Spending most of my days listening to leaders and teams telling me about their biggest challenges, reflecting together on how to solve them, I realized two things:
- The first is that clarifying and making use of the motivational dynamics at play is very often a powerful way to solving many of these challenges.
- The second is that this isn’t something that comes naturally to people, even to very experienced and emotionally savvy leaders. Having tools and a framework to think about it makes reaching a solution easier.
Indeed, while (almost!) everyone is aware that people are different, while most seasoned professionals experienced some training on different personality styles (e.g. the big five, MBTI, DISC, Insights etc.) it is much less obvious to people that we have different motivational styles, i.e. that what gets one person energized and going isn’t the same for another. That what gets a person energized (what we call their motivational focus) impacts:
- what they will pay attention to
- what they will perceive
- how they will act
Some perceptive leaders may sense some of these differences and act accordingly. However, when people get a framework like the one we developed at Team Engager and map their team onto that framework, suddenly things become clearer and it gets easier to find solutions.
Let me try to illustrate this with a few examples:
1. Aligning the team around a new strategy
This executive team needed to define a long-term strategy and align priorities for the short term accordingly. The team was composed of very strong personalities, each with their passionately argued vision. As the CEO wanted to get the team aligned and no-one would budge, they were stuck.
Looking at the different motivational profiles in the team, it was obvious they were at different ends of the map. When taking their respective positions on the motivational focus map into account, the logic behind their arguments made more sense to each other. Moreover, it allowed the executives to realize that being energized by some things often means focusing less on others. Specifically, that they all had blind spots and that often, the arguments of their colleagues fell right into their blind spot, hence their challenge to align.
Enriched with this new understanding, it got easier for everyone to see the value and complementarity of the different perspectives and understand the trade-offs that had to be made. Everyone felt they had been heard and considered and they reached a decision that got everyone’s buy-in.
2. Shining light on a blind spot
Interestingly, I often have to do the opposite exercise as well. When teams are very homogeneous in terms of motivational focus, or simply when the leader is deciding on his own, it is important to challenge leaders or teams to look at their blind spot:
- What does it mean for the team to have no one with this or that motivational focus?
- What kind of priorities get dropped?
- What kind of tasks are not done/done less well?
- How would looking at things with a different motivational focus change things?
3. Dealing with tensions in the team during a transformation program
This one team was feeling the burden of dealing with a big transformation program while keeping business as usual on track. The CEO who had initiated the transformation felt supported by a few of his managers but had the impression others were working against him.
The motivational focus map reflected this situation clearly, with two separate groups on the map.
Rich conversations ensued. No blaming or criticism, just loads of insights: “ahaa… so when you do this, it is because you are focused on… because that’s what gets you energized. For me, it’s really different; this completely drains me from all energy… would this be a solution that works for both of us?”.
The CEO understood his managers weren’t acting against him, but simply trying to get things done under fire. The managers understood how they could get things done without creating roadblocks for the future of the transformation.
Today, tense situations still happen but they are solved much faster as they all have a better understanding of each other’s motivational focus.
4. When you can’t get some people on the team to move
Every leader I coached, at some point during the coaching, eventually ends up telling me about this or that difficult person that they just can’t seem to get.
Very often framing things in terms of motivational focus will help the leader get a better understanding of the situation and some potential solutions to try out.
5. When you procrastinate
Let me tell you a secret: even the most accomplished people procrastinate.
Sure, some people look like they are on top of everything, both professionally and personally. Nevertheless, when you get to know them better, as a coach would, you realize everyone has something they would really like to do but never get to.
When that conversation comes up, I help the person clarify their motivational focus. We discuss how this helps them do certain things but makes it more challenging to do others and find practical strategies to deal with it.
Using motivational dynamics to energize your team
If you want to better understand how to leverage motivational dynamics, I will be conducting a one-day workshop on August 30th at the Solvay Leadership Summer Camp.
During this workshop called “Using motivational dynamics to energize your team” you will learn about Team Engager’s motivational focus framework:
- You will reflect on your own motivational focus and what it means for you
- You will interact with others who might have a different motivational focus and gain a better understanding of what it means for them.
We will look at the map of the room to see how this specific constellation of people impacts the dynamic in the room. After the training you will have the opportunity to map your own team.
See you there,
Founder, Coach and Scientific Advisor @ Team Engager