The Hierarchy of Motivation

Lawrence M. Miller, Institute for Leadership Excellence
A free video tutorial from Lawrence M. Miller, Institute for Leadership Excellence
Best Selling Instructor, Author & Leadership Coach
4.4 instructor rating • 16 courses • 124,325 students

Lecture description


The purpose of this chapter is to help the team members diagnose human performance problems and develop improvement strategies.


1.To learn a model of analyzing and solving human performance problems.

2.To help the team improve their own motivation and the motivation of others.

3.To learn to use positive reinforcement effectively – to practice 4 to1.


A plan to address one human performance problem.

A high performing culture is one of shared appreciation, a culture in which we love coming to work both because of the intrinsic satisfaction of serving our customers, but also because of the support and appreciation we receive from our colleagues.

Human motivationis a subject on which there have been more theories developed and more books written than almost any other. Debates about the source of motivation go back to the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle.Much of the debate about motivation has been about whether motivation comes from within the individual or is the result of outside forces in the environment. Entire schools of psychology have grown up around these two ideas.

It is safe to say that human motivation is complicated and there are a lot of individual and cultural differences in how we are motivated. But there are also some universal motivations although they may appear different in different cultures. One way to understand motivation is to consider that there are three levels of motivation: the spiritual, the social and the situational.

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English [Auto] I get friends. Let's switch now from the competency side of the equation to the motivation side of the equation. You remember my little formula here of competency times motivation equals performance which is pretty right. I mean there are other factors but this is a simple way of thinking about what results in human performance on your team or in your organization. And you know the subject of motivation I'm sure you've thought about this. I'm sure you thought about it in terms of your own motivation from time to time and you probably thought about it in terms of the motivation of others around you or your team members. There have been hundreds of books written on the subject of motivation. I've written a few of them and there are numerous theories of motivations some named after the name of some professor who came up with an interesting construct. I'm going to give you a simple model. It's not a it's not a dumb model it's a smart model but it's simple. And what I've attempted to do in this model is integrate or unify different theories of motivation with with a particular eye towards thinking about what you can actually do as a manager. You know there are some theories of motivation that go into psychological states and you know even genetics which you can't do anything about. So it's kind of none of your business. You don't have to worry about it just put that out of your mind. You as a manager have to think about how to. How do I affect the motivation of those around me and those under me my employees. So this model addresses things that you can do something about which is your job and your job. You know there are theories of motivation that say well money doesn't matter. People don't care about money they just care about self-esteem or something else. Look don't worry. For you it's not important what your job is is to maximize all the potential sources of motivation that can impact your people. So you know human beings are different. You know we're diverse and we're unique and depending upon how we were raised and what our interests are. You know some people are very interested in money and moving up the ladder. Others are more interested in family time. There are lots of different interests that people have. So you can't you know you're not smart enough and neither am I to say well I'm going to do this for this person. No I mean to do that for that person to do this for this person because you have to deal with them differently. No you don't. But you have to do is you have to optimize all the potential sources of motivation for your team members. And if you're doing that. Some people respond to some things and others who will respond to other things and you'll be doing your job. Now here's my little model I call that a hierarchy of motivation. And I think you can if you think about your own life. I think you can see this and understand it. And in the following lectures I'll go into more depth into each of these areas. But one way of thinking about motivation is to think about this pyramid where at the top of the pyramid there we have a spiritual nature. We have a search for meaning in our life a search for a purpose in our life and that's the big deal for human beings for the human condition. It's why we seek out religions and why all religions all over the world give purpose and meaning to their followers and people follow them precisely for that reason because they need meaning and purpose in their life. And we don't have to say well one religion is better than another or right or wrong or any of that none of that matters. I'm just sort of stating a sociological fact that religion and purpose and that purpose maybe country it may be family it may be community in addition to religion. But but we seek that meaning now is there meaning at work. Is there purposeful ness at work. And I would say of course there is. Which doesn't mean it's quote religious but we find ways of finding meaning in our work. I find meaning in my work. I hope you find meaning in your work so I'll call this sort of the spiritual realm or the realm of purpose you can think of that as the higher level of motivation. Then there is how we interact with other people there's community there's teams there's families there's social bonding. And it is our nature. It is in the human genetic code if you will in the human nature to be motivated by being part of a group. You know when I when I worked in prisons people would say there's a gang problem and I tell them No there's not a gang problem. Gangs are the solution to the problem. You know what the real problem is you. You show me a community where the family unit is healthy and strong. I'll show you a community that does not have a gang problem. Show me a community where family units are in disintegration where there is no safety for the young person in the family. And what do they seek. They seek a group right. And that group is in the inner city and other places and it happens all around the world by the way. That's the gang that's that's the group that's meeting the psychological need of bonding well in the workplace. And I'm going to talk a lot about teams as we go through the course. But we would like to work in groups we like to work in teams and I'll come back and talk about that. But that's the social dimension of motivation. And it's a major driver in our workplace. Then there's what I'll call situational motivation. And that's that's our immediate environment. That's the consequences to our behavior. That's the the prompts the stoplight the sign that says safety wear a safety hat you know wear a hard hat or wear safety gloves or wear safety glasses or you know we see these things in our work environment that like the red light the traffic light the stop sign they are meant to be cues prompts to stimulate a certain behavior. Right. And then there are consequences to behavior. And we'll talk more about that in some depth. But those are things that we do manage. You know we manage this social more than we manage the spiritual although we do have an effect on there. And even more so we manage the situational impact on motivation. So we're going to talk about how to do that and you can think of that sort of going from the material to the spiritual and by you know saying that's matyr I don't mean that in a negative way it's just more immediate. It's more the you know the more immediate consequences to our behavior. So we're going to go through that model in the following lectures and I hope you can see things. I'm sure you can see things that you will be able to do to maximize the motivation of your people. Thank.