What really motivates you?

Are you a Visionary? A Learner or an Optimiser? The answer could help you structure projects, have conversations, make decisions, and even follow a more fulfilling career path. To find out more, we speak to Todd Henry, author of The Motivation Code

What drives you to unleash your best work? And how should you tap into that drive to get superior results with your managers, coworkers, and direct reports? Below, we speak to Todd Henry, author of The Motivation Code, who draws on decades of research and interviews with over 100,000 people to reveal that the answer is not one size fits all.

Why is motivation particularly important in today’s working world?

Most of us have lost the traditional support structures – in-person meetings, office space, conversations with peers – that bring energy to our days. Instead, we now have to rely on internal drive to get us through – something that isn’t easy to do. The problem is that many of us don’t understand what truly and specifically drives us when it comes to our work. We don’t know how to decode our ‘core motivations’.

Why is this important?

Decoding our motivational type enables us to better structure projects, have conversations, make decisions, and even choose a more fulfilling career path.

But there’s a big misunderstanding about motivation. We often think it’s all about aligning with the right tasks and doing things we enjoy, but that’s not true. The reality is that motivation (something that naturally energises us) is often driven by the outcome rather than the tasks themselves.

Understanding this difference – and knowing which outcomes are the most exciting to us – can be transformative. Our inner drivers may include a desire to achieve potential, to overcome, to comprehend and express, or to ‘make it right’. Once we know how to activate our inner drivers, we can transform the work we do into the work we love.

What are the most common motivational types?

My Motivation Code team has identified six unique motivational archetypes – each with its own tells and needs:

The Visionary strives to make their mark on the world by building an ideal future, even when others may not see as far ahead.

The Achiever relishes a finished product and must conquer whatever obstacle comes their way, no matter how difficult or time-consuming.

The Team Player values being part of a group and will go to great lengths to achieve unity and enhance collaboration.

The Learner is obsessed with mastering new skills and showing off what they know – which is often a lot.

The Optimiser thrives when systems and processes are running smoothly and finds great satisfaction when things are done the ‘right way’ .

The Key Contributor shines at the centre of the action, especially when others can recognise the value of their work.

Can our codes help us understand our bad habits too?

Each motivation type has a ‘shadow side’. These are unhealthy behaviours that can sometimes take over and lead to poor behaviour, disengagement, or conflict.

If you are motivated by ‘meeting the challenge’, for example, procrastination is certainly one of those shadow sides. When you’re driven to rise to the occasion and tackle difficult challenges, you might allow your work to slip until there’s very little time left to do it – so as to make it feel more challenging.

What’s the best way to identify our motivational type?

Motivation is about the natural tendencies we have and the innate ways in which we derive our motivational energy. It can feel like an insatiable drive to produce or experience a result.

When it comes to your work, ask yourself: which outcomes most excite me? Some people are energised by a race against the clock, while others put in extra effort only when they feel part of a team. For still others, nothing is as motivating as the possibility of public recognition. Or take the assessment at MotivationCode.com.

We’ve also spent the past decade developing a story-driven psychometric assessment that analyses those motivations and ranks them for participants. Typically, the top three to five motivations are what we call your ‘motivation code’, or the unique combination of drivers that unlock deep engagement and satisfaction in work.

Because of the sheer number of unique motivational themes, there are 17,550 possible combinations of top three motivations, meaning that what drives each person on a team or in a workgroup is likely to be very unique and unlike the rest of the group.

When it comes to motivation, one size does not fit all. Tell us more…

More than 50 years of research and the analysis of over 1 million achievement stories led my Motivation Code team and I to discover that there are 27 unique ways that people use to describe what drives them. Twenty-seven!

Todd Henry is the author of The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces That Drive Your Best Work

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