Struggling with Meaninglessness

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Managing Talents : 3 Levels of Motivations

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Helping people to succeed

One of the things I, unexpectedly, enjoyed doing a lot in my work at SAYS is shaping up the dynamics of the team I’m in (the Campaign team). Especially recently where the team is sort of growing slightly bigger, I had to rethink of how to effectively manage a group of young and talented individuals. Not easy since I always see myself as a pretty individualistic person and now I have to put on the lens of a team player.

I spent some time during my long break thinking about what was the most effective ways to get everyone in the team to sort of auto-pilot themselves to excel in their roles without needing to micro-manage them. And the answer I discovered was really simple actually, it is – ‘Helping everyone in the team to succeed’.

The upside of ‘Helping people to succeed’ is pretty immense. I could easily list out hundreds of reasons why this philosophy is powerful when applied to the team – Eg. They get happier doing what they like to do. They get better at what they are doing. They will enjoy the roles they are playing. They grow and become better individuals. They look forward to come to work everyday.  They feel purposeful. And 94 more other reasons. But one of the biggest upsides is that by genuinely want to help other people to succeed,  I will naturally push myself to go to a higher level.  As a result, it will make me to be an even better team player. Plus, I’m also a believer of Karma – When you helped someone to succeed, over time, they will help you back to succeed one way or other.

However, there’s one problem – Not everyone share the same level of motivation. Why is motivation important? Because if there’s no motivation, the philosophy of ‘helping people to succeed’ will be rendered useless due to these three essential life philosophies :

  1. Nobody can help you, if you don’t help yourself
  2. When you are ready to learn, a teacher will appear
  3. You reap what you sow

So, yes, I have been pretty fortunate working alongside very talented and motivated individuals so far.

Understanding an individual’s potential

In the last few months, I have learned how to move individuals around the team based on these three factors:

1. Motivation level

2. Skill level

3. Confidence level

The sum of all these three factors will determine how well an individual function in the team. They are all important, but yet, they are not equally as important.

Every individual has his/her own set of strengths and weaknesses. But I think that’s secondary because roles can be arranged and moved them around to play on their strengths. I have also seen people who are motivated and talented but severely lack confidence in their ability to execute their roles properly. However, with the right methods and patience, you can always help someone to accelerate their confidence level. But motivation level is more special. Motivation is always more important than anything else, because motivation is something either they have it or they don’t. You can’t change, do or help anything in an individual’s motivation, at least in a short time frame. And that’s the reason why, I rate motivation very highly in workplace.

3 Level Of Motivations

Based on my observation, I succinctly narrowed down motivations to 3 levels :

Level 1 Motivation: Intrinsically Motivated

Level 2 Motivation: Extrinsically Motivated

Level 3 Motivation: Not Motivated


Level 1 Motivation: Intrinsically Motivated

Characteristics: These individuals are often the most exciting and easiest to work with. They aim high. They are very passionate in the role, industry, or company there are in. Individuals who are intrinsically motivated will propel their energy inside out. When an individual is intrinsically motivated, he/she by default will be extrinsically motivated too.  (The inner world reflects the outer world)

  • Accept challenges, eager to learn and grow
  • Attempt to be the best at what they do
  • Driven, passionate, strong sense of succeeding

Level 2 Motivation: Extrinsically Motivated

Characteristics: They are not motivated to be the best at whatever they do. Growth is not a priority. However, they do care about the team, about the company progress and the roles they are in. They love their job, but have stronger and high priority outside of the work scope (family, other interests, etc)

  • Routine activities and tasks
  • Stable and predictable roles

Level 3 Motivation: Not Motivated

Characteristics:  Some individuals are not motivated to grow. And they are not concerned about the roles they are in, about the team and about the company. They are working for the sake of working. They are probably strongly motivated in other areas outside of the company but for some reason, just somehow end up at this place.


Understanding the level of motivation is important because

1. You will know who you should spend more time with.

2. You will know who will fit in which role and who’s not and three

3. You will know who to rely on for challenging tasks.

Understand all of these can help to shape the dynamics of the team to be much better. It’s sort of like a decision tree to move talents around and assigning the right tasks for them. For example:

  • Assign high level and challenging tasks or special projects to Level 1
  • Assign day to day important tasks to Level 2
  • Assign tedious and repetitive tasks to Level 3
  • If you assign a challenging task to Level 3, it will be a disaster.
  • If you assign a tedious tasks to a Level 1, in long run, there will bound to be unhappiness.
  • If you are spending a lot of time attempting to sharpen Level 3’s skills, you are probably wasting your time.
  • If you are not giving ownership to Level 1 in the task/role they are doing, you will probably not see the person’s full potential
  • If you are expecting a Level 2 to effectively lead the entire team, it will most likely be not effective.
  • Etc.

How to help people to succeed (especially Level 1 individuals)

1. Spend the majority of time helping/coaching them to horn their skills

2. Entrust the important roles to them. Give them ownership.

3. Empower and support them to do whatever they think is necessary for the outcome

4. Always be ready to step in to help solve problems/crisis simply because they are the biggest risk takers.

5. A leader must always be optimistic and positive. And always put 100% trust in them.

You have to trust your team-mates. Always. If you can’t trust your teammates, you are lost.” – Eric Cantona

Are An All Star Team = Success?

Now, some would think, let’s get all only Level 1 individuals and the company will thrive.

I don’t believe in that. I believe there should be a balance between the 3 Levels – Simply because there will always be mid to low level tasks which nobody will want to do.  Not every tasks is equally as exciting. Important  but tedious tasks exist in this universe.  Hence, the need to tinker around based on different individual’s motivation. So, I would say the ratio should be around

Level 1 – 50%

Level 2 – 40%

Level 3 – 10%

(Depending on what’s the function of the department. And i would also agree if the team to go without any Level 3 .)


Written by elan85

January 14, 2013 at 12:09 am

Posted in Management, Philosophy

One Response

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  1. […] Managing Talents : 3 Levels of Motivations […]

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