Project management header
products page

Motivation - general - part 1


Some people confuse motivation with inspiration.

A dictionary definition of them would be.

  • Motivation

The desire to do, interest or drive.

  • Inspiration

Stimulation or arousal of the mind to special or unusual activity or creativity.

Inspiration is about a short term generation of enthusiasm. Motivation is about changing a person’s behaviour so that they have the will to carry out work in a sustained fashion over a long period of time.

Before you can motivate people you usually need to have someone working for you.
So it is hard to judge this quality in an emerging leader as they may have no one to manage.
It is perfectly possible to motivate others by the way you work and your general attitude, for example, within your team.

Before you can motivate others you must be aware of others and their feelings and what makes them tick. There are some primary areas on which to focus.

Know yourself

This is a key starting point. If you know yourself you can understand your weaknesses.
In particular, how you react to the behaviours of others which may or may not be appropriate.
From this information you can build actions to improve behaviours that will help you to influence others.

This is tackled in additional detail under the section on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

Whenever we carry out an action we do it for a purpose which is important to us and results in a benefit of some sort.
There is nothing amazing about this as we do this hundreds of times each day without any mishap.

Know your effect on others

This is key to influencing people. If you influence people you are trying to get them to do something which they may have misgivings about.
Once you can influence people you will have followers. If you have no followers you are not a leader merely a manager of processes.

Know those at a higher level

Everyone starts somewhere in an organisation and that is usually with a boss. You will need to get on with your boss and to do this you must understand how he or she behaves in a variety of situations. This doesn’t just apply to your boss but may be even at a higher level.

Motivational theories

Motivation has been the subject of a lot of research over the years.
Some of the key milestones and a very brief summary, along the way, have been.

Douglas McGregor’s X and Y theory

This theory splits people into an X or a Y type.
In theory X management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can.
In theory Y management assumes employees are ambitious, self-motivated, anxious to accept greater responsibility, and exercise self-control and self-direction.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology that was proposed in his 1943 paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, which he subsequently extended.
His theory contends that as humans meet 'basic needs', they seek to satisfy successively 'higher needs' that occupy a set hierarchy.

Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factor theory.

He proposed the Two Factor theory of human motivation in the workplace.
According to his theory people are influenced by two factors:

Satisfaction and psychological growth are a result of ‘motivation’ factors.
Dissatisfaction is a result of a lack of ‘hygiene’ factors.

Some of these could be:


Pay, fringe benefits, relationship with coworkers or the physical environment.


Challenge, autonomy, intrinsic interests or creative opportunities.

The above areas are all discussed in more detail elsewhere.