learning stages. Once we are more accepting of our environment, we can focus our awareness on opportunity – we no longer need to be protective and pass judgements to manage our esteem and bring understanding.
Written by Tony Holmwood.
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