It was not the first time that I have used Moving Motivator, a management 3.0 tool extensively described by J. Appelo in his book “Managing for Happiness”. But it was one of the few time in which I have applied it extensively during a coaching session. 

 Actually the possibility of using tools from different perspective represent one of the key learnings from this experience. As a professional Trainer and Coach I have always believed that being eclectic regarding multiple theories, approach, framework and tools is very important for my job. Motivations, values have been often at the core of my training sessions. But this was the first time in which I intentionally decided to use an agile tool in, let’s say, another “field of practice”.

Going back to Moving Motivators it represents a tool that can be used to reflect upon both your own inner drives (i.e. as a manager) and others’ (i.e. your workers). As a management tool it enables you to deeply understand what motivates people that work around you. With this knowledge and awareness you can start to create an engaging environment for them because now you know what drives their behaviors, what moves them. And “no, it is not you, not even money”. As a manager you cannot motivate people as you can’t manage them. The only, very important thing that you can do, is to manage the system, create a context which maximize the possibility for your workers to develop an interest in what they are doing.

In 2010 Daniel Pink describes how people are motivated and states that “there is a huge mismatch between what social sciences know and what business does”. That is to say that people have drives that are completely ignored by organizations. The need to feel challenged, to change things around oneself, to have a positive self-image, to feel part of a group that share the same values are only few of them. 

Regardless of the motivational theories we refer to, there are universal drives that orientate our personal and professional life. It is a matter of where we put them on an imaginary scale of importance. 

They influence all our decisions and behaviors. Most of the time this occurs in an subconscious way though. So being aware of our inner drives can be very insightful and powerful because it could bring light on aspects of ourselves that we are not fully aware of. 

This is the reason why using moving motivators exercise as a reflective tool – either in a one-to-one or in a team session – has always a strong impact on people. My feeling is that using Moving Motivators cards in a coaching session – regardless of the fact that it is a personal or business coaching – it is much more “moving” for the person and can really enable a deep change in terms of discovering a new aspect of yourself. 

In my last coaching experience, the coachee was working on his professional goal: quit his job for another position in another company. He was really concerned about it and actively engaged in achieving this task. 

I have introduced the Moving Motivators exercise asking him to think about his actual professional experience at work and to arrange the cards in order of importance at the moment. More specifically I have asked him to put the cards in order on an imaginary horizontal line so that the motivators mostly satisfying had to go on the left above the line while moving up and down on the other side the least important. 

Order, Acceptance, Mastery and Freedom where the first four ones. He recognized himself mostly in the need for a sense of order and certainty and a need for others’ approval for what he does above all. 

It was really insightful for him to come to realize how strong the impact of these first two drives on his goal was. The need for order, stability, and certainty are wired into our brains. Along with the need for “predicting” the future, the importance of being accepted by his family for what he does represent some sort of “burden” that prevents him from succeeding in quitting his job. 

It was only when he became fully aware of this inner drives during the session that I asked him: “Thanks to this new awareness and going back to your session goal, what would be the first card that you feel the need to move up and on the other side so to make a step forward your session goal?” 

He chose the Freedom card. Because the “freedom from the need for order along with the need for others’ acceptance would enable me to look at my actual job in a completely different way”. It was insightful for him to come to realize that moving up Freedom would naturally move down Order and Acceptance and vice versa. 

I encourage him to keep playing with these cards also by himself before the next session. I still remember when I have spent few weeks reflecting on my own drives and values many years ago. It was a very important experience that made me clarify my personal and professional direction, my inner purpose. 

Looking forward to using this tool also during an assessment session.


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