The Five Motivation Triggers:
How to Analyze and Motivate Anyone

By Jay Arthur

In just about any workplace, teamwork and collaboration are critical for the company to succeed. People need to be able to work together, share ideas, and communicate effectively in order to get things done. Unfortunately, in most workplaces miscommunication reigns, people work in silos, and few people can relate to each other in a way that contributes to the company's success. No wonder so many businesses are struggling to survive.

The key to effectively working with others and producing meaningful results is the ability to speak to people in a way that triggers their motivational mindset. The fact is that each person has a unique disposition and tendency toward certain motivating factors. And once you know what values, words, and ideas motivate the people around you, the better you can communicate with them and get things done.

There are five motivation mindsets, each with two opposing points of view. They are:

  • Achievers and Problem Solvers. Achievers tend to move toward their goals to achieve them. Problem Solvers move away from possible difficulties and consequences.
  • Leaders and Followers. Leaders gather information and decide for themselves. Followers tend to ask other people for direction on which way to go.
  • Innovators and Processors. Innovators like choices and alternatives. The love to break the rules. Processors like to make things right by following procedures.
  • Evolutionaries and Revolutionaries. Evolutionaries like to make things better over time. They like change every seven years. Revolutionaries crave change, initiating it every one to two years.
  • Doers and Thinkers. Doers like to just do it. Thinkers like to reflect about things first. They think first and then do.

So how do you find discover which motivational mindset is most dominant in another person? Very often people will tell you in casual conversation. You simply need to listen to their words. Following are some key questions to ask and phrases to listen for, as well as suggestions for motivating the person.

What is important about your work? 
(Identify Key Values)

The first step to uncovering someone's motivational mindset is to know their values. Values are the root of everything a person says, does, and thinks. A good way to uncover values is to ask someone, "What's important about your work?" Whatever they answer are the key words tied to things they value. These things may involve people (relating to and working with others), places (where a person lives, works, vacations, etc.), activities (doing specific tasks), knowledge (learning), or things (getting and having stuff). To use values as a motivational driver, talk to the person using the exact words or phrases they say and tie them to your project or objectives.

Why is that (value) important?
(Achiever versus Problem Solver)

Achievers will say the value is important because of what they can do, achieve, or accomplish. Problem Solvers will talk about all the consequences they want to avoid and things they don't want to get, do, learn, or become. In reality, they're both saying the same thing, but from a different perspective. To show what needs to be done as a goal, use words like "achieve, "accomplish," "attain," and "outcome." To show what needs to be done as a solution to a problem, use phrases like "wouldn't cost too much," "wouldn't be too hard," and "wouldn't take too much time."

How do you know you've done a good job? 
(Leader versus Follower)

Leaders tend to take in information and decide for themselves. They rely on their internal guidance more than anything else. As such they say that they "just know" when they've done a good job. Followers rely on outsiders to give them feedback, so they know they've done a good job when others tell them so. If you're talking with a Leader, key phrases to use include "You might consider…" and "Only you can decide…" To a Follower, say things like "The research suggests…" and "Other people have come to this conclusion…"

Why did you choose your current job? 
(Innovator versus Processor)

Innovators like options, so they'll answer by giving a list of short words or phrases that represent their criteria for choosing a job. Processors will tend to tell a step-by-step story of how they got the job. Since Innovators like choices and don't like to follow the rules, talk to them using such words and phrases as "freedom," "choices," "options," "alternatives," and "change the way it's done." Processors will respond to words and phrases like "next step," "process to follow," and "the right way to do this."

What's the relationship between your work this year and last year? 
(Evolutionary versus Revolutionary)

Evolutionaries like sustained, continuous progress. They'll talk about how things today are better, enhanced, and improved. Revolutionaries like radical change…and they like it often. They'll reply by wondering what you're talking about. To them, there is no relationship between last year and this year. Occasionally someone will reply by saying that everything is the same and they like it that way. These people are called Traditionalists and make up only five percent of the population. If you run into one of these rare people simply talk about the "sameness" and "familiarity" of something. To appeal to Evolutionaries, use words like "improve," "enhance," "expand," "enrich," "better," and "more." To relate to Revolutionaries, use words like "new," "different," and "breakthrough."

What's your ideal job or work environment? 
(Thinker versus Doer)

Thinkers like to reflect and contemplate before taking action. They prefer to have a set of rules and for their boss to tell them what to do. Doers like to jump in and make things happen. They prefer to have the freedom "just do it" without going to others for insight first. Since Thinkers tend to be more passive and to react to their environment, some key phrases to motivate them include, "Haven't you waited long enough to…" and "Don't wait until it's too late to…" And since Doers actively pursue the completion of tasks and objectives, you don't need to say very much to them. Simply stay out of their way.

Motivate Everyone

Everyone is made up of some combination of these five motivational mindsets. No one is 100% of any one trait. Additionally, no one motivational mindset is better than another. A company needs all kinds of people to be effective and should, in fact, have a rich combination of varied personalities on staff.

Since people are always talking from their point of view, be sure to listen to the verbal clues people give you about their motivational mindset. The more you speak to others in their "language" and trigger their internal motivations, the more results your company will achieve.

About the Author

Jay Arthur, the KnowWare Man, is author of "Double Your Profits: Plug theLeaks in Your Cash Flow." He has spent the last 20 years helping companies maximize revenue through the "Lean Six Sigma Simplified System," a collection of audio, video, books and software. Jay is also the author of "Lean Six Sigma Demystified" and created the "QI Macros SPC Software" for Excel.