Motivation Times Seven

If you’re frustrated in your efforts to elicit the best from each of your employees, chances are it’s not that they can’t be motivated, but that you’re using the wrong methods to motivate them.

The secret is to tailor your approach to each individual in a way that makes him or her want to deliver for you. In my experience as a business consultant specializing in communications and behavioral sciences, I’ve found seven basic work styles, each of which is motivated differently. They are: commanders, who need control; drifters, who need flexibility; attackers, who need respect; pleasers, who need to be liked; performers, who need recognition; avoiders, who need security; and analyticals, who need certainty. Here’s how to use this knowledge to better motivate your staff.

  1. Commanders Results oriented, aloof, bossy, and not terribly tactful, commanders need to be in a position to take initiative. Delegate substantive assignments to them and employ a hands-off management style. State the desired result, and then stand aside and let them figure out how to accomplish it. To Motivate Link what you want them to do to how doing so will improve order, control, or results. Value and Validate Their ability to overcome obstacles, implement, and achieve results. Spotting Commanders They are abrupt and controlling, and perfectionists for whom everything in life is a “hill to be conquered.”

  2. Drifters Free spirited and easygoing, disorganized and impulsive, drifters are the opposite of commanders. They have difficulty with structure of any kind, whether it relates to rules, work hours, details, or deadlines. To Motivate Delegate only short assignments and ensure they have lots of variety. Provide as much flexibility as possible, including what they work on, where they work, with whom they work, and the work schedule itself. Value and Validate Their innovation and creativity, their ability to improvise on a moment’s notice, and their out-of-the-box thinking. Spotting Drifters They are warm, friendly, and imaginative, yet reliably unreliable and oblivious to rules, time, and performance expectations.

  3. Attackers Angry and hostile, cynical and grouchy, attackers are frequently the most demoralizing influence in the workplace. They can be critical of others in public, and often communicate using demeaning, condescending tones or biting sarcasm. Attackers view themselves as superior to others, conveying contempt and disgust for others. To Motivate Identify what they’re really good at, and then put them in positions where they can use or impart that knowledge in ways that don’t require much interaction with others. Value and Validate Their willingness to take on the ugly, unpopular assignments no one else wants to touch, and their ability to work for long periods of time in isolation. Spotting Attackers They are loners with whom no one wants to associate; verbally abusive, eliciting complaints; and impervious to the backlash suffered as a result of doing the necessary but unpopular tasks.

  4. Pleasers Thoughtful, pleasant, and helpful, pleasers are easy to get along with. They view their work associates as extended family members and have a high need for socialization at work. Unable to handle conflict, pleasers can’t say “no” to the requests of others, developing instant migraines or stomach problems to escape having to deal with negativity. To Motivate Simply let them know how doing whatever it is you ask will make you happy. The more difficult task is to manage their tendency to subordinate what’s best for the company to the maintenance of relationships. To manage this, you’ll need to continually stress the concept of the “greater good.” Value and Validate The way they humanize the workplace, and for their helpful, collaborative work style. Spotting Pleasers They cry easily, remember the special dates and events in others’ lives, and commit acts of devotion that hold you hostage at review time.

  5. Performers Witty and charming, jovial and entertaining, performers are often the most favorite personality in the workplace. They’re the first to volunteer in public venues, and the last to deliver on their promises. Performers can also be self-promoting hustlers who use others as stepping stones on their path to stardom. They’ll also avoid accountability for any negative outcomes by distorting the truth and blaming others. To Motivate Link recognition and other incentives, such as high-profile assignments, to improved teamsmanship. Value and Validate Their ability to establish new relationships and for their power to persuade and public-speaking skills. Spotting Performers They seem in a perpetual hurry, confusing activity with productivity; are great at establishing but not maintaining relationships; and frequently regale others with stories in which they are the main character.

  6. Avoiders Quiet and reserved, avoiders are the wallflowers of the world. They create warm, cozy, nestlike environments and prefer to work alone. They fear taking initiative, and shun increased responsibility because of the attendant visibility and accountability. They’ll do precisely what they’re told—no more but no less, either. Avoiders will sacrifice money, position, growth, and new opportunities for the safety of the status quo. To Motivate Always provide detailed instructions, in which avoiders will find safety, and don’t expect to succeed in pushing these fear-based individuals toward increased responsibility. Value and Validate Their reliability, meticulous attention to your instructions, and getting the job done right the first time, every time. Spotting Avoiders They frequently don’t take obvious next steps, seem simultaneously charismatic and mysterious, and seem discombobulated by even minor change.

  7. Analyticals Cautious, precise, and diligent, analyticals are the personification of procrastination. This sometimes incapacitates them in times of urgency. They multitask mentally, not physically, with the result that eye contact is poor and intonation is flat. They scrutinize the ideas of others and anticipate all that could go wrong, which creates an inaccurate impression that they’re negative. They’re ill at ease socially and prefer that all communications be written or electronic, not in person. To Motivate Give them time to complete each task before assigning another, and demonstrate and articulate respect for data and the analytical function. Value and Validate Their commitment to accuracy and ability to anticipate and evaluate risk far enough in advance to allow reduced vulnerability. Spotting Analyticals They require specific examples in order to consider your criticism valid; frequently request extension to agreed-upon deadlines; and, of course, proofread photocopies as they come out of the copy machine.

The one-size-fits-all approach to motivating others won’t work. Instead, you must customize your methods to each individual you manage. Doing so will allow you to access the discretionary energy of staff—that which they aren’t required to do, but could do if you use these tips to make them want to.