How to Motivate the People You Manage

Posted 25 June 2019 by
Melissa Summer

Motivation - More than 'Get 'er done'

You’re managing a team of people, and you want each of those people to do their best work. 
You go to John’s desk, and tell him what a great job he’s done on that recent project. The timeline was tight and the plan had already been set before he joined the project so he couldn’t control that, but he was able to manage it and pull everything together in time. John seems genuinely happy about your remarks so you walk to the other project owner’s desk, Jo.

You praise Jo similarly, but in response you get a half-smile and a quiet thanks. 

What’s going on here? 

Different people are motivated by different things. And as a manager, you may or may not have gotten some training in how to engage and motivate different types of people. Whether or not you know your employees’ personality type or unique interpersonal needs, there are a few things you can do to figure out how best to motivate different types of people. 

34% of US employees are considered engaged at work, according to a recent Gallup poll.  

Being engaged means they’re fully absorbed by, and enthusiastic about, the work that they’re doing. Which also means there’s something motivating these engaged people. 

However, this also means that for every three people in the company (or on your team), two of them are not engaged. They’re lacking some motivation. 

And as a good manager, part of your job is to help these people do their best work. 

Before jumping into how to motivate people, it helps to understand why it’s important. 


Psychology and Motivation: A Short Intro

In modern psychology, the first ideas around motivation were based on needs. Maslow and Herzberg are two of the most well-known psychologists when it comes to motivation – each had their own theories that are still in common use today. Maslow proposed the Hierarchy of Needs (needs have to be met in a specific order: bodily needs such as food and shelter; safety needs, such as being physically safe and secure; belonging or social needs; followed by two higher level needs self-esteem and self-actualization. The latter two are about being successful in life pursuits.) Maslow’s hierarchy tells us that we can’t meet the later needs until we’ve met the first needs. 

In other words, if someone doesn’t have food and shelter, they’re not going to worry about social needs until the basic needs have been met.

Herzberg’s model looked at similar needs as Maslow, but a key difference was the idea that once the basic needs were met, they were not longer a source of motivation. 

As time went on, other models more focused on rewards emerged. Pavlov (also known as “that dog-bell guy”), discovered that dogs could associate a bell with something that signaled a need (in this case Pavlov used food). The dog’s response could be replicated over time without the original need-based stimulus. 

In other words, a dog could be taught to drool at the sound of a bell without offering any food. This is classical conditioning and it occurs in our everyday lives. My friend was a new dad and the smell of a few particularly bad diaper incidents made him incredibly nauseous. Even now that his kid is grown up, the smell of JUST the baby wipes still makes his stomach turn.

Why does this psychology matter when it comes to motivation? 

It shows how behaviors can be taught (such as forming new habits), but also how inborn behaviors (the need-based behaviors such as need for food) can become associated with outside events, environments or triggers (these things are often called external stimuli).


Motivation, Rewards and Punishments

Behavioral psychologist BF Skinner identified four different ways to change someone’s (or your own) behavior based on external stimuli. 

There are rewards and punishments, and both can either be positive or negative. 
Rewards are meant to increase a behavior, while punishments are meant to decrease a behavior. Positive rewards (such as pay for employment) and negative punishments (such as being fired for violating a company policy) remain two very common ways to try to motivate people today.

For example, people receive a paycheck (which helps to meet their physiological and possibly status needs) in exchange for work done. Doing a really good job at work may result in a pay raise or a bonus (a positive reward) or some other form of recognition. Doing a poor job may result in termination (considered by most to be a negative punishment). 

In addition, many people also consider intrinsic motivation a big part of where career motivation comes from. Many people find it satisfying to complete a goal, and extrinsic motivation can further play a part where achieving certain goals may lead to recognition or other rewards from a company. 
You could say the best jobs are those where you’re both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated.

As a manager, you have some control over positive rewards such as paycheck. But you probably have more control over verbal or written praise, recognition among the team, or larger company recognition. This is a great way to motivate your team without hurting your budget.

But to be effective, knowing what motivates your employees goes a long way during recognition. And this is where personality insights can help.

MBTI Personality Type and Motivation

The MBTI® assessment can help you understand how your people are motivated in different ways. Doing activities in a way that’s consistent with your personality preferences is motivating, because it satisfied your preferred approach to accomplishing these tasks.

With insight into the behaviors that your people find intrinsically rewarding, we can allow them to work towards their own strengths and preferences. Doing this allows both parties to be more satisfied with the eventual outcomes.

Let’s dive further into what motivates specific personality types and what doesn’t. By understanding this, you’ll be able to: 

8 Ways People Are Motivated Based On Their MBTI Personality Type

According to MBTI personality type theory, there are essentially 8 categories around what motivates and inspires people:

1. extraverted Thinking
2. introverted Thinking
3. extraverted Feeling
4. introverted Feeling
5. extraverted Intuition
6. introverted Intuition
7. extraverted Sensing
8. introverted Sensing

Let’s look at just two examples below to see how motivation might look different depending on which part of your personality is the most preferred:


"I love making decisions and executing on plans"

Extraverted Thinking (those who prefer ESTJ or ENTJ)

This is best described by making decisions and plans for organizing your environment to achieve logical goals efficiently. 

Through conversations our solutions consultants have had with people with this personality type, there is a common theme which comes alive in their stories:

“What motivates me is when I can to create plans and structure.  When I’m able to lead initiatives to reach certain goals and put that structure into action, I give 200% effort…”

“I feel very inspired when people around me recognize my competence and decisiveness. I enjoy having flexibility to move forward quickly, achieve my goals, check it off the list and move on the next task!”

“Motivation for me comes from being able to motivate others! When I inspire others, they go the extra mile!  I enjoy discussing ideas, making plans to carry them out, and getting everyone on the same page to forge ahead.”

For this type of person, projects where the timeline and goals are ambiguous and can’t be nailed down would be frustrating and de-motivating.. Allowing them to create plans, structure, timelines and goals, and to do so with other people, motivates these personality types greatly.

"I like to use what I know's worked in the past and pay attention to detail"

Introverted Sensing (those who prefer ISTJ or ISFJ)

People with an ISTJ or ISFJ personality type use their sensing preference internally. Introverted sensing is best described as being able to recall tangible data and experiences. Those people with this preference tend to be able to best manage a situation by comparing it to what is expected, known and reliable.  

An example of using introverted sensing in daily life is when we need to make decision. Those of us who have this preference remember very specific details of a past experience that is similar – recalling exactly what we did, what worked and what didn’t work.

One of our consultants shared a client story that describes this personality in action very clearly. 
He (the client) was hired to help an organization redesign their production procedures to reduce errors, reduce waste and shorten the time it takes to produce their products.

With personal experience in the industry, he could vividly recall the exact details from 4 other similar companies he worked for, remembering the individual steps they took to solve similar problems. 
Rather than moving forward with trial and error, he was able to quickly implement the processes that were successful and avoid the mistakes that would have cost time and money.

Here are a couple of quotes from people with an ISTJ or ISFJ preference. Their stories paint an insightful picture of how they are motivated.

“I am especially motivated when my co-workers appreciate my attention to detail. I know what to look for and can spot inaccuracies others may overlook. Once my co-worker postponed a critical project for 2 weeks until I was able to proof it. He said my discerning eye was the most valuable piece of the project and refused to proceed without me. This appreciation for one of my strengths is what inspires me above all.”

 “I am most inspired when I save time and money by remembering important details. While planning a vacation to Europe, I recalled from ten years prior, a great Bed and Breakfast that was a fraction the cost of advertised hotels. Remembering this hidden gem saved time researching and saved lots of money!”

You can see from these examples how people are motivated by different things. And you can also see how commenting on different strengths during successes could really inspire people – or push the wrong buttons. 

Want to find out the personality types of people on your team so you know exactly how to motivate them? Reach out to one of our solutions consultants today.