Motivation is about more than your character. Learning your motivation style can spotlight how you operate your business and where you need to grow.
What motivates you?
I’m not talking about your goals for today or even the quarter. I mean the inner fire that pushes you to learn, grow, and succeed every day of your life. Motivation may even be the reason you ended up in the business you’re in now. It can also affect your company in profound, unexpected ways.
Before I dive deeper, I want to clear up some confusion. There are several theories about types of motivation, some of which conflict with one another. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people act to satisfy one of five needs, ranging from basic survival to an overall sense of personal fulfillment. Meanwhile, Aristotle believed that there were certain “ends” or goals behind every action or choice you make.
One of my favorite theories on motivation comes from the Leadership IQ quiz. I’ve taken the quiz myself, which I discussed on an episode of my podcast, Stay Paid. This theory breaks all personal sources of motivation into five distinct categories:
Achievement: The motivation to excel by pursuing lofty goals and seeking self-improvement. Achievement-motivated people gain satisfaction from promotions, meeting challenging deadlines, and earning accolades.
Power: People motivated by power seek to gain influence, lead teams, and guide others to reach their goals. They may choose high-ranking professions over high-paying ones, though these overlap in most industries.
Affiliation: Collaborative and social people aim to build positive relationships with others. They believe in harmonious team environments where everyone gains satisfaction from the work they do.
Security: People motivated by security build stable, reliable, and financially rewarding lifestyles. They avoid unstable careers that are highly dependent on economic whims or a series of short-term projects (like the arts).
Adventure: Polar opposite to the previous category, adventurous types crave high-risk/high-reward pursuits. They love beating the odds, new ventures, and reattempting challenges that they may have failed in the past for another chance at victory.
All of these theories aim to explain not only what people do but also why they do it. Overall, though, these different and even contradictory theories can still fit neatly into two major categories: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation makes a person act for the sake of action itself. They love what they do, and they gain satisfaction from their choices and day-to-day activities.
Extrinsic motivation makes a person act to obtain a specific goal, achieve a positive result, or avoid a negative consequence.
You may not quite see yourself in either category just yet. Here’s a closer look at each one.
This motivation style comes from within. Your personal feelings or intentions guide you, and you aim to satisfy these inner demands. You may work hard for its own sake, for the thrill of taking on new ventures, or for the sheer passion for the field in which you operate.
However, intrinsic motivation may be highly dependent on your feelings toward your work. So if you suddenly feel bored or unsatisfied with your work—for any reason—you may start to detach from your responsibilities. At its most potent, intrinsic motivation fuels an individual to work tirelessly and be fully committed to surpassing any challenge they meet.
This type of motivation aims to achieve. Whether you’re working hard to gain a promotion, earn your paycheck, or get to Friday so you can enjoy your weekend to the fullest, those of you who are powered by extrinsic motivation always need a goalpost. What are you working for today, and how can you set goals or rewards for yourself to stay motivated?
Similarly, those who work with extrinsic motivation may also do their best to avoid punishment. Such people may excel in very tough or demanding work environments—like in health care, where mistakes can be costly or even dangerous—because they internalize the potential consequences of being imprecise.
Don’t confuse extrinsic motivation with being superficial or shallow. This motivation type pushes you to reach very respectable goals, like buying your first home, saving up a college fund for your children, or staying on good terms with your clients.
Why should you take the time to look inward and figure out your motivation style? Because knowing why you make the choices you make allows you to reach your full potential. Understanding your motivation style can guide you to positions that are best suited to you. For example, those who align with adventurous intrinsic motivation may enjoy the thrill and intrigue of being a venture capitalist. When you get to know your own strengths, you can find the avenues in which you’ll naturally excel.
However, understanding yourself can also help you assess your weaknesses. Learning about your weaknesses may not sound like a ton of fun, but it can mean a sea change in your professional (and maybe even personal) life. As Ann Holland, PhD, told Forbes, “The best way to get unstuck and get out of your own way on the road to achieving your goals is to power up your self-motivation.”
Where is your personal motivation style lacking? Those who are intrinsically motivated may need an extra push to understand the gravity of external goals, like meeting quotas and revenue growth. Those who are extrinsically motivated may wait on other forces or circumstances to power them up. For example, such employees may excel when trying to reach a goal like a promotion but then may get complacent when there isn’t a specific goal in their sights. Identify your motivation style to identify where you could improve.
Just as a king or queen needs a counsel of experts, business leaders who get to know their motivation style can surround themselves with a team of collaborators who excel where they do not. Are you extrinsically motivated by signs of success, like financial growth, but not particularly interested in harmony with others? Enlist another leader in your company who is more intrinsically motivated by affiliation to guide team-building efforts and improve company retention.
Use the list in this article to determine what motivates you, and use that motivation style to create new goals. Then use this guide to set goals that apply to your style.
About the author:
Luke Acree is an authority on leadership, a lead-generation specialist, and a referral expert who has helped more than 100,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses grow their companies. He hosts Stay Paid, a sales and marketing podcast, and has been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Foundr.com.