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Understanding Needs and Motivators—A Key to Career Success

understanding-motivatorsHow do you define success? Truly, it’s different for everyone; some might look only at titles, while others focus more on responsibilities and the amount of influence wielded. What you have in common with everyone—from bosses to interns—is that your ability to be successful will be buoyed if you understand your needs and motivators.

David McClelland, a pioneer in motivational theory, developed an “acquired needs theory” proposing that people’s specific needs are acquired over time and shaped by their life experiences. He identified three areas of need that directly affect motivation and effectiveness:

  • Need for Achievement. Those who are driven by achievement have a strong desire to excel; they seek to accomplish challenging goals, advance up the corporate ladder and be recognized for their work. The factors that affect achievement-seekers include wanting:
    • Approval from experts
    • To make money
    • To succeed on their own
    • Respect from colleagues
    • To compete and win
  • Need for Power. Those who are driven by power are interested in being effective and feeling influential—making an impact anywhere they can. These people seek to be involved in decision-making (or be the ultimate decider) and leave their mark on their organizations.
  • Need for Affiliation. Those who are driven by affiliation might be considered “connectors”; they want to develop and maintain friendly relationships. These people are typically good team players and client contacts. They also seek to be well regarded.

Everyone has different amounts of all these needs, and it can be an invaluable exercise for you to determine your specific levels by using a 1-10 ranking scale. To take things a step further, it’s important to think about the behaviors that support each need, i.e.:

  • Achievement-seekers may be motivated to excel to attain a specific status, e.g., the Million Dollar Sales Group.
  • Power-seekers may try to “take over” meetings by controlling the conversation.
  • Affiliation-seekers may connect with clients on a very personal level.

Enhancing what you know about yourself provides you with the opportunity to be more powerful, be less of a victim, and have more choices. Once you understand what your needs are and how you’re motivated by them, you can move on to leveraging that knowledge to help you meet your goals. By gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and then harnessing it, you can become more purposeful, more satisfied in your work, and more successful—based on your own definition of success.

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