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What Motivates Me: An Interview with Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

We invited Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, New York Times bestselling authors of The Carrot Principle and All In, to join our six-part Leadership Learning Series webcast. If you missed their session, you can watch the recording here.

Additionally, Adrian and Chester recently published their latest research in their new book, What Motivates Me. I was struck by how their findings uncovered novel ways to improve employee engagement at work. Their ideas map nicely to personal motivation and are best practices for those looking to target Source 1 in The Six Sources of Influence™ model. They were kind enough to answer a few questions for unlocking the secret to what motivates each of us and how to capitalize on that knowledge.

Joseph: The subtitle of your new book, What Motivates Me, is “Put your passions to work.” Is it possible to reignite passion for a job you are already doing and perhaps already feel disengaged from?

Adrian and Chester: There is a prevalent notion out there that if you’re unhappy with your work it will take a Herculean effort to change things—that you have to quit and find your “dream job.” For the vast majority of people, that’s just nonsense. Most don’t need to take a risky leap; they just need to make small changes in their work lives. Many of the happiest people we interviewed didn’t find their bliss down a new path; they made course corrections on the path they were already on. What Motivates Me is primarily intended to offer that kind of guidance—what kinds of changes in responsibilities might help people take charge of their careers and put their finger on the specific things that are disengaging them in their work. We call this type of modification “job sculpting.”

Joseph: But what if they find that their current career doesn’t align with what they are most passionate about? What would your advice be to such an employee?

Adrian and Chester: A few managers are concerned that if their employees read our book and take the assessment, some will find that they are miscast in their current roles. Our response is this: trust us, you want to find that out! It’s true that in a few cases the process we unfold in the book will help some readers identify when a larger change is needed and the kind of change it might be. Perhaps it’s time to transfer to another department, or it could be a full-blown transition to a new profession. But here’s the point for everyone—if an employee is completely miscast or miserable, it’s not good for them, their customers, or their managers. Now with that said, these transitions are not for the faint of heart, so we always recommend the job sculpting process first.

Joseph: You conducted 850,000 interviews about employee engagement. In all of those interviews, was there a particular theme or result that was surprising to you?

Adrian and Chester: What all that work revealed is a key difference in those who are most energized on the job. Those people have aligned more of their work with their core motivations. As for those who are most unhappy, as you might expect, their jobs are out of whack with what they are passionate about. That probably seems logical. So here’s the million-dollar question: why don’t we all do something about it? The problem is, most people feel either helpless or overwhelmed. Many wait for an outside force like a manager to fix things—and most managers have no idea how to put people’s passions to work. Even those enlightened employees who do have a grasp on what motivates them often don’t know how to put those ideas to use in their daily work. That’s why we decided to write this book.

Joseph: One of your tips is to “do more” of what you love and “do less” of what you shouldn’t. How can you convince your manager to let you do more of what you love if it’s currently outside the bounds of your job description?

Adrian and Chester: For employees, the benefit of job sculpting probably seems obvious. In fact, we found in our research if you are happier at work you are 150 percent more likely to have a happy life overall. For leaders, the payback can be powerful as well. Sculpting can help diagnose how each team member’s specific tasks are (or are not) aligned with his or her motivations. It also uncovers subtle changes that can lead to increases in team morale, engagement, and results. What smart manager wouldn’t want more of that? The most fun for us has been hearing from managers who’ve sat down with their teams and sculpted together—transferring a few roles here and there—and then reporting back weeks later about the rise in morale and engagement.

Joseph: What are some “life hacks” for increasing your day-to-day motivation?

Adrian and Chester: As you think about potential sculpting moves, ask yourself three questions:

• What Can I Transfer? Are there things that you might be able to do less of or even transfer entirely that aren’t motivating? Are there members of your team who might be interested in swapping responsibilities to open up opportunities to try new tasks?

• What Can I Alter? Do you have responsibilities that might be altered somewhat to become more fulfilling to one of your motivators?

• What Can I Add? Are there one or two specific tasks you could add that would help fulfill your motivators? Are there unclaimed or emerging opportunities you could take on?

I enjoyed speaking with Adrian and Chester about this topic and more during our Leadership Learning Series. If you would be interested in participating, you can still register for the series here.


Take the What Motivates Me assessment!

Discover what your key motivators are and what you are passionate about. As a gift to Crucial Skills Newsletter readers, Adrian and Chester have been kind enough to grant access to the scientifically proven, 100-question What Motivates Me assessment (a $40 value) for just $10. Take the motivators assessment now using promo code VSMOTIVATE.

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3 thoughts on “What Motivates Me: An Interview with Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton”

  1. Julinda

    Good article, but I took the motivation assessment and it was not very helpful. My results weren’t very accurate! Learning is probably my strongest or 2nd strongest motivator, and it didn’t come up in my top 3. (And therefore I couldn’t learn more about it.) And the information provided about what the assessment said was my top 3 wasn’t that helpful anyway. I’m glad I only paid $9.99 instead of $39.99!

    1. Julinda

      I should add that the report did help me learn about myself even though it wasn’t an accurate assessment – just looking at the information made me think! And it helped me clarify what DOES and DOES NOT motivate me.

  2. Chad

    I am a college student and, like most students, am not totally sure about what career path(s) I should pursue. The Motivators Assessment was instrumental in helping me understand what careers would bring me the most joy. By understanding my core motivators I am now enabled to (as they say in the book) “sculpt” my life, molding my days and weeks around the things that truly bring me joy. This book is incredible!

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