Understanding WHY We Do What We Do

Understanding WHY We Do What We Do



Engaging our motivators


By Executive Coach, Karen D. Nutter


Recently, I was in a meeting with CEOs from several local companies, all of whom were sharing concerns about employees who were not meeting the requirements of the job. Some employees were newly hired, while others had been on the team for a few years or more. The CEOs discussed how they had expanded their hiring practices, in some cases working with top-notch recruiters, to find and select the top talent in their field. But, while they had a talented team, they were finding it difficult to truly engage them and produce the outcomes desired.

Employee engagement is often linked to commitment level, loyalty, and job satisfaction, which, in turn, affects a company’s productivity, turnover rates, customer satisfaction, and overall company success. But where does employee engagement really start?

When unemployment is down, big and small corporations often take a hard look at what they need to do in order to reduce turnover and keep employees happy. This is where many businesses consider adding perks such as flextime, bonuses, child-care, and espresso bars. Unfortunately, while some employees may appreciate these benefits, they aren’t usually enough to engage everyone. The reason for this is simple – each of us have our own blend of intrinsic factors that motivate and drive us. As such, successful leaders find out what makes each team member tick, and create unique opportunities that engage them at a base level.

Understanding Motivators

The things that motivate us aren’t always easy to recognize. While many people think you can motivate anyone with money, power or status, research has shown this is not true. Some people are motivated by knowledge, others by helping people, and some by aesthetics. The things that drive us, motivators, are part of our mind-set. They are our passions and things we view as important. Motivators are integrated with our values and biases; they influence our decisions and drive us into action.

As we try to better understand ourselves and others, an understanding of motivators helps complete the picture DISC assessments start. Where DISC assessments provide insight as to a person’s behavior, and HOW they do what they do, Motivators provide insight into WHY we do or don’t connect with certain tasks, people, and ideas.

As a team leader or member, understanding and recognizing DISC profiles can help you better communicate with words and actions that match someone’s behavioral preference. And when you know their motivators, you can talk to them in terms of their interests, what they deem as important, and things they value. This combination is more likely to create a stronger and more fulfilling connection. And, when you connect motivators to job roles, employee engagement comes naturally. To do that, we start by understanding our 12 Driving Forces.

12 Driving Forces

Back in the late 1800’s, Eduard Spranger identified six categories of motivation which have since been used as the basis for understanding motivators. In my Driving Forces assessments, we take six key motivators and look at them across a continuum. It is the combination of all twelve driving forces that make up our motivation.




Each Driving Force has common characteristics associated with it, as well as “over-extensions” or challenges that may occur when someone is deeply tied to that motivational force.

For instance, while I, like everyone, am a combination of all twelve driving forces, my primary driving force is Receptive – part of the Methodologies continuum of motivators. As someone who highly values Receptivity, I am “driven by new ideas, methods and opportunities that fall outside a defined system for living.” As such, I am open to new ideas, methods and opportunities. I am always looking for new ways to accomplish routine tasks, and I like to set my own plan that guides and directs my actions.

However, under certain circumstances I may exhibit over-extensions such as looking for change before it’s needed, resisting systems or structures that are forced on me, or adamantly looking for new methods whether they are needed or not. Imagine me working with a team of people who are dedicated to finding a new reporting process and open to new ideas – I would be in my glory! Conversely, if I am working in a position that doesn’t allow me to try new things, and requires me to follow a set plan, I am not going to last very long before I get bored, frustrated, or burned out.

However, if my Methodology motivation fell on the opposite side of the continuum, and my Driving Force was Structured, working in a position that required rules and structure, and had a set system of order would be perfect for me.

Each person falls somewhere on the continuum of each motivation group, and for teams, finding the right blend can create success or stress.


Revving Up Our Drivers

None of the Driving Forces are “right or wrong,” and there is no “perfect” combination that creates a “better” or more successful person. The key to an engaged life, both personally and professionally, is to know what motivates and drives us, and seek out opportunities that activate those drivers.

CEOs and managers who take the time to assess their employees’ motivators and review them with the demands of their job responsibilities can find ways to effectively ignite motivation in each member of their team. In some cases, it may be as easy as identifying bonuses and rewards that match an individual’s values. In other situations, team leaders may move an employee to a different role, or change the job description and responsibilities of their current position.

Overall, identifying and focusing on motivators can help create an environment that engages the unique values and driving forces of everyone, and in doing so increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and dedication. What other factors do you feel can help do that?

Are you an HR Professional, consultant or coach interested in being trained to use Driving Forces/Motivators Assessments to increase the productivity and effectiveness of your teams and clients? Check out our Online Facilitator Training and add this skill to your toolbox!