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How do I motivate someone with a different work-style?

This week my client Tahj asked me a great question.

“Vanessa…can I get someone on my team to be more hungry?”

Tahj works for a consulting firm. The culture in his company is fast-paced and they tend to hire very results-driven people who strive to achieve ambitious goals.

So, within the context of his organizational culture, a person who isn’t seen as proactive, driven, and “hungry” is criticized.

My response to Tahj may surprise you.

The short answer to his question is NO!

Now here is the long answer…

In my experience, people are either “hungry or not.” This is not something that you can teach.


Well, we all have different work-styles.

We all have different strengths.

We all value and prioritize different things at work.

While one person may value drive, achievement, and “hunger,” another person actually may be demotivated by these qualities.

So, Tahj’s question to me needs to be reframed. The question leaders need to ask is not…“How do I get someone on my team to be more hungry?”

Rather, the question is… “What can I do as a leader to motivate someone with a different work-style than mine or someone who values different things than I do?”

If you have a team member who values a calm, structured, supportive atmosphere, then pushing them to be “hungry” will fail every time.

Here are some other things that you can try to motivate them:

  • Be clear about their tasks and responsibilities and don’t skip the specifics.
  • Plan ahead to be able to give plenty of warning when changes are coming or deadlines are approaching.
  • Give them the structure they need to feel comfortable.
  • Work with them to define quality standards.
  • Together, define the term “proactive” and ask them to develop a skill aligned with your definition.
  • Ask them what kind of support they need from you.

While this person on your team may lack “drive” or isn’t “hungry,” consider what they do offer the team. Maybe they are diplomatic and work really well with demanding clients. Perhaps they are really empathetic and could be a very supportive leader one day. Maybe they are very persistent and work well on routine tasks or highly detailed projects.

Or…maybe they are in the wrong role or working in the wrong organization.

That’s for you to decide.

The reality is that what you value as a leader might be different from other people on your team. Don’t give up on these people who bring diversity to your team and offer different strengths.

After all, to quote the great Maya Angelou, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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