It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘treating people as you want to be treated’.  On one level it may make sense, but there is no one who is exactly like you. We all have our unique experience of life that gives us our particular set of idiosyncrasies and our own particular motivational preferences.  If our motivational preferences are not met, we feel it at the deepest levels and it can have a dramatic impact on our performance.

The trouble with these motivational preferences is that they operate at a below-conscious level.  Why is it, for example, that some of your managers or staff seem to ask you lots of questions and seek your opinion even when you know that they know the answer?  And why is it that other members of your team seem to resent you telling them anything and even feel patronised when you give them a pat on the back? 

When performance begins to suffer
This was the case with one of my clients and she was confused by the fact that Janet (not her real name), who always wanted to check with her, was one of the more competent members of the team!  In fact Janet’s performance was beginning to suffer and it was becoming a bit frustrating.  On the other hand, another member of her team (let’s call him Tom) was frequently marching off in the wrong direction sure that he was on the right track and needed to be constantly reined in.

Janet enjoys bouncing ideas around and values input before making a decision.  She is motivated by the opportunity to involve others.  She will be open to ideas and suggestions because she feels that two minds are better than one.  However, with this comes some doubt about whether her ideas or plans are the best ones. She remains somewhat uncertain of her own competence and likes to check with others.  She needs plenty of feedback in order to stay motivated.  Without it she actually feels rather undervalued and unappreciated.

Tom is pretty certain that his ideas are the best ones.  He evaluates the situation and makes a decision based on his own values and experience.  This can be very productive when it is combined with high levels of competence, but can cause problems if the situation requires an openness to feedback and making adjustments.  It can become a significant problem when Tom simply does not respond to the feedback he is given!

Be Flexible
After uncovering the underlying motivational pattern by simply observing their behaviour and listening to the way they speak, we were able to transform this situation.  By treating them both as unique individuals and managing them in ways that dovetailed neatly with their driving motivational patterns, my client removed her frustration and now has two highly motivated people fulfilling their potential.

My client gave Janet very specific opportunities to gain feedback i.e. setting a time of day to ‘have a brief chat’ (the emphasis was on ‘brief’ in order to manage my client’s precious time!) and made a point of giving her lots of informal feedback in the form of comments, emails and even texts when she was out and about.  Not all of the feedback was positive, but it was all constructive.  What we discovered was that over a period of about 3 months this gave Janet a significant boost and she became far more cheerful and confident in her approach to her work.  She still likes the feedback ‘chats’ and these are now part of the way my client manages her. 

Another thing my client did was ask Janet to provide 3 possible answers to any question she was planning to ask.  This encouraged Janet to think things through for herself and still know she would get the feedback on her answers.  It also informed my client about the areas that Janet needed more specific coaching on.

Are you identifying which members of your team need plenty of feedback to stay motivated? 

Are you creating simple opportunities to satisfy that need? 

Sometimes it is the most simple solutions that can provide the best results!

There will be more tips on how to manage people like Tom in the blog next week.

Remember . . . stay curious!

With best regards
David Klaasen

David Klaasen is director and owner of the niche HR consultancy, Inspired Working Ltd.  (
If you have a communication or performance problem and would like some objective advice drop him a line at
[email protected]