What drives your team? How you can help them excel?


Captain Picard/Patrick Stewart. See footnote.

As a great leader you have to be deeply aware of what it is that drives each of your team members to excel. When you have this understanding, you know what to do to motivate their best performance. You can’t manage your process unless you know which emotional carrots you should be using to build a team of winners. So to refresh your memory, here are seven classic drivers that might apply to your people and some ideas on how you can start working with them.

Progress: she wants to be moving forward, to be working on projects that advance the ball, to be in the vanguard of the latest developments. So talk to her about innovation. Put her on projects that test the bleeding edge. Make her the point person for bringing awareness to the group of what is new and trending – what’s next in your field. She could make monthly presentations of what is new and hot, stimulating and relevant in the field.

Mastery: he wants to be always improving his skills and craft, up on new best practices and improving on them. Give him the opportunity to learn new skills and sharpen the ones he has. Send him on courses and put him with mentors who can expand his horizons and keep the bar high. Put him on projects that let him show off his prowess. Have him share latest best practices with the rest of the group.

Recognition: she wants to be acknowledged for her work: public “pats on the head”; awards; praise; her peers holds her up as an example, ask her advice. This recognition will be inside the company and also on the outside. Let her present her successes to the team – credit her in public announcements – enter her work into award shows. Make her a mentor to the next generation. Thank her for her contributions.

Social success: being good at what he does will make people want to be with him. (This definitely also includes the driver I heard once from a colleague: “it’s all about sex!”) So encourage him to bring the team together – have him be the life and soul of the party: the DJ, the party planner, the social node – give him something social to own that will benefit the company. Let him be the positive face of the company at outside events. Let him be a sharer of information among his peers.

Purpose: she wants to feel that there is some meaning behind her work. It might be that she is advancing a cause, making the world a better place – something of larger significance than just the task at hand. You might have this person own the sustainability portfolio, or encourage her to bring in some cool pro bono project that makes everyone feel good and gives an opportunity to show off their skills.

Autonomy: they want to be left alone to make their own decisions – so give them a looser framework – but first agree with them on very clear and quantifiable goals and let them be responsible for their own success. Regular check-ins are essential. Micromanagers will have a hard time with this one! But if this is what it takes to see great results you will learn not to squash it. And finally….

Money: in creative professions this is rarely – I would almost say never – the sole driver. But it is the most quantifiable metric and as such is an especially strong retention tool. For years creative companies have had success with giving titles and promotions instead of raises. Usually the money thing works when it is tied to one of the other drivers and is not just a cash prize with no other connotation. So: we will give you a raise/bonus and here is some additional responsibility or challenge. The financial incentive is not irrelevant – and for a brief moment it does feel to the recipient like recognition – but this feeling doesn’t last – like any drug they’ll just keep needing a new hit. For them it’s never enough – so as a leader you do have to work with their emotional drivers to be successful.


* Captain Jean-Luc Picard is described as “deeply moral, highly logical and intelligent, Picard is a master of diplomacy and debate who resolves seemingly intractable issues between multiple, sometimes inplacable parties with a Solomon-like wisdom. Though such resolutions are usually peaceful, Picard is also shown using his remarkable tactical cunning in situations when it is required.”  (Wikipedia)



by Michael Pollock