How to Motivate People? A Ten Point Plan

We spend a lot of time working with managers who often ask the question  ‘How can I improve my motivation skills?’  Nobody ever says ‘I am a poor motivator’. Managers will admit to many things – bad time management, poor delegation, perfectionism, impatience etc,  but never admit to a complete lack of motivational ability.  However, when you ask them to rate their managers’ motivational abilities they are rarely complementary, ‘average’ being the best they can offer as a rating.


Why this big gap between perception and reality? The first clue is with the blind spot itself.  Excellent motivators tend to be very self-aware, understanding what stimulates their own motivational drive and what doesn’t. It’s very hard to motivate others when you have little insight (or interest) in what motivates you.

Next is a common misunderstanding that once made creates a completely wrong set of assumptions and resulting approaches. Many managers believe its their job to create drive in people, rather than focusing on what creates the drive.  We call this a person’s Needs Wants Desires (NWD) Profile.  By really understanding a person’s unique NWD a manager learns where to apply attention and focus. The person will quickly provide the drive when their NWD is being correctly stimulated.

Seminal models from Hertzberg, Maslow and Vroom are helpful in contextualising the evidence but the ‘secret sauce’ of effective motivation is this understanding of the NWD.  Understand Their Needs Wants and Desires Not Their Drives.

We have distilled NWD examination  into 10 important themes.


  1. What is the person trying to do/achieve with/in their life?
  2.  What is their psychological contract with work?
  3. What are their personal circumstances, including current life stage?
  4. How much meaning do they want from their work?
  5. What is the person’s ambitions?
  6. What is the person’s learning goals and general  approach to learning?
  7. What are the person’s passions and how do they wish to fulfil them?
  8. What is the person’s background and how does that relate to their current position?
  9. What is the person’s attitude to risk and change?
  10. How open is the person to talking about these themes?

When a manager has a good understanding of these issues they come to know the individual and what really motivates them. They can then apply the most effective stimulus to their NWD. The person will then provide all the drive required.