What Motivates Me - Put Your Passions to Work


Chester Elton

Called the “Apostle of appreciation” by the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, and “creative and refreshing‚” by the New York Times, Chester Elton is co-author of several successful leadership books. All In, The Carrot Principle and What Motivates Me have been New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestsellers. His work has been called a “must read for modern managers,” by Larry King of CNN.

Elton’s books have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than a million copies worldwide. As a motivation expert, Chester has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company and the New York Times, and has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CNN, ABC, MSNBC, National Public Radio and CBS’s 60 Minutes. And if you Google the 30 top leadership gurus of 2014, you’ll find Chester Elton at number 12, right after Jack Welch and just ahead of Jim Collins.

Chester serves as a leadership consultant to firms such as American Express, AT&T and Procter & Gamble. He is most proud, however, to be the father of four exceptional children—all the more exceptional now they have grown up and left home.

Webinar Transcript

Announcer: Called 'the Apostle of appreciation' by Globe and Mail, Canada's largest newspaper, and 'creative and refreshing' by the New York Times, Chester Elton is a co-author of several successful leadership books. "All In", "The Carrot Principle" and "What Motivates Me", have been New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal best-sellers. His work has been called 'a must read for modern managers' by Larry King of CNN. Elton's books have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than a million copies worldwide.

As a motivational expert, Chester has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company, and the New York Times, and has appeared on NBC's "Today Show", CNN, ABC, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and CBS's '60 Minutes'. If you Google the 30 top leadership gurus, you'll constantly find Chester on the list, along with Jack Welch and Jim Collins. Chester serves as a leadership consultant to firms such as American Express, Avis Budget Group, and CIGNA. He's most proud of, however, to be the father of four exceptional children, all the more exceptional now they've grown up and left home. Now, please welcome to Elevate 2015, Chester Elton.

Chester: Well, great. Thank you for that wonderful introduction. Chester Elton here, and delighted to be with so many wonderful HR professionals and business people. It's my pleasure to talk to you today about our work around employee engagement. As you can see from our opening slide, my co-author, Adrian Gostick and I, have been writing now for, gosh, almost 15 years on what makes a great workplace environment. What makes a place really engaging, and a place where you want to give your best, where you want to stay and where you want to develop people?

Well, I thought I'd walk you through a little bit of our journey as we start this off. Many of you may be familiar with some of our work. "The Carrot Principle" is one book that did very, very well for us. And it was based on a very simple principle. Somebody does something great in the workplace, and you reward and recognize them, right? You give them the carrot, the proverbial carrot. We actually adopted our little mascot 'Garrett the Carrot'. I'm always amazed at what people will do to win this little fuzzy thing when we go speak.

We saw some great results from that about how to drive engagement. I will tell that our work, by the way, is always rooted in a lot of good research. We look at a great database. We look to build a transferable model that then helps people execute those ideas and philosophies. And then we look for case studies of people that have done it well. Then, lastly, what we want to do is give you some tools. So, great data, get the case studies, have the transferable model. Now, what do I do with it?

Well, one of the models that we developed from "The Carrot Principle" around engagement was this idea of what were the big drivers of engagement? And by the way, this was done in 14 different countries. So a global database, which I think is really important because of the diversified workforce that we all deal with in today's marketplace. But number one, across all demographics, by the way, was opportunity and well-being. Now, the second and third sometimes flipped depending on the part of the world but were always in the top three: trust and pride. As we looked at that we said, "Okay, that's really interesting." What we wanted to see, what were the drivers of the drivers? Alignment was a big driver in pride in the organization, pride in the symbol, right? And it was interesting for us then to look at and say, "What that meant was I kept my promises. I was aligned with my work. I did what I was going to say and I followed through. I set clear goals and I held myself accountable."

Biggest driver of trust, communication. When you communicate and you communicate on a regular basis, trust levels go up very high. But the really interesting one and this is where it was fun for us with "The Carrot Principle" was the number one driver of the number one driver was recognition. This idea of the carrot. Now, we asked the really smart data people...and I will admit that Adrian and I are not big stats guys. We're writers. We're speakers. We put together models. We're coaches. I did take a stats class in University and I will admit that I was in the half of the class that made the upper half of the class possible. So what we would do is we would ask these really smart statisticians, "If we say this is it true?" We asked them, we said, "Can you get high levels of engagement with employees that don't feel valued and appreciated?" And the answer was it's almost statistically impossible.

Well, as we did a lot of work around that, saw some great benefits from them as far as engagement, retention, and productivity. We've done a lot of coaching and training with senior executives and mid-level, and so on, leaders and managers. And a lot of times the conversation would default to this. It would say, "Well, we love the recognition piece. But if we don't get the culture right, it doesn't matter." And that was really interesting for us. "If we don't get the culture right, it doesn't matter." So that led us to write the book, "All In", how the best managers create this culture of belief that drives big results. That model, again, had engagement in the middle, engage, enable, and energize your employees, and these seven steps around what were the elements in every one of these. Again, this was a 300,000-person database that we looked at from our good friends at Towers Watson. It was really interesting to us that these were all present, again, driving to that big engagement. You'll notice then on step six there, cheering for each other, rooting for each other, that recognition element was still prevalent.

Well, as we really started to delve into engagement we said, "Okay, now it's obvious that you need to feel valued and appreciated. You need to get the culture right." But that's what led us to write the individual motivation book. Great cultures, great teams that are highly engaged and highly productive had the right people in the right places with the right motivation. And it was really a dilemma that we found in the workplace that 90% of the leaders that we'd surveyed and looked at, they believed in the value of engagement. Seventy-nine percent, so almost 80% said it was a key driver of performance, the KPIs. And yet only 24% believed that their employees were engaged. So again, this dilemma. How do we really get to that next step? Well, I'm going to walk you through three stages really quickly that I think will be valuable to you. First, to understand our individual motivators, how do you use that to develop your people? Then, how do you use that reward and recognition to reinforce the right behaviors, and create that highly engaged and positive culture?

So, here we go. Understanding individual motivators, you know, it's really interesting. One of the key findings that we found was when you're engaged and energized, and you're aligned with your motivators at work, that's where you're really happy. Not only am I engaged and energized, but my motivators line up with the organization that I work with, with the leaders that I interact with. It's really interesting that I always find too that when I'm happy at work, I'm happy at home. I don't know if that's the same with you. But for those of you that have those horrible jobs, I always reflect on when I had that miserable day at work, I always made sure that I brought all that misery home and shared it with every person in my family, and the pet, dog or cat. And the opposite is true. When I'm really highly engaged at work and highly motivated at work, I come home energized. And I share that with my family as well. I think that's a big responsibility for leaders in creating great places to work.

Well, as we started to look at motivation, and motivation is a tricky area because there's a lot of...I don't want to say voodoo. But as we looked at a lot of the writing and a lot of the books, and there are literally tens of thousands if you go to Amazon, a lot of it was experiential. "I climbed Kilimanjaro. I climbed Mt. Everest. You should too." Or, "These two or three things motivate everybody. This one thing never motivates anyone." And it came across as being kind of simplistic. So we went to the assessment model. Of course, the question is "Why another assessment? I've taking Myers-Briggs. I've taking all the different online assessments. Why another assessment?" Well, first off, the assessment gave us data and it gave us an analytical approach to motivation. "How many motivators are there? What motivators change? What are the motivators at work, and so on?" And then, we looked at "Why another assessment" is that we found it to be very complimentary to the other assessments out there.

I'm sure a lot of you have taken like a Myers-Briggs or a Colors assessment, or the various personality assessments. And I think those are really valuable. They say, "This is who I am." Personality is who we are. StrengthFinders, a wonderful assessment by the Gallup Organization, is what we're good at. These are my strengths. What we found is that motivators are what we're passionate about. And when you get those three circles intersecting in this Venn diagram, that's where it gets really good. "I know who I am. I know what I'm good at. But I also know what I'm passionate about." Because sometimes there's a misalignment there. What we're really good at isn't necessarily what we're really passionate about. And good leaders know that difference and can really walk that line and engage people.

But again, I mentioned that we are data-based in everything we do. Over the years, we've collected a massive database of over 850,000 working adults to then draw out what are the key motivators at work? How will it make a difference? How will this make us a better organization, reinforce the right culture, better teams, better individuals in the right place doing the right job? Well, it's really interesting. The first 7,000 people have taken the assessment, and it's given us a really interesting sample database to work from. I just want to let you know, by the way, that we have published our first White Paper on this, some really interesting insights into the generational differences into various industries, and so on. If you'd like a copy of that White Paper, it's free. You can go to our website, thecultureworks.com and download it. You can drop me an email at chester@chesterelton.com. I'm happy to drop it to you. We're really proud of it. It's a lot of fun, and I think will give you some good insights.

Well, as we started to look at the data coming in, one of the questions we wanted to ask was, "How many motivators are there?" You remember that as we started to look at the motivation sort of space, it was kind of simple. "These three things motivate everybody. This one thing doesn't motivate anyone." So the question we asked is how many motivators are there? We took a lot of time and a lot of sample groups and a lot from the data set was mainly where we had the information, and said, "How many motivators at work are there?" And we came to the conclusion that there are 23 that have any significance. I'm sure that if you look at this list, and they're in alphabetical order there for you, you'd say, "Well, I would've added this or not that," or whatever. These are the 23 that were of any significance, that statistically were valid. Now, Adrian and I enjoy simplicity. Yeah, we would've loved it to have been only three or five, or whatever. But there are 23 and it reinforced kind of what intuitively we felt, and that is that people are a little more complicated than we give them credit for. I know we want things to be simple, but people are complicated, and the workplace is complicated.

We've got more global companies, we've got different traditions, different languages, the gender mix is different, the generational mix is different. So there are a lot of motivators in the workplace. What we did notice is that some of these motivators did cluster. So we've kind of color-coded them here for you, around certain identities. And this helps kind of take that 23 in that massive database and make it a little more manageable.

And so we found these 23 motivators clustered around what we call five identities. And these identities we gave intuitive names. You're an achiever, you're a builder, you're a caregiver, reward-driven, a thinker. And you can see that the motivators are then listed underneath. One thing I always want to comment is you'll notice under "Caregivers" there are only three motivators. Under "Builders" there are six. We weighted the different motivators. And as you may guess, family is weighted a little heavier than some of the others. So looking at this, it's not that you're never going to have any caregivers because there are only three motivators, or you're always going to have more thinkers than builders because there seem to be more there. They are weighted. It is statistically valid. The assessment is 100 questions, by the way. It takes you about 20, 25, 30 minutes to take.

So, now with this information, I said, "Okay, so there's 23 motivators at work." The top seven motivators, and when the report comes out it lists them all for you in rank order, the top seven motivators are strong. The middle seven are what we call moderate. The bottom nine are neutral. Back to we're all individuals is the odds of you and I having the same top five, in the same order, because there are 23 variables is like 1 in 100,000. So we really are individuals. Right? So armed with this information we said, "Okay, so how is this going to help us develop our people? So if I know what your motivators are and I know what my motivators are, and I know what the team's motivators are, how is that going to help us build a better team?" So, we grabbed some of the teams that had done the assessments and we put them in a grid.

Now, I'm going to just bring up a team of three here to make it pretty simple. We say, "Okay, so what are some of the things that we have that are unique?" You can see in this grid, we've put the top seven motivators, the bottom three motivators, and then the top three identities, top three out of five identities because we tend to be a blend of our identities and our motivators. Well, as you can see, we've got Monique, and Craig, and Erin here. And some of the things that are unique, you can see that Monique has friendship and fun are kind of unique. And Craig, impact and problem-solving. I've got Erin on the end there and she's more creative and enjoys autonomy. So knowing the individual motivators as a leader is going to help us, I think, is become leaders as we try to get people more engaged. But then when you share with a team, I think then we can see who's going to be good at what. Who's really going to make a difference here? Well, not only was that interesting, but we wanted to take a look and say, "Well, what are going to be the differences? What are going to be the things that we've got to look out for?"

If you take a look at 'Team Cautions', right? They've got Monique and Craig. High on Monique's list is fun. Low on Craig's list is fun. So you're having a team meeting and Monique wants to do something kind of fun and engaging, wear a party hat or bring treats or something. And Craig's like, "Hey, let's just get the work done. Okay? Can we just get the work done?" So if you don't know that, it's going to cause friction. If you do know it, I think you can mitigate that. Right? Another one that's kind of interesting here as we get to our next slide is empathy. You take a look and you say, "Okay, Monique, high on empathy. Erin, not." So if a customer has got a big problem, who do you want talking to them? Well, probably Monique. Who do you want to keep as far away from that customer as possible? Probably Erin. Play to your strengths. Play to those things where you know people are going to be motivated and engaging. Monique is going to enjoy hearing about that customer's problems and finding a solution. Erin, not so much.

Kind of interesting. And the other one and this is in our personal lives, right? The biggest cause of relationship dysfunction is disagreement on money. You can see how both Craig and Monique, money is not a big motivator for them. Erin, it is. So let's say you've got a project you're putting out to bid. Erin is going to want to take the very lowest possible price. Craig and Monique are maybe going to want to work with people they know and like, or people that are going to make it kind of fun and engaging even if you have to pay a bit of a premium for that. So again, knowing what the differences are is really important. We pulled up this great quote for you, by the way, a CEO of a hospital that we worked with. He said, "Look. We're treating everybody the same, whether you're in labor and delivery, the emergency room, or oncology." But they're not the same. The nurses and the people that work in those departments have different motivators. And they are going to need to be treated differently. The old school is clearly, "We treat everybody the same. That's fair. Everybody gets treated the same and that's fair." New school is, "You know what? We've got to treat people as individuals."

In fact, I would submit that if you're treating everybody the same, you're an idiot, in a shortened term. Because you're not going to be able to get the maximized engagement or productivity out of everybody using the same method for everyone across the board. You're going to want to treat people that are in their 20s differently than people that are in their 50s. People that have a different ethnic background, or they've grown up in Asia or Europe, and North or South America. They've got different idiosyncrasies. There are different things that mean different things to them. And good leaders know the difference.

Well, I thought this little diagram would be helpful for you, the manager partnership. Again, I've sort of used a healthcare example here with the photos. But as a manager, look, I'm going to listen to you and I'm going to help you grow. I'm going to share feedback. I'm going to help you with your career and your development. On the same token, I expect you to share those aspirations with me. I want you to seek that growth. I mean, tell me where it is you want to grow and develop, and embrace those changes. If we can agree on those things, it's going to work out pretty well for all of us, again, understanding what are our motivators. We found that engaging leaders show genuine care and concern, care about the performance, holding ourselves and the people that work with and for us accountable. But learning about your motivators, not just who you are and what you're good at, but what are you passionate about? A quick example, we cite this in the book 'What Motivates Me'. But Chuck Robbins worked for United Gold and he's a geologist. They turned him loose down in South America, "Go find some gold." And very much enjoyed his autonomy and was working for years, and years and years found one of the biggest gold strikes ever in South America.

Well, because he was so good at it, and we do this all the time, said, "You know what? You're really good at this. We want you to then teach everybody else. We're going to put you in charge of the geology department." It was the worst thing in the world they could've done for him. Six months later he was ready to quit because they wanted him to be a builder, and he was a problem-solver and a thinker. So literally, he was getting ready to leave the organization when they said, "Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute. How can we keep you? We value you. You're a tremendous asset." He said, "Can you just let me go find some more gold? Turn me loose." They did and he found a second strike. Well, if you get one strike in a career is incredible for a geologist. To have two, world-class, he's legendary. Again, knowing the motivators. And we do it all the time. "He's a good researcher. Let's put him in charge of the research facility." "He's a great salesman. Let's put him in charge of the sales." Be careful with that. Find out what their motivators are. You might be surprised.

Well, in the few minutes we've got left, let's wrap up with, "Praise effort, reward results." Once you understand what those motivators are, you're going to want to reward people differently depending on what their passions are and what really means a lot to them. I love this data point from Gallup. "Employees who don't feel rewarded at work are twice as likely to leave within a year." We have this personal need to be affirmed, to know that what we do matters, that we make a difference. And when we make that difference, we're noticed and we're celebrated. I love this. "Praise effort, reward results," I think is such a simple way to put it, and hopefully valuable to you. We don't always get the results we want. But we praise that effort because we want people to try again. Good coaches, good managers say, "Hey, that didn't go quite as well as we hoped it would. But with a little more training and a little more experience, I'm convinced you're going to be one of our best customer service people ever," whatever the department is.

But then when you get that result, you reward it. Right? That's the championship trophy. Praising efforts is the practice. Rewarding results is the play. The more you practice, the better you play, the better your odds of winning. And you know, when you win, you get the medal. Right? You get it now. You get it right away. It's reinforced. Usain Bolt, who's better than him? I love this picture of the American soccer team. Look at the joy and the engagement there. That reaffirms and it gives them a token and a memory, and an emotional connection. Well, not all of us are going to be in the Olympics or in the World Cup. Here's a great story. I love this from our friends at 'Yum!'. It doesn't have to be expensive. It can be really, really simple. David Novak is the CEO. You can see him there on the left. He's got this really great little award system. It's called Walk the Talk, and when somebody does something great he gives them chattering teeth. I think it's a couple of bucks at a novelty store. People display them proudly. "This is my Walk the Talk." You can see them going through and high-fiving people with their thunder sticks and so on, and so on.

And they create this really fun place to work. You can see their brands down there, KFC and Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. See, one of their core values is fun. If fun isn't one of your big motivators, you're not going to fit in very well to this culture. They've got a recognition band. They do all kinds of fun little things to really make the workplace engaging. Now again, if that's not one of your motivators, if you don't like that kind of environment if you're more of an analytical and you kind of want to be locked away, Yum! probably isn't the place for you to land. And what we love about the motivators assessment and the dialogue is it creates a language around which you can talk about your motivators. "What are your top motivators? What are your identities? What is it you're really passionate about?" If we can get together as a team and really understand that, I think that's where high engagement really comes in. Well, we've kind of walked you through at a lightening-fast pace here about understanding your motivators, developing your people, and praising that effort and reward results.

Well, one of my favorite data points and what makes us passionate, Adrian Gostick and myself, and our wonderful team at The Culture Works, is that when you're engaged at work, you're 150% more likely to be happier at home in your personal life. Remember we talked about when you have a bad job, you share all that misery with your family and when you have a great job, you share all the good news as well? University of California proves that to be true. So as we create these great places to work, we create great places to go home to. We create better communities, more engaged communities. I just think that's a wonderful ripple effect from having a great place to work.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the session. As I mentioned, we've got our first White Paper that's come out. If you would like a copy of that, Lance at thecultureworks.com would be happy to send it to you. My email is chester@chesterelton.com if there's anything else you'd like to connect with me, I'd be happy to do that. We do have some fun offers for you at the end here. I know that you always want to see, "Well, what's the value? How can I take the assessment and how can I get my team to take the assessment?" Well, normally the assessment would cost $40. But for the webinar, we're going to offer you a discount code. And the discount code is my name. I always think that's kind of cool. CHESTER, all caps. Go into thecultureworks.com/motivators. It'll say, "Do you want to buy an assessment?" Like you do when you checkout at Amazon, it'll say, "Do you have a promo code?" Punch in the promo code, and it's only $10. If you'd like too, we'd be happy to send you the team worksheet digitally, so you can plug people in and experiment with your team and see how that works out for you as you look at those different motivators. It's interesting. We also certify trainers, if this is something you become passionate about. The virtual certification has just ended, but we're going to have some more coming up soon and you'll find that on The Culture Works calendar. Certify in-person or online.

Lastly, I love to go speak. If you've got a big leadership conference and you want to invite me in or Adrian Gostick, my wonderful co-author, please get a hold of christy@leadingspeakers.com. We'd be happy to engage with you and see what we can do to help you with your culture to make it more engaging and more motivating. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I hope you enjoy the books we're writing. Adrian and I also are on LinkedIn. We're influencers on LinkedIn if you want to connect with us there. But just in closing, we've spent a lot of time figuring out how to create these great workplaces, highly engaging, how to develop better leaders and better teams. All with the purpose of, when you create a great place to work, it translates to home. All these best practices that work in the workplace, you know what? They work at home too.

So let's make sure that we understand the people's motivators that are most important to us in our lives: our spouses, our partners, our families, our brothers and sisters, our kids. Let's make sure that we are passionate about getting them engaged and making sure that they feel valued and appreciated as well. A great place to work, a great place to come home to. You can't beat it. Well, I hope these few minutes we've spent together have been engaging and helpful for you. Please feel free to contact me at any time, and enjoy the rest of the BambooHR webinars. It's a great idea and it's a great place to get to know and network with other people. Take care. All the best. Cheers.