How to find motivation based on your individual work style

Understanding what personal hot buttons engage you allows you to take actions that make them work to your benefit.

How to find motivation based on your individual work style
[Photo: Xan Griffin/Unsplash]

Whether you’re working on a big goal or just trying to get revved up for the day, getting and staying motivated can be a challenge. Sure, you can read a bunch of motivational quotes, visualize yourself being motivated again, or engage in other practices. But understanding your motivation style could be the key to setting yourself up for greater success.


“Motivation is a little more complicated than personality type,” says Janice Presser, PhD, founder and chief technology officer at Teamability, a  team-building technology firm. “And it’s also simpler than most psychologists make it out to be.” Presser says that there are key factors that inspire us. Understanding what personal hot buttons engage you allows you to take actions that make them work to your benefit.

What motivates you? Check out these four motivation styles and what you can do to kick your drive into gear.


One of the strongest motivation drivers is power. Each of us has this motivating factor–it helps us function in a challenging world and evolves into a desire for mastery, Presser says. But those for whom power is the dominant motivator love the feeling of winning, Presser says. They thrive on opportunities to prove their ability.

Kim Christfort, the cocreator of management consulting firm Deloitte’s Business Chemistry framework, calls this work style the “driver.” Drivers seek challenges, says Christfort, who is also coauthor of Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships. “They don’t like having an ambiguous vague sense of what’s needed; they really want to have that point on the horizon that they’re marching toward,” she says.

Mark Epp, senior management consultant with Talent Plus, Inc., a Lincoln, Nebraska, talent assessment and development firm, says for some, this drive is internal–a hunger to learn or develop. For others, the drive may be external, where they may do best in work environments with other competitive types who drive them to up their game. People motivated by influence care about how they can affect others, as well as being taken seriously. They may have a specialized knowledge, skill, or talent that makes them an authority. The fact that they can use those attributes to teach or have an impact on others is a key driving force for them.


Motivate yourself. Keep your motivation strong by knowing what’s expected of you and what the objective is, Presser says. Ask a lot of questions about the nature of the work and what the best possible outcome is. The last thing you want to do is put effort into something that’s not going to deliver the success you crave.

Make the most of your desire to compete or influence by tracking metrics, such as sales, productivity, or other accomplishments. Treat your task or project like a game that you intend to win and continue to master your craft.

Focusing on your talents can make you happier at work, too. A 2016 study from the University of Haifa and Ariel University, both in Israel, found that using strengths at work was associated with productivity and job satisfaction.


While some are motivated by winning, others are motivated by belief, Presser says. This may be belief in a set of values, mission, product, or other driving force. Management consulting firm Mercer’s “2018 Global Talent Study” found that among thriving employees, three-quarters say their company has a strong sense of purpose that resonates with their personal values. Belief helps us create a meaningful relationship with the world, Presser says.

Beyond that, employees who have a strong values connection to the workplace will often willingly go the extra mile, Epp says. We’ve seen this in the company owner who works long hours in their business because they believe in what they’re doing, or the nonprofit worker who understands that the job has a meaningful impact on other people or the world.


Motivate yourself. Reconnect with what you find meaningful in your work, Christfort says. Whether it’s the overall mission of your organization or the fact that your job allows you to support yourself and your family or doing things that you love, think about the reasons you get up and go to work every day. What do you love about your job? What positive impact do you have? Focus on the ways that your work is connected to what matters to you as a person to revitalize your motivation.

Work preference

When it comes to how you do your work, Deloitte’s research differentiates between Pioneers and Guardians. Pioneers are focused on opportunities and new experiences and need the flexibility to find and engage in them. Guardians, on the other hand, need stability and processes to do their best work.

Finding the environment that suits your work style is an important part of motivation, Epps says. While some workers need a high degree of structure in the work they do, others need more freedom and flexibility. Put someone who needs details and structure in a free-wheeling environment, and they may feel overwhelmed and unmoored. Conversely, if you’re someone who needs latitude in how you structure your workday or perform your job, a rigid environment focused on processes may feel suffocating.

Motivate yourself. Check out the ways you can adapt your work environment to better suit you, Christfort suggests. If you’re a freedom-seeking Pioneer, check out flexible work arrangements, such as shifting your work hours or working remotely at least part of the time.

If you’re a Guardian who needs structure and details, work on developing processes for your work functions, engaging your manager and your team to encourage others to support those needs. Guardians may find challenges to improve their precision and attention to detail motivating, using the same game-like tactics of those motivated by power use, but applied differently.



Another powerful driver is “affiliation,” Presser says. Relationships and connection to others is important to them. They thrive in settings where these connections are strengthened.

Deloitte’s research calls people who have this dominant work style Integrators. “They love connecting people. They’re very diplomatic,” Christfort says. Integrators also want to understand the needs of others and how their decisions are affecting the people around them. To them, the means is just as important as the end if it has a better impact on their people.

Motivate yourself. Focus on your workplace relationships, Christfort says. Network, connect people with mentors, develop strong contact and friendships in the workplace. With the advent of remote work, people who thrive on connection may be missing the face-to-face contact with their coworkers. Find tools, like video conferencing, that help you strengthen interactions with your coworkers to help get you excited about work again.

About the author

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites