One of the secrets to helping clients achieve successful outcomes through the business planning or coaching process is to support them in understanding their motivators.  These motivators aren’t always what you think they might be.  For example, it isn’t always money, prestige or amassing things that holds the key to our passion to achieve.  Sometimes, we can be motivated simply by feeling appreciated, or at least recognized in some way.

Organizations today struggle to understand how to motivate employees, particularly professionals.  In partnership – an environment in which many of my clients reside – it can be even more difficult to motivate people.  They already have good salaries, an “owner” title, prestige, marketplace recognition; perhaps they even hold a leadership position of some kind in their organization.  So how do you motivate the people with everything?  I understand from a presentation by one of his senior executives that Bill Gates understood this challenge. But in his case, he was having to convince millionaires to stay at work a little longer and continue to build ground breaking technology.  How did he do it?  He had them focus on the future and their potential to make a difference.  “We’re changing the world” was the internal mantra, and something that could even entice millionaires to rise up to. I’ve recently read an interesting book on the subject by Daniel H. Pink called “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”.  And for fun, I’ve recently re-read two books more or less on the same subject by Stephen Covey: “The 8th Habit” and “First Things First”. In many ways, these books have somewhat similar messages. Here’s an excerpt from Pink’s book…

“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon…While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival, it’s a lousy one for personal fulfillment. Living a satisfying life requires more than simply meeting the demands of those in control. Yet in our offices and our classrooms, we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement. The former might get you through the day, but only the latter will get you through the night”.

In other words, we are most motivated by our potential part in a more meaningful future. This isn’t to say that we can’t be at least a little motivated by money, prestige, environment and things.  Sure we can.  But ultimately, as we rise higher and higher in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we will seek out more fundamental value-based needs in order to become more fulfilled. For this reason, business or personal plans that only seek to meet expectations at work don’t ultimately serve us well because they don’t connect with the heart of what motivates us.  Expectations can be a good starting point for planning; but truly successful plans and coaching sessions require much deeper work in order to create circumstances for achieving your highest potential. This work is deep and complex; but it is also fulfilling.  And it’s also far reaching. I frequently hear my clients advise me that the issues or solutions we’ve discovered in working on their personal plan could easily also be applied against their work plan and vice versa.  And that makes sense, because the commonality is that individual.  They will have the same value systems and principles and habits whether they are operating in the “working” part of their day or the “non-working” part of their day.  On the surface, their motivators in each area may appear to be different. At work they may be seeking advancement, recognition, challenge.  At home they may be seeking comfort, security, love.  But underlying these desires is a values-based operating system for the human being that does not change based on activity. It is one and the same person, regardless of the action being performed in the moment.

So what is at the heart of you?

What ultimately motivates you?