Understanding motivation is a critical trait of good managers. Most leadership training focuses on the manager of the team recognizing and responding to employee’s motivational needs. That’s good, in fact creating an environment that is motivating is critical for developing high performing teams. But there is another aspect that no one ever talks about… recognizing and responding to what motivates your manager.
Why should you care about what your manager is motivated by? Because it can impact your ability to do YOUR job and you will become more effective when you understand what your manager’s motivation is.
I’ve noticed that in my management skills training courses, the managers I’m teaching sometimes run into roadblocks when trying to implement the skills they’re learning because of their manager’s motivation needs.
Motivation come in all different forms, but I focus on the top four motivation needs in my management skills courses. Two of these motivation needs are growth and security.
It doesn’t surprise me that the majority of the manager’s who attend my leadership training sessions are motivated by growth. Career advancement is usually what landed them in a management position in the first place. Many high performers who start out as an individual contributor find themselves in a management role because of their desire to take on more responsibility.
Other managers are motivated by security. They are happy with the status quo and don’t want to rock the boat. They like their position and the compensation and benefits that come with it and don’t want anything to threaten that. They can be identified by their inability to make decisions, by giving conflicting information to team members, and their lack of interest in implementing change.
What happens when the manager who has a motivation needs of growth finds themselves reporting to a manager who has a motivation need for job security? There is a strong potential for conflict.
The manager who is motivated by growth usually has ideas for achieving greater results and that means change. Depending on the amount of authority they have, they may not be able to implement the change required. In that case, they need to get their manager’s approval and if their manager is motivated by security they may not get it.
If you bring an idea for an improvement to a manager who has a high need for security, they may not show interest in implementing it because of the fear of change. Change creates uncertainty and insecurity and that would go against their basic motivational need.
To counteract this fear and help your manager get comfortable with change, present your ideas in a way that will get them to see it your way. That means doing the research, presenting options, and recommending a solid solution that mitigates the risk of change.
It’s important to note that regardless of your manager’s motivational need, you are responsible for presenting solutions any time you bring up a problem. You know they saying… ‘Don’t come to me with a problem, unless you have a solution.’ Hopefully you’re encouraging the same solution-oriented thinking to your team.
One of the best strategies I teach managers is how to present ideas in a way that will get the boss to say yes. This is a process that is guaranteed to work 99% of the time – even with risk-averse managers. The 1% of the time it doesn’t work is when the approving manager cannot accept anyone else’s ideas. That can happen when the approving manager is driven by fear, pride, and ego. That’s a discussion for a different article.
Bottom line: If you are a growth motivated manager who wants to make improvements and achieve greater results, but your manager is motivated by security and is risk-averse and reluctant to shake up the status quo, do your research and present your ideas in a way that will make them more comfortable.
Liz Uram is a management skills expert who works with organizations that want to equip their management team for success.