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How to steer through the Intricacies of Motivation: The Wheel of Why

I remember walking into the boardroom of a large corporation in the biotechnology industry. A friend of mine, who worked there, had brought me in. The board of directors had one burning question, and it was directed at me. Now, imagine this: the room filled with executives, all eyes fixed on you, awaiting an answer that could potentially change the course of their R&D department.

Their question was, at least to them, seemingly simple: “How much money do we need to invest in our team of 187 researchers to optimally motivate them over the next five years?” You could cut the tension with a knife. They were expecting a number, a figure to write on their checks.

Now, picture this: you’re standing there, the spotlight on you, and you’ve just thrown a curveball at a room full of expectant faces. So, what’s your game plan now? Well, i think there’s only one reasonable answer, one that’s much underused, especially in the corporate world. It is: “I don’t know”. I remember clearly, the silence that followed my ‘I don’t know’ echoed off the walls, stirring a wave of surprise, and, dare I say, a bit of confusion. I could almost read their thoughts – “Is this guy a clown? An ill-informed professor, perhaps?”

And what’s the meaningful next step? The next meaningful thing we could ask them. Well, here’s a suggestion: “Have you asked your people?”. That really triggered some surprise… I wish you could’ve seen the shock written all over their faces. The words hung in the air, a stark contrast to the simple number they were anticipating. A wave of surprise washed over their faces, eyebrows raised, mouths slightly agape.

But, after some contemplation, they decided to reach out to their researchers and ask them directly. . They conducted a survey, asking those 187 researchers what truly motivated them. But the results showed it wasn’t about money – the main motivator for those researchers was their thirst for knowledge. It wasn’t about money. Instead, two simple yet profound things emerged. First, they wanted dedicated time each week for uninterrupted research. Second, they wished to fly to global conferences once or twice a year to meet their peers and exchange ideas.

A few months later, I ran into my friend again. Her smile, it was like a spark that could ignite an entire space with its warmth and charm. “Matthias,” she said, “You should have seen the transformation. Ever since that meeting, people regard me with newfound respect. That intervention not only saved us a fortune but also boosted our team’s morale and productivity beyond expectations.”

Motivation, often perceived through the lens of financial incentives (especially by people who are motivated by money), can (and most probably is) so much more than that.

The Personal Side of Motivation

As a matter of fact, motivation seems to be the buzzword on everyone’s lips. It’s like a universal language that everyone speaks but interprets differently. However, businesses need strategic marketing plans to reach big goals on tight budgets. But the biggest trap we often fall into when trying to motivate others is using our own set of motivators as a guide. It’s a natural tendency, but it can lead us astray.

To really get motivation, you’ve gotta dig into what specifically fires up each person. It’s important to recognize that motivation isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. What inspires one person might not resonate with another. Just like our tastes differ in food, music, or hobbies, our sources of motivation vary significantly.

Understanding Individual Motivators

6px; white-space-collapse: preserve;”>At the Autoris Institute, we’ve crafted a unique tool designed to personalize our approach to motivation. This tool, known as the “Wheel of Motivation” or affectionately as the “Wheel of Why” (and we’re quite fond of the acronym WOW), is not about deploying one-size-fits-all strategies. Rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, it zeroes in on the unique elements that fuel each person’s drive. The effectiveness of this tool is evident in the expressions of awe and realization on people’s faces as they complete their Wheel of Motivation (“WOW”).

Now, let’s dive into a practical exercise. Jot down on a notepad the things that drive you most, using your trusty pen. This could be about sparking your imagination, striking the right work-play mix, climbing up in your career, gaining recognition, earning more dough or any other thing that rocks your boat. Once you have your list of motivators, reflect on them and rate your current level of satisfaction with each on a scale from 1 to 10.

Then let’s draw a wheel with spokes. The number of motivators will dictate the number of spokes. preserve;”>Now, please label each spoke with one motivator. Then place a mark on the corresponding spoke to indicate your current level of satisfaction in that area. Imagine the spoke as a line where the center of the wheel is 0 (least satisfied) and the rim is 10 (most satisfied).

preserve;”>For instance, if you’re quite content with your career growth, draw a mark closer to the rim, perhaps at a point you’d consider a 9, near the ‘career growth’ label. Conversely, if work-life balance is an area needing improvement, place a mark closer to the center of the wheel, maybe around a 3, next to the ‘work-life balance’ label.

Just as an example, let’s assume you wrote down the wollowing motivators and satisfaction levels

  • Creativity: 2
  • Work-Life Balance: 8
  • Career Growth: 6
  • Recognition: 5
  • Learning: 3

Your Wheel of Motivation will then look something like this:

This visual representation will help you see where you’re thriving and where there’s room for growth.

Let’s ACE your Motivation

Having sketched your Wheel of Motivation, the next crucial step is to transform these insights into tangible improvements. This is where the ACE (Address, Create, Execute) process becomes your roadmap for change. It’s a simple yet powerful method that turns abstract concepts into actionable steps.

Address: Begin by closely examining the areas in your Wheel where you’ve scored lower. These are the aspects of your life where your motivation could use a boost. Let’s say your lower scores were in ‘creativity,’ ‘career growth,’ and ‘learning.’ Addressing means acknowledging these gaps and understanding why they are important to you.

Create: Now, let your imagination flow and brainstorm ideas that can enhance these motivators – and don’t forget your pen! The key is to generate a variety of ideas without limiting your creativity. 

Once you have a list of possibilities, review them and choose the three that resonate most with you. These should be ideas that excite you and feel achievable. Prioritizing these ideas is crucial because it helps focus your energy and resources on what’s most impactful.

Execute: This is the action phase. Develop a plan to implement your top three ideas. Set realistic goals and timelines for each. For example, if one of your chosen ideas is to start a new hobby, set a deadline by which you’ll have selected the hobby and a schedule for when you’ll engage in it. As you execute your plan, remember to track your progress. Regular check-ins are essential to see how these changes are affecting your motivation levels. Adjust your plan as needed – this is a dynamic process, and flexibility is key.

Then, create a plan to bring these ideas to life. Set specific goals and timelines. Finally, execute your plan and regularly check in on your progress. Remember, this is an evolving process, and adjustments along the way are both expected and beneficial.

Conclusion: Integrating the Wheel of Motivation into Your Routine

Your Wheel of Motivation is a tool that’s meant to be used regularly, not just a one-time exercise. It’s especially useful whether you’re in a leadership position, coaching, part of a team, or simply as a friend looking to offer support.

Make it a routine to revisit your Wheel. As your circumstances and experiences change, your motivational needs might also shift. Regular check-ins with your Wheel will help you stay aligned with these changes and address any new areas that need attention.

Remember, the goal is to see gradual improvement and to adjust your strategies as needed. This tool is valuable in providing insights into your own motivations and those of the people around you. It’s about making informed decisions and taking specific actions that align with your true motivators.

So, keep the Wheel of Motivation close. It’s a practical tool in your kit that can help guide you towards more effective leadership, coaching, teamwork, and personal growth.