We hear a lot these days about motivation, it seems to be the buzzword of the decade, and quite rightly so, highly motivated staff lead to engaged employees lead to a happier working environment lead to higher productivity!
However, the ‘sixty thousand dollar’ question always is ‘What actually motivates someone?’ There are many motivation theories out there but the one I want to highlight in this post is related to our basic needs as humans and what happens when they aren’t met.
In the 1950’s Maslow articulated the Hierarchy of Needs, outlining how our needs change as we evolve as a society and as an individual. A model related to this but with a somewhat different perspective is the Six Human Needs model popularized by Anthony Robbins.
It says that as humans we have six universal needs which are:
Certainty: As humans we need to be certain that we have enough specific basic needs covered such as food, shelter, material resources, employment etc. People will begin to feel unsettled when their basic needs don’t seem to be certain any more. Certainty is not only applicable to basic physical needs however. It is also applies to relationships. We like to feel certainty in our relations with others, being able to count on them whenever we need comfort and support.
Variety: Just as much as we need certainty, we need variety. We can easily become bored when we are involved in doing and experiencing the same thing over and over again. Striving for a new environment, physical activity, new experiences, holidays and new roles at work for example are all the result of our need for variety. If this need isn’t satisfied de-motivation can set in which leads to reduced efficiency, a sense of hopelessness and restlessness.
Significance: Feeling significant and wanting to be taken seriously for who we are and what we are doing, is another universal need. We long to feel appreciated and to be recognised for our efforts. We get totally frustrated if we realise that our hard work has been a waste of time.
Love and connection: Love is perhaps the most important need at which below a certain level it is difficult to function properly. Very small babies have been known to die from lack of love and affection. Feeling connected to others is essential. This connection can be any engagement, relationship or friendship. A look at the current trend in the digital world where people are connected to each other in multitudes of ways simply shows how powerful this need is.
Contribution: At some stage most people feel that the result of their life should lead to something meaningful, they feel an urge to ‘give back’. This feeling comes from our need for contribution. People want to have an output that makes a difference in others’ lives.
Growth: As humans, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t possess the need to constantly grow and improve. This strong need is ever present and leads us towards change, learning new skills, experiencing new adventures and continuously adapting ourselves to our fast changing world. The increasing complexity of our technological environment means that our need for growth will become even stronger as we progress forward. Society may find it difficult to accept individuals who don’t grow and change at least at the same rate as the progress in their environment.
Depending on the type of person we are and how we evolve, our changing circumstances, and often our age, the importance of satisfying each of these needs will change over our lifetimes. In my case, I can identify that the most important need I must satisfy at this stage of my life is growth. When I feel I am learning and progressing from the activities I engage in, especially my work, I feel extremely motivated.
Understanding what motivates a person often means understanding which of these six needs is most pressing at any given period of time. And if we know this about ourselves and can engineer situations to meet and feed these needs, we will be happier and more fulfilled.
What happens when these needs aren’t met? It’s quite simple, people will become irritable, often depressed, possibly aggressive and they will find it difficult to be personally and professionally productive.
If you are responsible for a team at work, getting to know your people on a more personal level and discovering which of their needs are most prominent at that moment, will really help you to find tasks and positions which motivate them and keep them engaged.