There are two aspects to motivation:
Intensity (i.e. the amount of effort or energy you put in to achieving a goal) and
Direction (i.e. the nature of the goal you are directing your energy towards).
The results of this questionnaire provide an insight into priorities about motivational direction.
At any one time we are generally attempting to complete a specific task, which is intended to achieve a fairly narrow goal e.g. cooking dinner, driving to the city, writing a report, getting a drink at a bar etc.). Goals can be thought of as comprising a hierarchy, with over-arching goals and sub-goals.
Goals can be categorised into broader, medium-to-long-term motivational themes. These include achievement, helping others, being supported by others, spending time with friends etc. The questionnaire is based on the idea that we have broad preferences at the level of themes and are broadly consistent over the medium term in the priorities we assign to them.
Our categorization is not based on an armchair exercise. It is based on a large-scale statistical analysis of survey data where people were asked to rate the similarity between a wide range of different types of goal.
Generally, we have a choice as to which specific goals we prefer to devote energy to or spend time on.
Sometimes goals are assigned to us by others i.e. they are extrinsic. There may be a family duty, or a legal requirement which we need to follow in order to avoid some form of punishment, or an instruction from a boss which we need to follow in order to keep a job and a roof over our head. However, ultimately, we choose to accept those extrinsic goals or not. We can choose to abandon our family, disobey the law, quit our job or choose which type of work we are willing to accept.
Our goals are often driven by biological needs, and feelings such as hunger, cold or tiredness. Such goals are generally relatively short-term. We can choose to satisfy these needs or prioritise them against others. People often struggle through physical discomfort in order to satisfy non-biological goals they perceive as more important.
In the medium-to-long-term our goals are often driven by deep-rooted social needs such as companionship or avoiding loneliness, intimacy, displaying status etc. Some goals entail seeking safety and avoiding harm. There are also more abstract goal categories such as as curiosity or achievement. The questionnaire focuses on such intrinsic goals.
There is an overlap between these motivational categories and values. Personal, cultural and organizational values overlap with motivational themes (e.g. treating others with respect; integrity; a commitment to improvement etc). They also relate to purpose and meaning. When faced with a dilemma, an understanding of the relative importance of values can help in making a decision. The power of an organizational culture is that there is a common set of value priorities which everyone accepts. This makes group decision-making quicker and easier.
Developing Your Career: An understanding of your own motivational preferences helps when considering career choice. It can explain why you were never happy in a particular role and suggest broad areas where you may find the greatest job satisfaction.
Honing Your Leadership Style: An understanding of your own motivational preferences is useful in fine-tuning your leadership skills. It helps clarify where you should build on strengths and authenticity. To what extent do you want to be a thought-leader? A power-broker? Leave a legacy? Build a cohesive team? It can also help you realise your gaps: the types of tasks and goals you may be avoiding.
Leading and Motivating Others: An understanding of the motivational priorities of people who work for you helps to manage and draw the best from them. You can get so far with financial incentives, targets and threats but tapping into what intrinsically motivates someone and what they find meaningful is a much more powerful and enduring approach.
Organizational Commitment: Personal motivational themes overlap with organizational values. Results from the questionnaire can give an insight into how someone's motivational preferences align with organisational values. This may be useful during selection or generally to measure individual employee engagement.
Consumer Decision Making: Personal motivational themes overlap with personal values which are know to influence consumer behaviour. The questionnaire can be used in focus groups to assess how well a product or service aligns with a consumer's preferences and values.
Executive Coaching: The Motivation Questionnaire is a key tool for coaches at the beginning of an assignment to build a picture of the client and help them to gain self-insight. It is particularly useful if combined with a Personality Questionnaire to measure behavioural preferences and 360-degree feedback to measure self and others' perceptions of leadership competencies. In fact motivational threads run through personality and competencies.
The questionnaire asks you to prioritise between these various themes. The standard questionnaire focuses on work-related themes, which is a subset of a broader set of life themes which also includes spirituality, family and biological needs. We also provide a broader life theme questionnaire.
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