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'Conversations That Help You Identify Motivators' from Your Talent@Work with Shawn Kent Hayashi

Conversations That Help You Identify Motivators

Posted: Mar 13, 2012

Your star performers are those who have figured out how their work aligns with their values, and that keeps them motivated and passionate about what they are doing. Our values or workplace motivators -which I use interchangeably, because in the context of star performance they mean the same thing- determine what we want to do with passion and joy.

Your team members will be most interested in projects and other people that align with their motivators. And conversely, those you manage will be resistant to projects and people that don't align with their values, or align with the least important of them. Understanding the values of those you manage will help you build a great rapport with them and create meaningful connections.   

I tell a story in my book about Elizabeth, a woman who worked in an accounting organization that deeply valued return on investment, problem solving and respect for rules. She believed rules should be followed. (Her top values were Theoretical, Utilitarian and Traditional.) Elizabeth moved to a nonprofit focused on helping people, making sure people felt good about themselves and being a leader in charitable work (Social.) Although noble, these didn't match Elizabeth's workplace motivators and her situation there wasn't a very good fit. 

In order to understand your team members' motivators, familiarize yourself with the six basic types of workplace values. Those are:

  • Theoretical: wanting answers, facts and data and sharing knowledge for problem solving.

  • Utilitarian: wanting things to be useful and productive, keeping score, and seeking financial well-being.

  • Traditional: wanting instructions, rules, or procedures so life can be lived-and work performed- according to a tradition and correctly.

  • Social: wanting to make a difference for others and for society, working for the greater good.

  • Individualistic: wanting to be at the table when decisions are made, wanting to be a leader whose voice matters.

  • Aesthetic: wanting things to be harmonious, to feel good, look good, to be pleasing in an artistic and creative way.

Our highest and lowest ranked values have an enormous impact on our career path and success, and the types of work we find meaningful. What you are looking for, as a manager, is a good match-when an employee's motivators match up well with their organization's culture and are rewarded by the work they are doing. When there is a match between the individual's values and the work being done, the employee is seen as high potential. 

In my book, I give detailed definitions of each motivator and what they mean to an employee. If one of your employees' top three values is "individualistic," for example, that person is likely driven to be a leader. Having individualistic motivators also boosts the other values beneath it, adding to that person's motivation to be considered best or world class in that area of focus. As a leader and someone hoping to groom star performers, it's important to recognize that when people gain awareness of their motivators, they become aware of what they would be passionate or happy doing and how to play better to their strengths. Understand what motivates them-what they value. If you help your team members understand that, you can help guide them towards work assignments that they are passionate about, and they will have the drive to see projects through, despite obstacles.


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