Motivation is Everything

02 Jul 2014

strengthsRecognising and Building on Strengths
By Rhodie Miller

When we think about what motivates people to work we might be tempted to take a very simplistic view. However, if you take a more careful look at what influences individuals to get out of bed each day and what the incentives are for them to stay at the top of their form, there are a number of influencing factors.

High profile, elite sportsmen such as Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, give us some insight into the importance of motivation and building on strengths. Not only is Usain Bolt insightful at understanding what motivates him and developing that motivation, his success has also been driven by his manager early in his career (when he was a cricketer) recognising his strengths (his speed in running) and supporting him to be highly focused in developing those strengths.And when faced with significant and painful injuries he has always been able to rise above adversity to continue building his success as a world class athlete.

Finding the drivers yourself, or recognising them in individuals if you are an executive, and using them as a source of motivation is something that distinguishes highly successful people and organisations. For some, it might be a passion for the work,for others, a competitive desire to do better and achieve greater success in a role, a responsibility to people in the team, a growth mindset that is energised by challenges or it may be situational circumstances.

Recognising and building on strengths rather than developing the gaps benefits both the business and the individual. And, if you aren’t the CEO, you need an organisation that will support you.

Demographic differences
There are differences across demographics. For example, a European versus Asian ethnicity demographic and national culture can impact on an individual’s work ethic and motivation. Hofstede’s (1983) model of categorising national culture by individualism versus collectivism and power suggests why national culture appears to be so significant. The Australian culture is characterised by personal independence and isolation which Hofstede (1983) terms as individualist, whilst China and manyAsian cultures which place a greater emphasis on working together, are characterised as collectivist.

Autonomy, mastery, purpose
In the Australian context there are cultural influences at play that are important to better understanding motivation:


These three factors collectively influence individual success. With a desire to direct our own lives, good leaders find ways to foster initiative and encourage responsibility. They support mastery through building a culture that encourages risk taking without fear, and through clear vision, they support individuals align their personal need for purpose with that of the organisation. These elements are key to creating a work-life balance of positive emotions that influence motivation.
Good Leadership and Individual Responsibility
Good leaders recognise their responsibility to support the motivation of their employees (there is debate about whether a person can motivate another versus whether a person can only support another to motivate themselves). Effective delegation and coaching is constructive in providing support for employees over long periods. Ultimately, though, it requires individual insight and the personal ability to develop your motivation, in order to sustain your motivation in the long term.