We’ve written about motivation in several blogs and in two Quality Magazine’s web exclusives.  Today, I want to discuss motivating others through values.  As we discussed in our November 19, 2013 blog, knowing what your personal values are is important; however, knowing what other peoples' values are can be important also.

Many people, managers and supervisors included, are interested in knowing how to motivate others. What many overlook is knowing what other people value.  For many years, I coached baseball over the summer. During one particular gratifying season I had three exceptional pitchers. Of course I wanted them to be ‘as good as they could be’ so I asked each one what was important to him about playing the game.


One said he did it to make his mom and dad proud. The second said it made him feel powerful because he liked the idea of defeating opponents who were trying as hard as they could to hit his pitches and beat him. The third player said that baseball was his ticket to a baseball scholarship that would pay his way through college.


After hearing their responses, there was no way that I could motivate all three of these kids in the same way. The things that were important to one didn't matter at all to the others and vice versa.  In the final analysis, it is personal values that motivate us to do what we do.


At a company I am quite familiar the role out of a major initiative was personally directed by the CEO. Subsequently, division managers participated personally in the role out at their facilities to all their employees.  This was done partly for accountability but also so the senior managers could get to know exactly what was important to the people both personally and professionally. In the process, the organization implemented the major initiative better than any other organization.  In fact, many organizations have come to benchmark the process so they can learn the best practices.


Bottom line, if you want to motivate others, whether it is your team or your people, you have to present the motivation in terms that mean something to them, not necessarily to you. That means understanding what their values are.


Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French aviator and author of “The Little Prince”, wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Sometimes you need to do both. You need to enlist and organize people to do a specific task-to build a ship according to specs, on time and on budget-and sometimes you need to activate people’s desires and stand aside. Who knows, you may be surprised by what they do.


Think about it.