Learned motivators – why they’re important

I’ve received several questions lately about the importance of learned motivators. And yes, they are very important, so let’s dig in.

Learned motivators are acquired through events that impacted us emotionally in our earliest years.

Because these motivators are formed as a result of emotional events, I’m a firm believer that Learned Motivators are vitally important when learning emotional intelligence. But, before I go further, let me first list these six motivators so you know what I’m talking about.

The six spectra of “learned” motivators:
  • Knowledge (how people respond to the availability and use of knowledge)
  • Utility (how people value the ‘things’ in their life [including finances])
  • Surroundings (how people prefer their surroundings to be)
  • Others / Community (the ways in which people are driven to help others)
  • Power (the various ways people seek—or don’t seek—authority)
  • Methodologies / Life Systems (how people prefer their lives be structured)

These are the six “learned” motivators. However, these are also known as Driving Forces, because they’re formed by positive or negative emotions in response to various events. And, our perception of events -in correlation with deep seated emotions connected to events – eventually “drive” our choices later in life.

Here’s how it works:

  1. We experience something as a child.
  2. Instantly and unconsciously, we have an emotional response to it.
  3. The emotion is either positive or negative.
  4. We associate the positive or negative impression with the event.

If the emotions imprinted as a result of an event are strong, the imprint is deep, and that can really affect us.

Example of an imprint:

A common belief is that money motivates, right?  Maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s say a young child hears his mother regularly talking bad about everybody who has money. Who knows the reason – perhaps she grew up in poverty and has a chip on her shoulder. Maybe she was wronged by someone who was wealthy. Regardless, this young child hears his mother constantly berating people who acquired wealth. Keep in mind this young boy’s mother feeds, clothes and cares for him. She is the person who provides his security.

Let’s say one day this child says he wants to grow up and be rich, only to be mocked and ridiculed in front of his friends by his own mother. If the child experiences multiple embarrassing moments like this, can you see how this child may grow up with a repulsion to anyone seeking money? Worse yet, this person may be so emotionally repelled by the idea of being associated with wealth, he never establishes a retirement account.

Emotional imprints can deeply affect our thoughts, our motivations, and our behaviors.

I give more examples and explain more about learned motivators my new book, 10 Steps for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence, which you can get for free on this page. But whether you’re learning EQ to improve your parenting skills or you’re someone trying to achieve high functioning teams, I strongly recommend you learn about  these six driving forces.

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To improve your emotional intelligence, you need to want it

Did you know that in technical and middle management positions, 2/3 of the difference between average performers & top performers is emotional intelligence? With a stat like that, it would seem that anyone seeking to be a top performer would jump at the chance to improve his or her EQ.

There’s an article published by Harvard Business Review, titled, Can you really improve your emotional intelligence? In the opening paragraph, they ask, “Who wouldn’t want a higher level of emotional intelligence? Studies have shown that a high emotional quotient (or EQ) boosts career success, entrepreneurial potential, leadership talent, health, relationship satisfaction, humor, and happiness.”

These are all great things that most people want.

Unfortunately, when people with lower levels of EQ are promoted, EQ is hardly a blip on their radar.

Too often they think they received their promotion because of how they have been treating people, and not in spite of it. I’ve seen it time and again:  people with poor interpersonal skills getting promoted into middle management, and eventually the promotions stop. They’ve usually been using fear or intimidation to push production, but eventually that starts backfiring on them.

The problem in these situations is these people don’t know the problem is within themselves. They usually think it’s other people falling down on the job,  or maybe even someone trying to sabotage them.

Where they need to look is within, and have a desire to make improvements.

So how do they develop that desire? Quite frankly, someone needs to tell them. And that’s part of why I do videos and write this blog. People in both middle management and leadership have to know that each behavioral style brings its own strength to a team, and each cognitive style does, too. They also need to realize that not everyone is motivated by the same things that motivate them.

If you already know about EQ, what can you do to help someone who’s struggling with it? Remember, to grow in emotional intelligence, people need to want it – to have a desire for it. Quite frankly, that means initiating a conversation about it. If you care about a person who’s not exercising EQ, might I suggest making it a topic for conversation?

Talk about the benefits. Like Harvard Business Review says, EQ improves one career, enhances leadership skills, and improves relationships – all of which increases our sense of purpose and gives us a fuller life.  And, if you don’t know much about EQ, well, I just gave you a short list of benefits you’ll receive by learning about it.

I’d even like to give you a book, titled 10 steps for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence. For a limited time, it’s available for anyone who wants it. Just download it for free here on this page.

Remember that Emotional intelligence is learnable, but you have to want to learn it.

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Higher EQ leads to high functioning teams

High functioning teams are more likely to occur when people have strong emotional intelligence. This is not “new” news. When I wrote Creating Passion-Driven Teams ten years ago, I made two important points in the chapter about emotional intelligence:

  1. Studies show that top performers are more likely than average performers to have high emotional intelligence
  2. Emotional intelligence is learnable

I also pointed out that a growing mountain of evidence shows when employees have higher levels of EQ it leads to high functioning teams. And so, it was no surprise to me when I read an article in Psychology Today (titled 10 reasons why teams need emotional intelligence) citing research that found “teams with greater average emotional intelligence have higher team functioning than [did] groups with lower emotional intelligence.”

It’s like there’s a theme going on here.

Some questions for you

As I reflect on this, I feel compelled to ask several questions.

• Are you on a team?
• If so, how is it performing?
• Could performance be better?

After nearly 30 years of EQ coaching as well as almost two decades of teaching emotional intelligence to teams, I’ve received many comments from clients on how emotional intelligence has made a difference for them. Comments like “my teams are more productive” and “I’m a more effective leader” are quite common.

In my book, I point out that one way to improve your EQ and help develop  high functioning teams is to become an expert about the people on your team. Regarding your teammates, ask yourself:

• What are their behavioral tendencies?
• What are the different ways they perceive, process, and make decisions?
• What motivates them?

Following the EQ model, first you should first know these three things about yourself. But when you can answer these questions about your teammates, you have an excellent EQ foundation, which leads to higher performance. Therefore, I urge you: memorize the above list of questions, and learn the answers regarding everybody on your team.

Still, if you want your team to soar, it can’t be just you learning these things. Yes, someone needs to start, and that person might be you. But let me encourage you to also be the spark plug that get other people interested in learning these things. After all, who doesn’t like being on a high-performing team? You can be the spark plug that puts your team in high gear.

The bottom line:

It’s one thing to have a bunch of smart people on your team. It’s something totally different to understand each person’s strengths, blind spots, and preferences, and keep those things in mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with conflict or being creative, if you work with people in ways that appeal to them, team performance is likely to be much higher.

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Can Emotional Intelligence Help You Be Successful?

You’ve heard the terms soft skills, people skills, and emotional intelligence (EQ), and we could probably split hairs and differentiate among these terms. However, the ability to know our strengths, preferences, weaknesses and tendencies – and to be able to read these in other people – are vital skills we need for success.

Everything starts with knowing yourself. Just look at the 11 skills that will make you super successful published by entrepreneur.com and you’ll see it’s mostly about knowing yourself managing yourself, plus how well you communicate with others

Interestingly, the EQ model (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management) provides a great framework for learning and building on these skills. And best of all, the EQ is learnable.

I contend that emotional intelligence is much more than simply understanding emotions. That’s because every aspect of our personality has an “emotional” component. For instance, all behavioral preferences have emotional components.

Some examples:

If someone has a strong driver personality (DISC type “D” / Colors type red), the affiliated emotion is anger. More specifically, the person tends to have a short fuse. He or she gets angry quickly, but also becomes un-angry just as quickly.

This is powerful information. If this describes you, you can develop a strategy for managing that anger when it bubbles up. If this describes someone you live with or work with, you can develop a strategy for dealing with their anger when it appears. For the analytical type (DISC type “C” / Colors type blue), the affiliated emotion is “fear.” More specifically, a person with this core style is afraid of the consequences of making a bad decision.

Again, knowing this about yourself – or recognizing it in other people – enables you to develop winning strategies.

How can such knowledge help you be successful? Behavioral styles are observable! Therefore, because only four core behavioral styles exist, you don’t have to become a psychologist. Just learn how to recognize the four core behavioral styles, learn their affiliated emotions, and you’re well on your way to applying emotional intelligence on your road to success.

Like I said, every facet of our personality (behavioral style, cognitive style, learned and natural motivators) all have affiliated emotions. As we learn about ourselves, and learn about these different facets, we greatly increase our capacity to apply emotional intelligence and achieve the success we so earnestly desire.

PS. If you’d like to take a complementary assessment to learn your cognitive style, just click here.

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