Motivational Intelligence 101


10 Basic Facts About Motivation

  1. No one can motivate someone else.  All motivation is intrinsic (belonging to their essential nature) within each person.
  2. We are each motivated to behave in ways we believe will adequately satisfy our desires for 16 common human needs.  How we meet our most intensely desired needs becomes our habits and personalities.
  3. How we prioritize our needs creates our values-systems.
  4. Our values-systems create the lens or rules we apply to all our experiences and thoughts to create an individual subjective version of what we believe is reality.
  5. While humans are more similar than different, perceptions of significant opposite values threaten our worldviews and trigger our natural defensive and self-protective reactions.  
  6. We each believe we are “normal” and that other weird people would be happier if they adopted our values-system and do what is most satisfying to us.  Even well-meaning bosses can inappropriately use their organizational authority to mandate the boss’s values-system.  “It’s my way or the highway.”
  7. If we can remain curious, we can seek to understand why people innocently pursue satisfying their strongest needs and learn to accept, tolerate, and respect even opposite values to our own.  Ultimately, we can use opposite perceptions to complement a more accurate and complete collective worldview.  Understand our own and other peoples’ motives and values is called motivational intelligence.
  8. If something is not being done, a likely reason is that the person has not thought of a meaningful enough reason to be willing to do it. Motivation is wanting to do something to satisfy our needs.
  9. When one behavior satisfies multiple needs, we can predict we will likely repeat the behavior, becoming a habit.
  10. Frustration focuses our attention on an unsatisfying thought or situation denying one or more needs or violating our values.  Frustration causes enough discomfort to get us to change to a more satisfying state.

The secret to a meaningful life is doing the most of what you find most meaningful.  A Reiss Motivation Profile® uses the Science of Motivation® to provide a detailed blueprint of your intrinsic motivational values-system. 

Enough Advice to 2021 Graduates

I have reflected on a post I recently read asking folks to share one piece of wisdom or advice to the graduating class of 2021. Here’s where I landed.

The most important word for each of us to personally define and then accept is “enough.” Enough is the most effective vaccine to the deadły virus of more.

Learn to recognize the feeling of enough and spend as much time there as you can, and you will discover the life you’ve lived has been enough to satisfy you fully.

Why Some People Hate Working Virtually

Jennifer, a Senior VP of a large corporation, slammed down her cellphone in frustration when she read the latest corporate email announcing their indefinite extension of virtual work from home privileges of most employees. What motivated Jennifer’s intense reaction to the announcement? Jennifer is one of the estimated 20% of humans who is naturally motivated by the need for status. Jennifer is frustrated because working from home denies her need for status. She intrinsically values her VIP reserved parking spot, her corner office, and the other office perks that come with senior executive status. The longer Jennifer is quarantined from the status of her office, the more frustrated she will naturally become.

Wise CEOs will consider the motivational mix of their key employees before they choose to eliminate their dedicated office space or shift to shared spaces. Status-conscious employees like Jennifer may not be able to tolerate their perceived reduction in status by such moves and may look to change organizations. If it seems petty to you that Jennifer would be so shallow as to need an office to prove her value, then you probably have only an average need(approximately 60% of humans) or lower intensity value (approximately 20% of humans) for status.

Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D., was a world-renowned research psychologist who studied human motivation. Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires Theory of Human Motivation identified 16 needs that all humans share. What makes each person unique is their prioritization and passion intensity for each need.

One of Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires is the desire for status. Reiss describes status as, “the basic desire for respect based on social standing…People seek status because they intrinsically value self-importance and respect.” Reiss went on to write, “People feel slighted when they receive less deference than is their due, and they feel flattered when they receive more deference than is their due. Status motivates people to pay attention to and value their reputation.” (Source: “The Reiss Motivation Profile®: What Motivates You?”, Steven Reiss, Ph.D., pgs. 62-63.)

Effective executives understand motivational differences and work hard to create individual ecosystems where people can thrive. Frustration is nature’s focus and productivity killer app! It is designed to alert a person to an unmet need and to get them to change their situation to a more satisfying one. Professor Reiss’s research found that one’s needs are primarily genetic in origin with added cultural and societal influences. Jennifer didn’t choose to value status. She was likely born with a stronger than average need for status. She also cannot likely change or deny her heart’s desire to have her status recognized.

What can an effective executive do to increase their motivational intelligence and keep Jennifer from quitting? It all begins with a Reiss Motivation Profile®. RMP data can help an executive better understand and predict what is likely motivating each employee’s reaction to organizational changes.

If you would like to increase your motivational intelligence, please contact me.

Effective Executives Are Power Providers

Effective Executives Maintain Powerful Connections

When I think of an effective executive, I think of a power block.

An effective executive is plugged directly into the organization’s power current. They are the power providers for those connected to them.

An effective executive is a surge protector for their team. They provides safety in storms to prevent those connected to them from being shocked, fried and burned out.

An effective executive provides adapters so they can connect and power each unique resource.

An effective executive provides the right amount of power to each connection for optimal performance.

An effective executive rapidly senses when a resource has disconnected and rapidly re-establishes a working connection.

An effective executive understands that normal wear and tear and friction can cause connections to fray and for wires to get crossed. They invest time in relational maintenance and conflict prevention.

Do you need to grow your power supply and become a more effective executive? Let’s talk today about creating your A-B-C Growth Plan!

If I were you…actually means if you were me

How many times have you tried to offer helpful advice by saying, “If I were you…”? We think our amazing empathetic powers allow us to have clarity of insight and understanding of others’ complex and complicated lives. We can obviously see what someone else should do in a situation or solve someone’s problem.

If you were in their shoes, your feet would probably be uncomfortable.

The Science of Motivation® and extensive psychological research of Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D., found that we each have a unique values-system created by our genetics and cultural upbringing that we use to interpret our experiences and worldview. Professor Reiss discovered that we each believe our values-system is the best one for every human, a term he called “self-hugging.” Reiss also found that humans tend to advocate and defend their strongest values by influencing and sometimes forcing others to change and adopt their values systems. Reiss called this well-meaning coercive tactic everyday tyranny.

When we give feedback or advice, we are always providing our subjective opinion based on our biases and individual values-system. Basically, we imagine ourselves in the situation and share what we would likely do to create an outcome that we would find most satisfying and least objectionable. We believe we are recommendations that are objective and rational, but they are actually personal. We make the mistake of believing we are each “normal” when we are each very different.

Our everyday tyranny is amplified when we have organizational power or authority to mandate our values-system to others. We naturally encourage or influence others to do things “my way or the highway.” Even when we do not overtly do so, people are attuned to imitate what their boss does, how the boss reacts, and what the boss rewards as normal, acceptable behaviors.

Executives risk creating a group-thinking culture of “yes” people who are actually using tremendous quantities of willpower and self-control to acquiesce to the tyrannical boss’ demands inauthentically. We lose the inclusion of different worldviews and miss out on invisible possibilities in our values-blind spots.

Whenever you say, “If I were you…” you are actually meaning “If you were me…”

Rather than offer advice or recommendations that would yield consequences you could live with, it is more helpful to ask the person seeking your opinion open-ended questions that you do not already believe you know the answers to. Here are some of my favorite self-hugging prevention questions:

  • What do you think is the wise thing for you to do?
  • What are the best and worst likely outcomes from your decision?
  • What advice are you secretly hoping I would give you?
  • What recommendation could I make that would make you most confident and/or most afraid?
  • What is in the way of you making a decision?
  • If you were going to advise a friend, what would you do if you were them?

We often falsely believe we are looking out a window when mentally, we see our reflection in a mirror. I use the Science of Motivation® with all of my executive coaching clients to clearly understand their unique values-system and worldview. Executives are responsible for sustaining a culture of inclusivity of everyone’s unique values-system. Inclusive collaboration depends on a high level of motivational intelligence. I work with my executive coaching clients to help them use the Science of Motivation® to their competitive advantage. If I were you, I would highly recommend you find out more about a scientific approach to inspiring the best in your people and you.

Let’s talk about being your best at doing your good!

How Can You Relate?

“What skill do you think is most valuable for a founder to develop?” asked my executive coaching client.
“Relatability powered by the empathetic understanding of others,” I replied.

photo of people holding each other s hands
Photo by fauxels on

Relationships Require Connections

Being in an interpersonal relationship with anyone requires the ability to relate to each other meaningfully. Relating, by definition, means to establish a connection. Where do we connect? We try to connect around common values, interests, and goals.

When we try to relate with people who hold opposite values and worldviews, we naturally reject them because it naturally triggers our primitive threat-protection system in our brains. We risk naturally judging people with wildly different values and worldviews as weird, bad, wrong, or even dangerous.

Where Most Bosses Go Wrong

For example, a boss who has an extreme need to test her self-confidence may not value nor need encouragement or feedback from others. Self-confident people tend to evaluate their performance, mainly on self-evaluation. A self-confident boss may find it hard to understand how someone has an intense need for acceptance of others and has minimal self-confidence naturally. They may find the employee’s repeated requests for performance feedback as a character flaw or area for professional development. Instead of giving the employee the encouragement and positive feedback they need to boost their performance, the self-confident boss might advise the person to increase their own self-confidence and send an unintentional message that the employee is somehow deficient lacking a desired professional trait. Motivationally intelligent bosses understand the need to adapt their approach to each individual they serve and find ways for from meaningful connections with other people.

We Must Adapt to Relate and Connect

We need to develop a connection adaptor to plug into relationships with very different people. This adaptor has various levels of connectivity, understanding, tolerance, acceptance, respect, and more. An empathetic understanding of differences is best understood and developed through developing one’s motivational intelligence using the Science of Motivation®.

Leaders in the 21st Century must develop and sustain highly effective relationships with others centered on creating significant change. To be effective, leaders must be able to relate or connect with others. Motivational intelligence holds the key to meaningful connections.

What could become possible for you as a leader if you can learn to make and maintain excellent connections with those you work with?

As an executive coach, I can help you use the Science of Motivation® to increase your motivational intelligence rapidly. You can quickly learn how to make connections with others and understand how your own empathetic blind spots impact your effectiveness.

Can we connect and have a conversation about motivation?

How to Stop Your Shoulding From Making You Musty

Even my most idealistic executive coaching clients can become frustrated and angry at other people they interact with. As they passionately vent their feelings to me, I quickly hear the voice of their values, cluing me into their underlying values-system, values judgments, and expectations. Three red flag words mark a values judgment: SHOULD, OUGHT, and MUST. Changing one’s self-talk by replacing these three words can greatly reduce one’s anger and frustration. Practicing self-control allows motivationally intelligent executives to choose the most beneficial response and to avoid regrettable overreacting.

One’s values-system consists of 16 different needs which we each give different priorities and experience in different intensities.  Our values-system creates the rules we use to maintain our consistent worldview and underlying values judgments.  Unfortunately, our rules for life also can create our expectations for how other people SHOULD behave and MUST treat us. 

The Science of Motivation® teaches that we passionately believe our values-system is best and that other people will be happier if they change to our ways of doing and thinking.  That’s why we “SHOULD” all over the people we love and work with.  It’s also why we get so frustrated and angry when people violate our rules and expectations and do their own things.  

“She OUGHT to know that would tick me off!”.

“He MUST apologize for treating me that way!”

“She really SHOULD have known better!”  

Motivationally intelligent people understand their values-system and how it creates their SHOULDS, OUGHTS, and MUSTS, hot buttons.  They can learn to exchange SHOULDS with COULDS and MUSTS with WISHES.  These simple mental self-talk upgrades can effectively create more self-control and more appropriate responses to others’ behaviors.

To help keep my executive coaching clients’ SHOULDS from making them MUSTY, I start by having them complete a Reiss Motivation Profile®. This gives us scientific insights into their unique values-system. Next, I often recommend “Learning to Tell Myself the Truth,” by Dr. William Backus, Ph.d. This is an excellent workbook to improve one’s self-talk and provides practical practices for replacing one’s SHOULDS with COULDS. Working together as your accountability partner, I can help you ensure you strengthen your self-control and interpersonal effectiveness.

Could you be more effective if you stop SHOULDING on people? If so, I am happy to help you be your best at doing your good! Together we can keep you from being MUSTY!

Want to discuss what working together might look like?

Why We Are Naturally Label Makers and Name Callers

Children learn very quickly to label everything in their world. It’s the human way to categorize and make sense of what is good and bad, tasty and yucky, friendly or frightening. You get the idea. Parents reward and encourage accurate labeling.

Spend any time on a playground and you will likely hear some very derogatory, demeaning, degrading, and downright mean labels being thrown around in the form of name-calling. You doodie-head grows-up to be you idiot or worse as we adults have years of experience perfecting name-calling, even if it just stays in our internal dialogue.

Perhaps we adults can benefit from accepting our natural and masterful label making tendencies and better understand what motivates us to do this. It is not a character defect. Labeling is most likely the result of our normal values-system at work.

Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D., the father of The Science of Motivation®, once said:

We are an intolerant species because we are motivated to assert our own values. We have a tendency to think that something must be wrong with people whose values are significantly different from our own.  We cannot comprehend how anybody can freely choose to pursue goals we intrinsically devalue because all of our experiences with those goals have been unpleasant.

Advocates of tolerance are almost always talking about political or racial tolerance. Except for a few personality experts and motivation analysts, there are almost no advocates for tolerating diverse personalities.

When one has a natural intense value for an extreme amount of order, for example, they think orderly people like them are normal, tidy, precise, detail-oriented, perfectionists. The orderly might naturally label someone with a very low need for order as messy, unorganized, tardy, a slob, and inconsiderate of how they treat shared space with the orderly person. The once-popular “Odd Couple,” play and TV series optimizes these values differences between Felix (orderly) and Oscar (unstructured).

The problem with our values-based labeling is that it is usually not only hurtful, but it is inaccurately based on misbeliefs and misunderstandings of why someone else behaves as they do as determined by one’s own worldview. Felix yells at Oscar for leaving his dirty dishes in the sink and for just assuming Felix will clean up after him. Oscar becomes offended that Felix is so up-tight and a clean freak that he can’t let Oscar live the way he feels most comfortable. They are both arguing and yelling in-defense of their strongly held values and their equally strongly held labeling. Here’s the takeaway…the argument is almost never really about the dirty dishes. The argument is about the value judgment and ascribed label that the dirty dishes generate.

As an executive coach, I work with my clients using the Reiss Motivation Profile® to help them accurately label and understand their individual values-system. Once we understand what matters most to us, we can better anticipate where we will naturally misjudge and mislabel others. Tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and mutual respect can result from one’s self-awareness of one’s unique values-system and natural mislabeling tendencies. When it comes to interpersonal relationships and our values as Professor Reiss used to say, “Opposites do not attract. They are highly motivated to argue in defense of their strongest values.”

Are their relationships you find very difficult to maintain or people you find it incredibly difficult to work with? Do you have a ready supply of labels to tag people with? What could become possible if you understand yourself and others more accurately? Perhaps it will result in more accurate and positive labels such as friends and teammates.

Relationships begin with your contribution to them. Learn what motivates your labels by getting your Reiss Motivation Profile®. Then we can create your ABC (Attitudes, Behaviors, and Competencies) Growth Plan together and help you to be your best at doing your good!

How to Be Your Best at Doing Your Good!

It’s not easy staying an idealist in business. Whether you call yourself a social entrepreneur, conscious capitalist, b-corper, or a sustainability warrior, you are trying to build and sustain an organization that does good profitably. Doing good is good for business, but it can take a severe toll on leaders who believe they must do it all on their own. The price of failure is the loss of money and the lost benefits to society. This dual burden can easily weigh on leaders like you. Fortunately, I help idealists be their best at doing their good every day!

Many of my executive coaching clients come to me, hoping I can fix their people or processes. They are often surprised to learn that their path and fix-it strategy begins with them. Not that they need fixing, but that they need to grow into the leader and manager that their new situation requires of them. Executive coaching is about utilizing untapped potential and mastering already acquired knowledge and skills in new ways. Coaching is a highly efficient and impactful collaborative process where clients rapidly realize the benefits of professional and personal development in sustainable ways. After all, isn’t unutilized potential and ineffectively deployed talents a waste?

The foundation of a do-gooder who is excellent at doing their good is strengthening their mindset and cleaning out any misbeliefs and self-sabotaging self-talk that sparks irrational fears, doubts, and counterproductive behaviors from an executive. A coach uses powerful questions and truthful observations to allow clients to see potential blind spots and pitfalls.

My clients regularly report greater satisfaction and reduced frustrations at work and at home. They master developing and sustaining effective interpersonal relationships and alliances. Executive coaching clients who chose to work with me learn to be trustworthy, outwardly emotionally stable, demonstrably compassionate, and creators of hope. These are the high-demand qualities people look for in their leaders, according to on-going research.

“I can no longer work with my boss” continues to be the number one reason people give for changing jobs. What is undesired turnover costing your organization? What if you could quickly improve teamwork, collaboration, reduce interpersonal conflicts, and improve performance by working with me as your coach? According to recent research, the typical executive coaching client realizes a return of between $4 to $8 for every dollar invested in receiving coaching from an experienced executive coach.

Could you be better at doing your good? Take the following quick self-survey.

  1. I often feel overwhelmed by having so many things to do.
  2. I feel like I am always putting out other people’s fires and can’t focus on my plans.
  3. I constantly have to be a referee of my own people’s arguments.
  4. We lack teamwork and collaboration.
  5. My best people keep leaving.
  6. Nobody seems to care around here but me.
  7. My board wants me to be a better leader and more professional.
  8. I must be a more effective communicator.
  9. We must be more agile in our ability to change.
  10. I have got to develop my people.
  11. We have great plans and awful execution.
  12. I need to hold people more accountable.
  13. My perfectionism is getting in the way.
  14. Revenue must go up, and expenses must come down.
  15. I have got to be able to tell the story of my vision for the future better.
  16. I can’t allow myself to burnout or become discouraged and lose hope.
  17. I feel like an imposter and worry people will find out I am faking it and not making it.
  18. Our quality could be much better.
  19. I really need to delegate more.
  20. I need to develop systems and processes that can accommodate our growth goals.
  21. I need to motivate people to want to work harder.

If you can relate to any of the above statements, then there is only one more question that only you can honestly answer. Are you coachable?

If you would like to experience a free, no-obligation executive coaching session to get some clarity on a challenge or issue you are struggling with, then let’s explore what it might be like to work together. My goal is to quickly help you to be your best at doing your good! The only thing you have to lose is whatever you think is holding you back.