How to Identify the Needs that Motivate Others


May 2, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

We are all motivated by unique desires, expectations, and interests, but there are still overarching tendencies and values people possess that impact their motivation.

So, when it comes to motivating others, tapping into what they need and how they want to be treated is a key factor in making a connection and prompting action. Following the principle of “What’s in it for me?” offers a valuable approach to begin satisfying others needs and to spur lasting motivation.

From this perspective we are all motivated by personal interest, and want to see the value in what we are doing. Learning to treat and interact with people in the way they want to be treated offers valuable leverage to influence them in a positive manner.

Whether you want to enhance the level of motivation of co-workers, family members, or friends, consider what they would want. What is their personality like? What behavior tendencies do they have, and how do they usually express themselves?

By uncovering this information you can connect with others in the most effect way by treating them how they want to be treated. Almost anyone you’re dealing with should fit somewhere in the six needs below.

    1. The need for autonomy
      This is the need to have control and be a causal agent in our environment. Individuals with this need and personality trait are often self-reliant, self-motivated, and desire to work on their own schedule. You will notice these types of individuals tend to be independent, creative, and nonlinear thinkers. In order to really be motivated they need to have freedom to do things their way and on their time. If you are working with someone of this nature their motivation will be stifled if they are placed within strict boundaries. 
  • The need for power
    This need refers to the level of importance and influence someone desires. People with this need and personality trait would rather take charge of a situation and can effectively do so. They are often strong in expressing their opinions and reaching goals. When around people who tend to elicit control and take the lead it can be helpful to offer them an influential role in what they are doing. These people desire to be leaders and will not be motivated by a submissive and inhibited role. 
  • The need for achievement
    Many people are motivated by the successful completion of projects and activities. So, be aware that someone with a need for achievement is likely to have high aspirations and be ambitious, and just as the label implies are very achievement-oriented. If someone has a need for achievement, help them to apply their talents and strengths in order to accomplish goals and attain success. They will be motivated by seeing progress occur. 
  • The need for affiliation
    We are social creatures and want to be connected to others. Particularly, for more extroverted individuals, the need for affiliation is a major a factor in motivation. They derive energy from being a part of a group and interacting with others, and you can expect them to be very open and expressive. Realize the importance of relationships and socializing as a source of motivation for these people and make them a part of tasks or activities where they will be interacting with others. 
  • The need for esteem
    Many people need validation and confirmation about the quality of their work. This provides insight that they’re doing their work effectively and successfully. People who have a need for esteem can be motivated by being shown recognition and respect. These individuals want to feel that they are doing a good job and that they’re appreciated for their efforts. Offering public praise and positive reinforcement can really be effective to motive someone with this need. 
  • The need for equity
    Knowing we are being treated fairly can be a major factor in our emotional state and hence our level of motivation. Showing people there is mutual benefit and value from everyone’s contributions can be very effective in managing dynamics within teams and groups. When it seems others are getting much better treatment we can develop a negative perception that really dampens motivation. Making a concerted effort to treat people the same and not provide preferential treatment will serve you well in motivating almost anyone that believes in the virtue of equity. 

Many people will fall somewhere in between these needs, though by being observant and aware of peoples’ behaviors and tendencies you can learn what makes them tick and begin to interact with them in the most effective way. If one area doesn’t seem to be that important to them try another approach until you find what their driving needs are. When you do so, you can be sure your interactions will be much more positive and productive.

Written on 5/2/2011 by Joe Wilner. Joe Wilner is a coaching and writer who manages, where he inspires and empowers people to live a full, meaningful, and thriving life. You can also follow him on Twitter at @shakethegrind. Photo Credit: Erin and Joe

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