McClellan’s theory of motivation


My next couple of blogs will be on motivation.  I wrote a blog in 2018 about motivation and emotional intelligence: Do You Make This One Big Mistake About Emotional Intelligence? that followed on a blog by Daniel Goleman.

This time it was a blog by Rachel Pacheco from the Wharton Business School Motivator in Chief: Getting the Most from Your Team.  The blog suggests you play chess not checkers to motivate your team and use McClelland’s Theory of Motivation postulated in 1961 as a tool for doing so.  For those unfamiliar with his theory McClelland identifies three needs (achievement, power, and affiliation) that correlate with how an individual is motivated, particularly at work. While everyone is driven by a combination of these needs, most of us have a dominant motivator.  These motivators are not inherent; we develop them through our culture and life experience.

I disagree with this last assertion.  I maintain that it is our temperament (our genetic emotional predisposition) that determines our motivation and is explained in the 7MTF model.  Also what drives the difference is where you are positioned on the spectra of seven different but common mental illnesses.

If Achievement is a team member’s primary need, they will be motivated by goal setting and accomplishing goals.  In the 7MTF model this is an Engineer who is motivated by a drive to complete projects.

Team members driven by primary need for Power will be motivated by competition and the ability to influence others.  In the 7MTF model this is a Politician who is driven by a desire to win.

Those with the primary need for Affiliation are motivated by belonging to a group and feeling a strong sense of community in their workplace.  They will stick with an organization because of loyalty to the team.  In the 7MTF model this is a Doublechecker who is driven by a desire for security.

The advice given in the article about how to handle the three types is excellent and overlaps vey much with the advice that I give in my own on-line video courses.  My criticism is more about granularity and practicality.  Seven is the practical limit of information and in the case of people having two motivators allows for 21 different combinations rather than 3.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn on 26 May 2022.



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