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What’s the Best Way to Motivate Your Members?

Associations // Beth Arritt spoke with author Todd Henry about what motivates people, particularly association members. The answer: It depends.

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Your members are just like you—except when they aren’t. How do they differ? Motivation.

Each person has their own set of motivators, and your members are not all motivated by the same things. Beth Arritt, association evangelist and our host, talked with Todd Henry, author of the new book The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces That Drive Your Best Work, on a recent episode of the Member Engagement Show podcast and learned that when it comes to motivation, it’s the furthest thing from “one size fits all.”

The Guest

Name: Todd Henry

Who They Are: Todd is Founder of the Accidental Creative, which teaches creative professionals and teams to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy so they can thrive in the create-on-demand economy. He’s an international speaker on creativity, productivity, and passion for work, and is the author of five books; The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, and his latest, The Motivation Code, which was the inspiration for this episode.

How to Reach Them: Todd’s LinkedIn and website.

Member Engagement Show Episode Takeaways

Best Advice: Don’t Assume Your Members Have the Same Motivations as You

Todd: Make sure you’re not just creating content based on your motivations. We think everybody else is generally motivated the same way we are, but they aren’t. For instance, on my podcast, I like to issue challenges to people because that’s what motivates me. But some people are like, “Why are you always pushing me all the time?” I’m wrong to assume everybody responds to challenges the same way I do. So, for people who have Explorer as their prime motivation, I’ve started using a lot more open-ended questions. Are you communicating to association members through the lens of your own motivation? Or are you trying to learn what theirs is?

About the Motivation Code

Todd: Your motivation code is the combination of your top three to five things that activates involvement in some kind of participatory event or an outcome you’re driving toward. For example, for me, Meet the Challenge is my activator motivation. Meaning if you come to me and say, “Todd, I don’t know if this is possible,” I’m in! There are also process motivations, which keep you involved and sustains you over long periods of work. My process motivation is called Influence Behavior. If I see I’m influencing behavior, people are nodding in agreement and interacting with me, I stay involved. And there are outcome motivations, which is what we tend to drive toward. One of my outcome motivations is Make an Impact. Meaning I want to see my distinct impact on the work and if I don’t, I’m not motivated.

Don’t Motivations Change Over Time?

Todd: Not that much. Researchers have been able to watch this over a long period of time, and what’s been discovered is you might have some shakeup in your top motivators. Maybe your number one becomes your number four, and your number two becomes your number six. But something that was a significant motivator 10 years ago isn’t likely to drop to the bottom of your list, nor is something that was at the bottom likely to leap to the top.

What Makes This Assessment So Accurate?

Todd: It’s the only story-driven psychometric assessment, meaning we start with your story. We ask you to relay three stories of achievement that have always stuck with you, then we ask you specific things about them. We’re not trying to put you in a box, we’re trying to expound on your uniqueness. There are 17,550 possible combinations of top three motivators, so the idea you and someone around you will have the exact same combo of motivators is extremely rare. That uniqueness to each person yields a more accurate assessment. Otherwise, it’s just about forcing people into categories. You also learn not just what, but why you’re a certain way. If Explore is your number one, you’re probably in a lot of meetings asking, “Why are we doing this? What if we tried this?” If someone else in the meeting is driven by Bring the Completion, they want to make a decision and move on. That will create tension.

The Dark Side of Motivations

Todd: Each motivation has its positive qualities and is necessary to an effective functioning team, but each also has a shadow side. The shadow side of my Meet the Challenge motivation is that if something doesn’t feel challenging, I’ll wait until it does. If I have three months to do something, I’ll wait until two and a half months to start so there’s a challenge. But every motivation is a gift. And once we learn to understand how to receive one another, according to those motivations, it changes collaboration. What you can do is ask, “Wait a minute, am I trying to satisfy a motivation in an unhealthy way?”

What This Can Tell Us About Associations

Todd: People join for all different reasons. Some like being around other, similar people. For some it’s a sign of excelling. There’s one motivation we call Make the Grade. It’s about wanting to be part of a team that’s seen as elite. They’re the people most likely to become Eagle Scouts or Navy Seals. This signifies they’ve made the grade. One thing that’s been helpful to me as a quick way to get to what the Motivation Code likely is, just ask them about a moment in their life when they achieved something memorable and significant. Why was it so meaningful? Hearing that helps you start to understand what drives them so you can speak to their motivation faster. If I were going to talk to you about joining, I’d put you in a place where I’m asking you a lot of questions to find out what you’re curious about. Then I’ll show you ways we service those areas of curiosity.

Don’t Wait for Your Job to Motivate You

Todd: If I’m a manager, it’s not manipulative for me to say, “I know you’re driven to collaborate, and we’ve had you in a cubicle doing paperwork for the last couple of months. Let’s try to find ways of making your work more collaborative.” So many people wait for their work or circumstances to motivate them. Instead, we can discover what motivates us then bring that to our work. It’s a more proactive way of thinking about motivation.

Want to learn more? Listen to the full episode over on the Member Engagement Show.

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