Here Is How You Can Understand What Motivates Your Workers

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Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that intrinsic motivation spurs people to action because they find the job personally rewarding. To get at intrinsic motivation, emotionally intelligent leaders don’t tie lofty goals to compensation.

Intrinsic motivation comes in many forms. Here are six common catalysts that leaders should use to identify what makes their employees – and themselves – tick and steps you can take to encourage employees who fall into these categories.

1. Theoretical

From the time we arrive on this planet, we have an innate desire to learn about the world around us. Company leaders and managers can encourage this thirst for knowledge by offering opportunities for employees to learn and solve problems. Rather than put people on the spot, give them a chance to dig into a problem and research solutions.

Give employees who fall into this category opportunities to share what they’ve learned with their coworkers. These employees would be a great fit for training and mentoring programs, so find a program to challenge them. And make sure to give them time at meetings to provide specifics on the data and information they’ve uncovered that can be helpful to others.

2. Utilitarian

These are the people who like to dig in and get the job done. These employees hate wasted effort, busywork, or feeling like they are spending their days on meaningless tasks. They like practicality and efficiency. Give these employees projects with real outcomes that use their skills.

These people like getting a lot done in a short amount of time, so give them jobs that can be done quickly. Because they value efficiency, give them jobs that can be done with limited resources. Also, encourage their efficiency by putting them in challenging roles that make the most of those skills.

3. Aesthetic

These are employees who value flexibility, beauty, and balance. They want their bosses to respect that they have a life outside of work, so they work best with flexible processes to help them achieve balance and encourage creative thinking. They also tend to understand their own motivations and others as well.

Give these employees a chance to make a difference by using their creativity on projects, but be sure to set clear expectations and timelines, as these workers often struggle with perfectionism. The environment is often important to these people, so provide opportunities for them to make improvements in the look and functionality of their workspace.

4. Individualistic

Many individuals hold themselves personally accountable for success and have an innate desire to lead. Let them. These are the people who are energetic and ambitious. Provide opportunities for advancement, don’t micromanage them and celebrate their accomplishments. While you’re at it, don’t forget to celebrate your own wins as well.

Let these employees set reasonable rules and ask them to develop a plan for a project at work – and be sure to provide feedback on that plan. Have conversations about their careers and provide coaching and feedback about their futures.

5. Altruistic

These workers are motivated by the desire to help others. You should provide opportunities for them to collaborate and socialize with others. Make sure they understand the impact of their work on others and ask them to help with mentoring and training on the job. 

One good path for these workers is to make them a resource for onboarding new hires, helping them adapt to their new workplace and guiding them in the company’s culture. Any opportunity you can find to allow them to boost camaraderie on the job will benefit them and your business.

6. Traditional

Some individuals are motivated by a desire for order and rules. These workers are organized and devoted to causes they believe in. They will flourish better understructure. Assign them to projects that reflect this.

Ask these workers to provide feedback on process improvements, something they will thrive on. Make sure to provide clear rules, requirements, and specifications around tasks. They also value fairness, so focus on ethics, standards, equality, and inclusiveness with them.

A Gallup engagement survey says that employees often leave their jobs because of a poor relationship with their boss. Frequently, the cause of this poor relationship is that leaders lack emotional intelligence and do not truly understand what motivates their people.

Using these catalysts as a guide to unlocking your team’s (and your own) intrinsic motivation will not only lead to greater employee engagement and retention but will also fuel innovation and success. You and your team will find greater meaning in your work and derive greater satisfaction in your accomplishments.


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