Tag Archives: motivation

Pump Up Your Motivation, With These 6 Key Questions

audio tape and scissors isolated on a white backgroundAmanda was struggling. I had been working with her for about 2 hours when her frustration boiled over. She just wasn’t getting it. For some reason she wasn’t catching on to the art of editing physical audio tape. I was doing a poor job as her instructor.

“Just stooooop. I…I…I can’t take…take it any more! Todd…you…you…you…are…such a NAZI! I was stunned into silence. I hadn’t heard that since I was a kid. When you have a long German last name like I do, you get use to that sort of thing. But, I had never heard that in college. 

Fast forward many years later and I have seen this scene play out time and time again. It wasn’t until I started using a pretty amazing personality assessment tool that it became very clear to me what happened many years before in the editing studio.

We all have these mostly hidden motivators (think expectations or needs) from the people and environment around us. I tripped over Amanda’s, because they were hard to see. Her internal motivators for interpersonal interaction were different than her outward behaviors.

The truth is we can design the environment around us to match these motivational expectations. When we can help the people around us understand what these are, we will spend most of our time in our positive and productive behavior – boom!

All you have to do is ask yourself these six questions to pump up your motivation and boost your best self.

1. Are you motivated by direct or indirect interaction in one-on-one relationships?

One-one-one relationships are part of our everyday lives. You may not realize it, but you are hoping and expecting personal interactions somewhere between direct and frank and respectful and kind.

What part of this spectrum motivates you more?

2. Are you motivated by a simple outline of expectations or a definite plan in place?

We all have varying degrees of expectations around structure. You may want loose guidance that gives you maximum freedom to choose your own way. Or, you may be more motivated by the people around you insisting on a certain way to do things.

What part of this spectrum motivates you more?

3. Are you motivated by suggestions or directions?

If you are in the military and you enjoy it, then you may be motivated by directions instead of suggestions. On the other hand, if you are an entrepreneur and thriving, you may be more motivated by suggestions. Many people lean in one direction or the other with these mostly hidden motivational expectations.

What part of this spectrum motivates you more?

4. Are you motivated by unemotional interactions or an outlet to share your subjective feelings?

You may enjoy unemotional interactions that focus on facts, tasks, and actions. Or, you may want others to to listen to you and empathize without judgment or trying to help you fix your problems.

What part of this spectrum motivates you more?

5. Are you motivated by predictability or opportunities for individuality?

You may really enjoy a regular routine and a conventional way of living. It brings out the best in you. You may not be too excited if someone springs something new on you at the last minute. But, you may have a friend that wears crazy color clothes that don’t match and craves spontaneous nights out on the town because she is motivated by opportunities to express her individuality and freedom.

What part of this spectrum motivates you more?

6. Are you motivated by complex ideas that are quickly synthesized to their simplest form or plenty of time to think through complex issues?

Some of you like environments where you can make a quick decision. It may not take you long to buy a house, car, or choose a vacation destination. On the other hand, you may like to percolate on things a bit longer. It may motivate you to think through complex decisions in a way that may not motivate others.

What part of this spectrum motivates you more?

Understanding these unique and different dimensions of motivational needs unlocks huge reservoirs of energy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in us. We just don’t often take the time to fully understand where we stand on these mostly hidden motivators. And, when we do take the time, we may not share these insights with others.

As a Founding CEO, when we do choose to share, we can move mountains. And, we can avoid the types of conflict that occurred between Amanda and me.

If you want to find out more about these powerful motivators, check out “The Birkman Method” book and assessment. I think you’ll be glad you did.


How do CEOs diagnose team motivations?

“What kind of push back do you get from your clients?” That was the question an audience member asked me.

I was excited to participate in “Startup Grind Cincinnati” last week. Mike Bott, Principal at Blue Chip Venture Company, interviewed me as part of a fireside chat with some of Cincinnati’s great startup talent. It was a lot of fun. But, this question from an audience member has lingered with me since then.

Usually I am not at a loss of words. So, the question above made me stop and think for a moment.

What was my response? My first answer was an issue regarding time. Many Founding CEOs often tell me they don’t have time to work on the “leadership development stuff” that is usually important to enhancing their performance as a CEO. So, they “push back” on my suggestions that help them grow as a leader.

“I can’t,” was my second response. Founding CEOs say they “can’t” do something because they either don’t know how or they don’t want to put in the effort. “This is who I am and my team will have to deal with it,” is the attitude of some.

The audience member at “Startup Grind Cincinnati” asked me a followup question. “What do you do when a client doesn’t want to put in the effort to grow as a leader?” My response? “I don’t coach them,” I said.

Scanning the audience I saw a few shocked faces. But, it’s true. I can’t coach someone who doesn’t have the motivation to be coached.

Why is this relevant for Founding CEOs? Because, the same inquiry into motivations holds true for your team members. When you are diagnosing the performance of a team member, there are usually two lines of initial questioning that are helpful. Inexperienced CEOs may simply conclude that it is a skill or ability issue. And, that may be so. It’s certainly a legitimate line of inquiry.

  • Is the poor performance the result of inadequate training?
  • Is the poor performance because of a lack of resources to do the job?
  • Did the skills needed in the role outgrow the current skills and abilities of the team member?
  • Did the team member have the necessary skills when you hired him or her?

However, it may also be a motivation issue, as is sometimes the case with the Founding CEOs that are sent me way. As a CEO, you may forget that members of your leadership team also have a set of motivators that propel or repel them from growing and enhancing their performance.

Questions You Can Use

So, as a Founding CEO, how do you begin to diagnose individual leadership team member performance issues related to motivation? Here are some questions you might explore:

  1. Does the lack of motivation result from poorly communicated expectations?
  2. Are the incentives aligned with the team member’s interests?
  3. Are the incentives being equally distributed?
  4. Are the incentives linked to performance measures?
  5. Does the team member have the autonomy they need?
  6. Does the team member agree with the mission, vision, and value of the company?
  7. Is the team member in a role that matches their interests?
  8. Is the environment and culture aligned with this team member’s needs, hopes, and desires?
  9. Did the role change and the team member’s motivations to be in that role no longer fit?
  10. Have you cultivated a culture of trust?
  11. Do you expect others to have the same motivations as you? (Hmmm)

I could go on. But, I think you get the point.

Motivations propel our behaviors, as a Founding CEO and as a member of a leadership team. As a CEO, it’s important to have clarity on your own motivators so you can be clear headed about assessing and diagnosing the motivations of your team members. The performance of your company depends on it.

What questions do you ask to help diagnose the performance of your team members?