How can you motivate people to change their behaviours? And why does it sometimes not work?
Issue 038
Mike Clayton, Business Speaker and Author

Motivating People

What motivates and why motivation sometimes breaks down.

Dear John,   
It was in a social setting that a friend asked me: 'why don't people arrive on time?' (We had). He suggested I write a newsletter about it, so this one is for you, Duncan.

It's all a matter of motivation. If you can provide the right motivation, then people will do as you ask: if not, they won't...

Except that, sometimes, the motivation is there and people still don't comply. Oh dear; we'd better look at that too.

Twenty things that can motivate people

Unusually for one of my newsletters, I'm going to throw a big long list at you. My reason is that there are a lot of things that can motivate us and your job is to figure out which will have the biggest impact and the greatest integrity in the situation you find yourself in.

The basics plus one

1. The Carrot - incentives, bonuses, bribes and rewards are intrinsically motivating. They appeal directly to the biggest motivator of all...
2. Self-interest - do I need to say more?
3. The Stick - threats, penalties, coercion... of course they work; but do you want to be the sort of person to use them?
4. Curiosity - killed the cat, but attracts us all to varying degrees. After all, why are you still reading?

Fundamental needs

Abraham Maslow, without empirical research, suggested six powerful motivators. Others added insights and tinkered with the language.

5. Existence - survival and meeting all of our basic physical needs. Use this as a motivator explicitly, and it will feel like a stick to most people.
6. Continued Existence - being safe and secure comes next, but its very much more of the same.
7. Relationships - we have a fundamental need to belong because we are social creatures, so the chance to feel part of a group will motivate most of us.
8. Recognition - ... and once we are in a group, we will be motivated by the chance to win recognition for what we do and, better still, enhance our...
9. Status - because status gives power and some people crave this heartily.
10. A Sense of Achievement - and for some, what matters more is that they truly feel proud of themselves, regardless of what others think: self-eteem.

Transformational Motivations

Maslow also talked about 'self-actualisation' - being the best you can possibly be.

11. Mastery - becoming competent and then truly excellent at something is highly motivating - 'autotelic' means intrinsically motivating.
12. Growth - ...but even as a master, who wants to stand still - the opportunity to continue to grow is a motivator.
13. Purpose - but why do we want to master something and grow - we all need a purpose: to answer the BIG question: why?
14. Contribution - for some people the need to contribute is their purpose and for others it is a motivator that supplements their primary needs.

It's me and me alone

15. Autonomy - Richard Ryan And Edward Deci identified the need for personal autonomy as part of their 'Self Determination Theory - SDT'.
16. Control - we work hard to feel in control of our environment and our future to the extent that it is both carrot and stick - without control, we experience stress.
17. Certainty - we look for certainty and, with it, we can cede a measure of control...
18. Variety - but, with too much certainty, we get bored: we need some uncertainty to shake us up and keep us feeling alive and alert.

Yet no person is an island

19. Duty - duty is a big motivator - go ask the Marines!
20. Applause - yes, some people need that limelight adoration, but we all need a little bit of cheering on when we are struggling and applause when we succeed.

With all of this to motivate people,
why do they not always feel motivated?

We have Vctor Vroom to thank for this insight: motivation is like a chain - if any link is weak, the chain snaps.

Link 1: If I do what I am asked; will I get the results you expect?
I need to feel confident that what you expect of me is reasonable. If I think you are setting me up to fail with too hard a request, I will not be motivated.

Link 2: If I get the results you want; will you give me the reward you promised?
Let's face it, how many organisations and leaders make promises and then break them. A bad record of weak integrity will undermine your ability to motivate me. To coin a phrase: 'Show me the money'

Link 3: If you give me what you promised; will I value it?
And so it finally comes down to economics: is the effort worth the reward? If it is not, then why bother?

And that, Duncan, is why people don't show up on time on a Monday evening!
Buy Mike's books from Amazon - in printed or Kindle format.



Spring, in this case - not that you'd know it if you, like me, live in the UK!

Anyway, I hope you had an enjoyable Easter break and were not taken in by too many April fool pranks. Today's tips are straight (it is, after all, no longer 1 April) but I have kept the theme and style light.
The Yes/No Book


Remarkably, The Yes/No Book sold over 5,000 copies in its first two months on sale, in November and December of last year.

I was blown away last week when I saw my royalty statement. And with the great reviews it's had, I couldn't be more pleased.

So far, too, my publisher has struck deals for Korean, Italian, Chinese and Japanese versions.

Buy from
Buy from
Read excerpts, reviews and articles at

How to Read People & Practical Project Management



Practical Project Management
My longest running,
best selling seminar

“I enjoyed it.  Mike executed this very well.  I found everything that he said made sense and I will take away a lot from this.”
Daryl Thornhill, Modile IT

How to Read People
My new seminar for last autumn
that was a big success

“Well presented, providing clear + practical advice based on proven theory.  Would definitely recommend.”
Liz Gage, Zenith Chambers

So, here are some dates for your diary:

Practical Project Management (mornings, 9:30-12:30), with
How to Read People (afternoons, 2:00-5:00)
  • Guilford
    14 May
  • London
    16 May
  • Manchester
    21 May
  • Birmingham
    22 May
  • Reading
    23 May
The delegate rate for these insightful half days is just £149 (+VAT).
Call 01227 252000 to book.
Please ask about group and multiple booking rates.
There are full details on my website, including a downloadable tour schedule.


08444 141349
Mike Clayton
20A Pound Hill
Alresford, Hampshire SO24 9BW
United Kingdom

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