by Leon Rosenshein


You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Especially the first four levels. What Maslow called the D-Needs. The basic life and safety needs. If those aren’t met, nothing else matters. Things like air, food, and shelter. And that makes sense. Without those, nothing else really matters. And for a long time That was motivational theory. In life and at work. People are motivated to have their D-Needs met, and a steady paycheck ensured that you could meet those needs. But what happens when you’ve met those needs? How do you motivate people after that. Sure, Maslow had  levels beyond the D-Needs, but they weren’t as well fleshed out and there wasn't a coordinated way to approach motivation at that level.

Then, in 2009 Daniel Pink published Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink took as his starting point, not Taylorism and the assembly line/repetitive task worker, but the knowledge worker. According to Pink, once you meet those basic needs you need to do something else to motivate your employees. For those people, a different approach is needed. Instead of a hierarchy, it’s a combination of three distinct, yet related things, autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed. To figure out what the thing is that you should be doing.

Mastery: The desire to learn and grow. Being able to develop new capabilities for yourself.

Purpose: The desire to do something important. Something that will have a broad impact.

But how do you have a team, let alone a business, when all of the team members are doing what motivates them individually? How do you keep a team from turning into a group of individuals with a common manager, if not devolving into anarchy? That’s where the interrelatedness comes in.

The interrelatedness that comes from vision. Because when the company’s vision aligns with the team’s vision/purpose, which aligns with the individual’s vision/purpose anarchy is not the issue. If everyone’s purpose aligns, then, in general, work will align.That’s a two-fer right there. Making sure you have alignment of purpose means your autonomy won’t turn into anarchy (assuming you have trust and clear communications).

One thing that alignment doesn’t do though, is ensure that all of the needed work is being done. That’s where mastery can help. There’s lots of work to be done, and there are probably people who think it would be interesting, but don’t know how to do it. Instead of silo-ing folks into narrow areas, you can encourage them to learn new things in different areas. That’s another two-fer. You get more work done in the areas that need it and you bring different viewpoints/perspectives, which give you better work as well.

The real magic is in how to use that kind of motivation. To do that you’re talking about culture. Which is a whole different topic for another day.