Two questions I often hear from coaching clients during workshops and consulting engagements are:

  1. “How do I work with an unmotivated person?”
  2. “How do I motivate someone to work harder?”

Here are the quick answers:

  1. There is no such thing as an unmotivated person. Everyone is motivated to do something. Therefore, everyone is motivated.
  2. You cannot motivate someone else to work harder. You can find what is important to that person, and then discover ways to make sure the person receives more of that as a reward for high-level performance.

Behaviors stem from what we hope to experience, and in some cases, what we hope to avoid experiencing. So the key to “motivating” other people is knowing what they view as a reward for working hard. (No, I did not change my mind about your inability to motivate someone else. I’m just using the word in a figurative sense.)

As a leader working to influence the behavior of other people, here are three clues you can look for to know what motivates them to high-level performance:

  1. Their personal lives. Their hobbies and other outside work activities are clues to what they enjoy and what might motivate them to behave in certain ways or to achieve great results.
  2. Their DISC behavior style. When you understand their behavioral style, you have at least partial insight into their needs and desires. When you understand another person’s needs and desires, you have good clues about what they might view as a positive motivator.
  3. The tasks they like working on. After people have finished work that they dislike, allow them complete work they enjoy doing. The preferred task becomes a type of reward. That approach is sometimes called Grandma’s Law: “You can have dessert after you eat your broccoli.”



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