Professor Steven Reiss says there’s nothing wrong with workaholics, non-curious schoolchildren and timid people.
While much of society may believe these people have problems that need to be fixed, Reiss said his research suggests they are probably happy just the way they are. They just have personalities that don’t fit in with much of society.
Reiss, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University, spent five years developing and testing a new theory of human motivation. The result of his research is published in the new book Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities (Tarcher/Putnam).
After conducting studies involving more than 6,000 people, Reiss has found that 16 basic desires guide nearly all meaningful behavior. The desires are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility.
“These desires are what drive our everyday actions and make us who we are,” Reiss said. “What makes individuals unique is the combination and ranking of these desires.”
Reiss said at least 14 of the 16 basic desires seem to have a genetic basis. Only the desires for idealism and acceptance don’t appear to have a genetic component. “Most of these desires are similar to those seen in animals, and seem to have some survival value,” Reiss said. “This indicates they are genetic in origin.”
Another motivational approach that never seems to go out of style is creative motivation.
Steve Jobs, the computer genius who co-founded the Apple Corp., was a very charismatic leader of technical people. When his group was designing Apple’s new Macintosh computer, Jobs flew a pirate flag over his building. Its purpose was to signify his team’s determination to blow the competition out of the water. Rather creative motivation.
Good leaders and managers have creative ways to motivate their employees.
Robert Waterman Jr. wrote about Chiyoshi Misawa, founder and president of Misawa Homes — the largest homebuilder in Japan. At least once every decade he “dies” to arrest the momentum of out-of-date assumptions and policies. He sends a memo to his company that formally announces “the death of your president.”
This is his way of forcing the whole company to rethink everything. When employees resist change because they are used to the old way of doing things, Misawa declares: “That was the way things were done under Mr. Misawa. He is now dead. Now, how shall we proceed?”
People can be motivated with threats, fear, example, reward, recognition, etc. I believe threats are overrated and misunderstood. Fear works for a while. However, when people are mature, experienced and professional, they will not regard mistreatment and claims of absolute authority as a source of inspiration.
Predictably, money is still one of the top motivating factors.
A manager who had just returned from a motivation seminar called an employee into his office and said, “Henceforth, you are going to be allowed to plan and control your job. That will raise productivity considerably, I am sure.”
“Will I be paid more?” asked the worker.
“No, no. Money is not a motivator, and you will get no satisfaction from a salary raise.”
“Well, if production does increase, will I be paid more?”
“Look,” said the manager, “you obviously do not understand the motivation theory. Take this book home and read it. It explains what it is that really motivates you.”
As the man was leaving, he stopped and said, “If I read this book, will I be paid more?”
By: Mark Borkowski is president of Toronto based Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corporation. Mercantile is a mid market company sale brokerage specializing in the mid market. Mark can be contacted in confidence at (416) 368-8466 ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org