If you want to get a lot accomplished, you need to be able to motivate all sorts of people to work harder and smarter than they would otherwise. To do that, you need to figure out what motivates them. Granted, we are all complex creatures. None of us is entirely motivated by a single thing. That said, each of us has a slightly different combination of motivating sensitivities — and if you know what those are, you can do a better job inspiring and leading people toward your goals.
Think about the most important people in your career and ask yourself which of the following qualities they most respond to:
It’s amazing how this simple list of four qualities will cover more than 90% of the people you are likely to run into. Motivating a money-oriented person is easy if money is available; difficult if it’s questionable or far off. Motivating a status-conscious person is easy too — if you have a big enough organization to create a sense of status. It’s hard to motivate someone who seeks popularity, because popularity is generally not something you want people to be focused on. Autonomy is a good motivator but has obvious drawbacks.
As I said, we are all a jumble of motivations. You’ll probably have to add a touch of this and a cup of that to come up with the right recipe for each individual. The important thing for the moment is to recognize that people are unique and to treat them thusly. In writing about this important subject, Mark McCormack (author of “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School” and now “Never Wrestle With a Pig”) said: “My mental yardstick is time. I’m a fanatic about maximizing not only my days and hours but my minutes and seconds.
Everything I do is filtered through the clock. … A person who knows my mental yardstick can get a lot more out of me than someone who doesn’t appreciate it. If the head of our office in New Zealand thinks it’s worthwhile for me to visit there, he’s more likely to get me to make the trip if he crowds my schedule with high-level meetings from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. than if my schedule is only half full. He’s telling me in advance that I won’t be wasting any time. … Any employee who writes me a note that says, ‘I need to talk to you for 15 minutes at your convenience’ is more likely to get an appointment than someone who extends an open-ended invitation.”