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June 21st, 2018

3 Elements of Motivation – what buttons to press, or not to press!

Our quick overview outlines three forms of motivation in the workplace:

  1. Achievement
  2. Affiliation
  3. Influence

It is an insight into why team members might respond differently to change and offers some useful do’s and don’ts when influencing individual team members.

Imagine the scenario…

Following an organisational review, your team will be merging with another, resulting in the streamlining of business objectives, restructuring and redefining individual objectives. You have a small team, but each member is an individual and you suspect that each will respond very differently to the news.

  • How might you communicate the news to each individual?
  • How can you tailor each individual’s objectives and success indicators to keep them engaged?
  • How might you recognise and reward their best efforts throughout the change process?


Understanding McClelland’s model of motivation could help you appeal to different sources of motivation:


These individuals need to perform well, and so their motivational factors are:

  • attaining or surpassing stretching (but obtainable) standards
  • contributing in a significant or unique way
  • successful competitiveness
  • achieving career goals


  • agree ambitious standards
  • regularly review performance and give concrete feedback
  • focus on contribution and results
  • take a systematic approach to planning work and achievements


  • be vague about results
  • have unnecessary controls or over-supervise
  • give them insufficient authority to act on their own
Change and the achievement-orientated team member

When communicating change to this team member, highlight the vision, the benefits, and set them stretching personal goals ensuring they are clear about the importance of their personal contribution and the standards required. They will want to achieve results and will perform at their best when empowered and given objective feedback against the agreed targets. Money or power is not likely to motivate as an end in itself, although it might be an indicator of success.


These people need to develop and maintain good relationships with work colleagues. Their motivational factors are:

  • membership of a group or team
  • being popular and accepted
  • working with others
  • minimal conflict


  • share information
  • ensure social contact
  • show an interest in their personal life
  • recognise their role in the team/group


  • isolate
  • be overly critical of others
  • be abrupt
Change and the affiliation-orientated team member

This team member likes harmony. Good working relationships with colleagues are of great importance. They may benefit from: team- building opportunities with new team members; informal, social interaction; cross-working project groups, etc. You might want to consider building on this source of motivation and using it as a strength. For instance, set them a personal objective for helping induct the members from the other team, or, helping identify and organise team-building events.


These people are motivated by the need to impress others through power and influence. Their motivating factors are:

  • control over situations
  • recognition through status and position
  • greater responsibility
  • developing a reputation


  • ask them to present ideas
  • give credit for successes, and show how they influenced a situation
  • keep them informed of major events
  • give them a prominent role


  • withhold authority
  • restrict access to senior managers
  • exclude from decision-making processes
Change and the influence-orientated team member

This individual will probably be on the lookout for career-enhancing opportunities. If this change presents opportunities for development, increased status, greater responsibility, exposure, or financial reward, then it is these personal gains that will most likely make them tick.


It almost doesn’t matter what your own perception of change is and how you are motivated.  Successful leaders and managers seek to understand their teams and put themselves in the position of their team members, understand the change from their perspective and adapt their approach to creating the right conditions for people to feel motivated.

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Mike Notman is a highly experienced Change and Organisational Development specialist and has delivered significant change programmes in a wide range of larger private companies and public bodies since moving into consultancy in 1991. Having established a commercial consultancy for Leeds Metropolitan University in 1993 he went on to establish and lead two national consulting practices on behalf of major accounting firms. During the last 25 years Mike has focused on developing organisational structures, leaders, senior teams and corporate cultures to improve efficiency and effectiveness in business and operational performance.

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