Understanding what motivates your team -3 essential tools

Understanding what motivates your team -3 essential tools

As a leader, you understand that the key to success is keeping your team on track and passionate about their work. Everyone is different though. People are motivated by a variety of factors, including money, enjoyment, sense of community, achievement, and recognition. The question is, how can you gain a better insight into each individual to ensure that their working lives are providing what they need or want the most?

Over the years, incredible amounts of time and effort have been invested into understanding what motivates people. While none of these tools can provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer, here are some widely-usedand practical models to provide insights into your team’s motivation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs

Quoted on every business course, Maslow’s pyramid of human needs dates back to the 1940s. Although his theory has never been empirically proven, it seems to make sense and can provide a good starting point for discussion. The five needs (from the most basic) are physiological (food) safety (home, job security), love and belonging (family, social bonds), esteem (recognition), and self-actualization (personal growth, challenge, independence).  Listening to your team and understanding which needs each one prioritizes can assist you in providing the right motivators for each indiviudual.

Psychometric Testing

This can be a fascinating exercise, either as part of the recruitment process or as a team exercise. With an extensively tested model,  such as the MBTI, the resulting reports can be used to facilitate better team working as well as helping you to understand the individual motivation.

For example, a team member may have the profile ISFJ meaning they’re a ‘practical helper’, who wants to support others. They’ll likely be motivated by feeling part of a close team, rather than being motivated by challenging targets and monetary incentives.

When carrying out a psychometric analysis of your team, ensure you include your own profile as part of the discussion. This will encourage open and non-defensive discussion, and your team will also learn how they can best keep you motivated.

Belbin’s Team Roles

This tool analyses people according to the role that people unconsciously adopt when part of a team.  It can transform the way your team members understand, interact and accept each other. Also, it can provide insight into whether your team is unbalanced – for example, they may be full of great ideas, but never actually finish anything. It could be that you’re missing a ‘Completer-Finisher’ type. The great benefit of this tool is that it can help you as a leader understand what each person loves doing, and what they’re indifferent to, so you can motivate them appropriately.  It also will highlight gaps in your team that need to be filled if you’re to get the best results.


In the end though, the most effective way to find out what motivates each employee is to engage in open and honest conversations with them, and these tools are helpful in facilitating those discussions. Use them to strengthen your credibility as their leader as well as uncovering how you can help to ensure that each person will love the job they do and happily achieve the best results.

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