The word motivation literally means “a reason to move,” and pretty much every move we make has a reason behind it: we sleep when we are tired, we eat when hungry, and we drink when thirsty. Leaders who want to motivate their people don’t have to be trained psychologists, but they do need an excellent understanding of human behavior. It’s a fact that people are motivated by different needs, and a leader who is connected, in touch, with his team members will understand their individual motivators. The leader who truly has a heart connection with his team will know more than their motivators; he will know their dreams. When we get to the level of helping our people achieve their dreams, motivation and morale will be excellent…..As will be results!

The biggest mistake many leaders make in trying to motivate their teams is to assume that money is their people’s key motivator. To be a good leader, you must find your people’s hot buttons—their individual reasons for striving to achieve—by asking questions and listening attentively to the answers.

The thing that separates good players from great players is mental attitude.

All things being equal, you can attract, retain, and motivate the best and brightest by recognizing that what motivates me might not motivate you.

—John Putzier, author of get weird!

That said, most people are motivated to some degree by one or more of the following nine needs:

■   achievement and growth: People motivated by this need want to use their talents for success. They desire to grow through learning new roles or educating themselves. Provide challenging projects suited to their skills and they will constantly achieve.

money: People motivated by money desire to earn substantial income. Give these people remuneration systems that reward achievement, bonuses that reward exceeding expec- tations, or an open-ended commission structure based on performance.

teamwork: People motivated by this need enjoy being part of a successful team. They enjoy interacting with people; group projects motivate them, as does the social aspect of the workplace.

■   power or ego: People motivated by this need enjoy control- ling and influencing others. They thrive on making decisions and being in a position to lead and direct others. Beware enabling this desire too early, however, as wanting power does not necessarily make someone a good leader.

approval: People motivated by the need for approval need recognition and praise. Give them positive feedback and public recognition of their achievements and contributions. Ensure that this feedback is genuine and heartfelt as employ- ees can easily detect insincere approval or recognition, and this will be a demotivator.

■   security: People motivated by security want a steady income, solid benefits, and a stable workplace. Give these people attractive base salaries and a comfortable work environment with low risk. Do not place these people in positions where income is primarily performance based or in commission- only roles

■   independence: People motivated by this need want autonomy and freedom to choose their own work hours and love to work alone. These people will enjoy roles like being a mobile team member and may desire opportunities for them to work from home.

■   stability: People motivated by a desire for stability want to work in a position where there is minimal disruption and change. Do not place them in roles where change is rapid or day-to-day duties are radically different. Their ideal is a stable role with set schedules and minimum disruption.

equality: People motivated by this need desire fair treatment. They will analyze and compare their duties, work hours, salary, and benefits to those of other employees and may become disenchanted if they regard themselves as disadvantaged.

In addition to these nine basic drivers, there is another element of the new workplace that can be a big motivator for some people. In the modern business world, flexibility is paramount to organizational success. Create and encourage flexibility in the workplace – flexible hours, flexible work location (working from home), flexible arrangements for certain duties, etc. Many employees will not approach employers for fear of being perceived as not committed to their jobs, but this flexibility may be something that they desperately want or need. A Families and Work Institute study indicated that 39 percent of the U.S. workforce believed that taking advantage of flexibility programs would result in less pay and fewer opportunities to be promoted (McNulty, 2006). If your employees feel that you promote and support flexible work situations, they’ll be more likely to stay on and be motivated when they experience major life changes, such as having children, moving to a new home, having to take care of an elderly parent, etc.

If you are concerned about the attitude or motivation level of a particular employee, take some time to honestly assess what you think motivates this person. If you aren’t sure, analyze his work habits, identify his strengths (which are often related to key motivators), and have a conversation with him. When you have analyzed your employee’s motivating hot buttons or learned his dreams, it is time to become innovative. You need to structure his role and rewards to match his needs.

The thing that separates good players from great players is mental attitude. It might only make a difference of two or three points over an entire match, but it’s how you play those key points that often makes the difference between winning and losing. If the mind is strong, you can do anything you want.

—Chris Evert, champion tennis player

While this is an important tool to use in solving attitude or motivation problems with individuals, it’s also something that should be taken into account for every employee, particularly new hires. If you spend the time early on in an employee’s career to ensure that her role, her compensation, and the structure of her position are in line with her key motivators, you’ll be well on your way to a team member who is motivated, happy, and positive.

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