Do you know your co-workers? Do you think you can motivate them? What moves our team to behave in a certain way? What motivations drive our decisions? Some of these questions are the ones a team typically faces when it needs to empower its members.

Not taking as an important activity the daily work of keeping people in teams motivated is one of the main causes that many initiatives are sporadic or fail. Gallup’s research shows that while some people feel motivated by salary, others get their fuel from doing what they love or having the opportunity to do what they do best. What leads to these motivations may or may not necessarily be related to our natural strengths, and firstly we can understand that for each person there’s something at least slightly different. 

There are many theories about what motivates us and the truth is that there are external and internal factors that lead us to do one thing or another. These are known as extrinsic and intrinsic motivations:

  • Extrinsic motivation: those external rewards, such as payments or promotions.
  • Intrinsic motivation: Jurgen Appelo defines these as “people’s innate desires to do well and to have an eagerness for self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives.” This will probably be the kind of motivation you want to encourage in your teams.

Finding intrinsic motivation becomes a challenge due to people’s differences, mainly with members that have different cultures. Each person is unique, and each team is made of people that have their own stories, and their own motivations. 

We had the opportunity to implement this practice with a software development team that we were collaborating with, made of 12 people from different areas: product, development, and quality. They were working on building a new app for the finance market. 

This was a newly built team, whose members had different realities: some had just been hired and were looking forward to challenges, while others had years of experience in the company. Some of them had family, some were still studying at university. This led to expectation problems when attempting collaboration and commitment since each one had a different focus.

What could motivate these people? Was there any common motivator that could boost them? In which ways could we agree on expectations?

We decided to implement a Management 3.0 exercise called “Moving Motivators”, an exercise based on ten intrinsic desires, which Jurgen Appelo derived from the works of Daniel Pink, Steven Reiss, and Edward Deci. You can learn more about it on its official website.

What is “Moving Motivators”?

It’s an exercise meant to understand the motivations of each member of a team. It also helps us to reflect on intrinsic motivation and how it affects organizational change, to find opportunities when searching for meaningful motivation, and to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship with our co-workers.

Image extracted from the official website.

“Moving Motivators” in action

First thing was to share a template created in Miro since the team was a fully remote one. Then, we implemented the following steps: 

  1. An explanation of the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was provided to the team, to start giving context.
  2. Then we talked about the purpose of the exercise, agreed on the meaning of each motivator, focusing on each one understanding what it meant: 
    • Curiosity: I have plenty of things to investigate and to think about.
    • Honor: I feel proud that my personal values are reflected in how I work.
    • Acceptance: The people around me approve of what I do and who I am.
    • Mastery: My work challenges my competence but it is still within my abilities.
    • Power: There’s enough room for me to influence what happens around me.
    • Freedom: I am independent of others with my work and my responsibilities.
    • Relatedness: I have good social contacts with the people in my work.
    • Order: There are enough rules and policies for a stable environment.
    • Goal: My purpose in life is reflected in the work that I do.
    • Status: My position is good, and recognized by the people who work with me.
  3. To begin with the dynamic, each person arranged their motivators from left to right, beginning with the one that felt most important.
  4. Then, they shared their motivators, focusing on why the top 3 (first ones from left to right) were so important and why the last one on the list was in that place.
  5. Next, they shared how their motivators were influenced during the last couple of weeks. For this, they had to: move the card a bit up if the last weeks were good for those motivators, leave it if nothing new happened, and move it down if there was a negative influence lately.
  6. And finally, they thought about what things could influence positively on their main motivators and shared those ideas with the rest of the team.

Learnings

As a facilitator, you learn the importance of knowing and visualizing each of our motivators, and the meaningful conversations that can happen when you reflect on them. Maybe this could be the first time your team talks about it, and they may find a connection through common motivators and start planning future actions together.

The team learned about each others’ motivators, and they felt identified with some of them. This led to rearranging some of the working agreements they had about their roles and began bringing new creative ideas into the team. For instance, some of them agreed on the creation of a site where everyone ended up sharing good practices from each area, and sessions were delivered to share that knowledge with other teams. A common motivator they had was having a purpose, which led us to implement dynamics like Ikigai to connect with each member’s goals and talk about how they connected with the team’s one.

Conclusion

When a team assumes the responsibility of finding its true motivations and transparent expectations with that, developing collective agreements, they help each other grow while creating a good work environment with productive results.

“Moving Motivators” can help you find motivation in a work context, but also could be useful for reflection on a personal one as well.

Before facilitating this dynamic, make sure that you first take a moment to understand what each motivator means to yourself. Remember that the only way this conversation can happen with your team is through a safe environment, with respect and trust. Leave room for silence, since people may need to think deeply about what moves them and processing that information. 

We encourage you to live the experience of knowing what motivates you and your team through “Moving Motivators”, working towards collaborative growth.

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