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In Part 1 of this blog exploring people’s different responses to change and uncertainty we looked at the impact that personality can make, explored the change curve and how people draw on different sources to maintain or build their resilience.

In Part 2 we focus on motivation and look at some different models that will help to demonstrate why people’s motivations may currently be elsewhere and what we can do to help them to re-establish their work motivation.

Motivation- Needs

At the moment some people, quite understandably, may be less focused on work than normal. Anyone who studied business or economics at school will have come across Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs  and it remains a useful guide in the current circumstances. The model states there are five levels of need, each of which must be met before ‘progressing’ to the next level. The first two levels comprise basic needs such as food, shelter and security with the final level being described as self-actualisation or the need to fulfil one’s potential. If people are worried about whether they can feed themselves or their family or pay the mortgage (or indeed get toilet roll) it is easy to see why their focus on work will reduce. It is important to recognise that present circumstances mean that you may need to have more fundamental conversations with people about the things they are worried about such as job security, before you can successfully move onto other things.

Motivation- Goal Setting

Another theory of motivation is goal-setting which has been shown in numerous studies to be very effective in improving performance at work, particularly if the goals are specific and challenging (but not unrealistic). At the moment it might be helpful to set some goals about what we want to achieve while we are “away from the office”, but it’s also important to be kind to ourselves, be realistic and not beat ourselves up if we have to review these along the way as unpredictable circumstances unfold.  If you can link these to what you know about that person’s motivational ‘needs’ you can further enhance the effectiveness of goal setting. For example, if an individual is concerned about their basic needs you could focus on how achieving the goal might benefit them financially (if not immediately, then perhaps at the next annual pay review or in being considered for promotion).

Motivation- Vision

Finally, a key motivation for people in times of uncertainty and insecurity is a compelling vision of the future. Paint a picture for them of where you are all going and what, when you get there, the world will look and sound like, and how it might feel. Do not be afraid of discussing the future even if you cannot be absolutely sure of what may be. Placing individual goals in the context of achieving a successful and attractive outcome that you are all bought into will help to create that feeling of commitment that great teams thrive on.  Remember we are all in this together!

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.


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