Discovering Your Authentic Motivators at Work

Have you ever thought about what really motivates you at work—and what motivates others?

A little bit of self-discovery might be the key to reengaging a workforce that wants a more fulfilling employee experience in the new year, says Courtney Harrison, a master facilitator of The Ken Blanchard Companies' new Essential Motivators™ learning journey.

“It begins with knowing yourself—knowing what motivates you and being able to honor your values,” says Harrison. “The next step is to understand others and what motivates them.”

People might be out of practice with identifying motivators, says Harrison. “The demands of the past three years have put an emphasis on results. And while people have recognized the need for increased meaning and purpose in their work, solutions have been harder to identify.”

Harrison believes part of the answer is to dig down beneath the surface of your goals, deadlines, and incentives and discover what truly motivates you.

Looking through the lens of four temperaments

Blanchard’s Essential Motivators learning experience helps people understand themselves—and find their motivation—through the lens of four different temperaments: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water.

People of the Fire pattern tend to be improvisers. They want the freedom to choose the next action and respond to the needs of the moment. They seek to have impact and to get results. They want to be graceful, bold, and impressive. They are generally enthusiastic and optimistic. They are often absorbed in the action of the moment, usually oriented toward the present and what is next. They seek solutions that will work now.

People of the Earth pattern tend to be stabilizers. They want to have a place to contribute. They hunger for responsibility, accountability, and predictability. They seek to establish and maintain structure and standard operating procedures to make sense of things and provide stability. They protect and preserve, trusting agreements and clear guidelines. They usually look to the past to plan for the future, and they seek practical solutions that will last.

People of the Air pattern tend to be theorists. They want to know the theories behind everything before they use them. They want to be competent and to achieve mastery. They seek to understand how the world and things in it work. They see most things as conditional and relative. They are usually oriented to logic and operating principles that provide long-term results. They seek strategic solutions for complex problems.

People of the Water pattern tend to be catalysts. They want to be authentic and caring, and have meaningful connections. They seek to develop potential, foster growth, bridge different perspectives, and speak to what others really want and need. They are continually searching for identity, meaning, purpose, and authentic connections. They look to the future and tend to be optimistic visionaries, wanting solutions that make the world a better place.

“In training sessions we examine each of these distinct temperaments,” says Harrison. “As we discuss these dynamic patterns, people recognize how one pattern or another tends to come alive throughout their life experience. They have these aha moments—epiphanies about a childhood friendship, or how they did in school, or how they viewed various life experiences or relationships. And they see these lifelong patterns light up through their life stories.

“One of the goals of the Essential Motivators learning journey is to rediscover those patterns even if we’re not fully aware of them because they have been under the waterline.

“When you allow yourself the freedom and the space to go through this self-discovery process, it can be incredibly powerful and transformative to suddenly realize how and where the same pattern has shown up through an entire lifetime of experiences.”

A reflective process that takes time

“Self-discovery is a new muscle for a lot of us. We have to resist the convenience of taking an assessment that gives us an answer, a label, or a pattern, and then moving along with our day. This is a contemplative process that requires each of us to let go of some of the things we think we know and courageously explore what lies below the surface.

“On my own personal journey, I gave myself a lot of time to really absorb, digest, and work through the self-discovery process. And when I finally landed on a pattern, it was powerfully affirming.

“We’ve had quite a few people experience the learning journey who didn’t land on a pattern until the last session or even after the last session. And when they did, it was transformative. I'm so glad when people don’t rush through the process. Because that type of confirmation at the end of a journey is so different from someone putting a label on you and saying this is what you are before you feel entirely resolved or in agreement.”

Three concentric circles

Harrison goes on to explain one of the aspects of Essential Motivators that takes additional time—the idea of core, developed, and contextual self.

“At the very center of each of the four patterns is our core self— the needs that drive us. One circle out from that, you’ll find our developed self—how we've learned to adapt ourselves, our behavior, and our responses to the outside world. The outermost circle is our contextual self—who we are today—which comes from years of being able to adjust and flex in the workplace.

“Sometimes as human beings, we get so good at meeting the needs of the outer two circles, we're not even aware of what's in that core center circle anymore. That's why it's so important to take our time on this journey of self-discovery.”

An encouraging word for leaders

Everyone has a distinctive mainframe blueprint inside of them, says Harrison. Essential Motivators offers a peek at the instruction manual for that blueprint, which is unique to each person.

“Stay curious. There is so much power in curiosity right now, and so much untapped potential that would be right at our fingertips if we understood more about ourselves and others.

“For leaders looking to gain insights and clarity about the people they work with, to speak to the things that might motivate them—things they may not even be aware of—training in Essential Motivators is an incredibly powerful tool.

“Understanding what motivates your people not only helps them feel valued and safe, it also brings out the best in them. It helps them realize that their uniqueness and what they bring to the table is appreciated and important in its own right.

“For leaders, taking this journey says ‘I am willing to set aside what's most comfortable and natural for me so I can focus on really understanding my team members—what they need, what drives them, and what motivates them.’ It’s about leaders helping their people bring their best selves to work.

“People will notice a leader who is willing to put themselves in service of their team members to help them be successful. Actions speak so much louder than words. These types of behaviors are incredibly powerful when it comes to the employee experience.”


Would you like to learn more about temperament theory and how self-discovery can unlock performance and motivation? Join us for a free webinar!

Developing a Deeper Understanding of Yourself and Others: An Introduction to Essential Motivators

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Understanding what motivates you and others is an essential ingredient to increasing meaning, purpose, and satisfaction at work. In this webinar, leadership expert Courtney Harrison will guide participants through an introductory look at temperament theory and how it is used in today’s work environments to enhance employee experience.

Participants will explore

  • The history of temperament theory and how it compares to other personality/psychological theories
  • The four temperament patterns—including a closer look at core self, developed self, and contextual self
  • How to use temperament theory to build inclusiveness, celebrate diversity, and create psychological safety

Participants will get a chance to review The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Essential Motivators learning experience and how it can be incorporated into new or existing leadership development learning journeys.

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the power of self-understanding in your organization.

Register Today!

About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for Blanchard®. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

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