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Increasing Team and Individual Motivation with the Motivational Diagnostic

Key Takeaways

  • Our motivation levels are influenced by a mix of different factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic. If we can understand these factors, we have a greater chance of increasing our motivation.
  • Many organisations focus on extrinsic motivation factors such as bonuses and status despite the fact that scientific research shows that these are not the best nor the longest lasting way to improve motivation.
  • Focusing on our intrinsic motivation factors can lead us to more powerful and longer lasting motivation.
  • Taking time to regularly reflect on our motivation levels and rate the factors contributing towards them can help us to increase our levels of motivation.
  • Facilitating a team motivation retrospective or workshop can help teammates to understand and appreciate their similarities and differences in motivation factors and identify ways to improve overall team motivation.


Being motivated can make a positive difference to both our engagement and our success in the workplace. The same is true of teams - a motivated team is much more likely to be engaged at work and achieve results.

Gallup’s 2022 state of the global workplace survey found that just 21% of the global workplace are actively engaged. 60% of employees are emotionally checked out and 19% are miserable at work! Engagement and motivation are not the same thing, but they are strongly related to one another and there are many common factors that contribute towards both our engagement and our motivation.

If we can become more aware of our motivation levels and find time for ourselves and our teams to reflect and improve, we can take a step in the right direction towards improving motivation and engagement in our workplaces.

Our motivation may fluctuate depending on where we work, our role, who we are working with, the task we are doing, and even the time of day. Sometimes we may struggle to pinpoint the exact reason why we are feeling unmotivated at a point in time.

In early 2022 I decided to develop a Motivation Diagnostic tool to help people to understand more about how motivated they feel and the factors that are contributing towards that motivation or demotivation.

This tool helps you to explore several factors of motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, and provides you and your teams with a way to identify areas of improvement.

Understanding Motivation and the Factors that Influence it

Motivation is that drive and excitement that we feel when we really want to do something. When we feel motivated, we can complete tasks that might be challenging or time consuming so that we can achieve a goal, get a sense of satisfaction, or for some sort of reward.

If you’ve read Dan Pink’s Drive book, you’ll already be familiar with extrinsic and intrinsic motivation - extrinsic motivation is influenced by external factors such as pay, rewards, bonuses, impact and results, being held accountable or feeling appreciated. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, when we feel that we want to do something for ourselves, not because someone is asking us to do it, or because we are being promised a reward. This type of motivation is typically more powerful and sustainable than extrinsic motivation.

Pink talks extensively about autonomy, mastery and purpose in his book, but there are other intrinsic motivators such as curiosity and being able to get into the flow state (aka "the zone"). There are dozens of motivational factors and it is normal for different people to be motivated by different things. Usually we have a mix of extrinsic and intrinsic factors and the importance of these factors to us will vary over time. For example, I may place more importance on having autonomy if I am working in a role where I am not getting enough autonomy right now, or I may place more value on mastery if I am finding that I have no time or opportunities to get better at doing the things that I enjoy the most.

Measuring and Understanding our Motivation with the Motivation Diagnostic

The motivation diagnostic can help individuals and teams measure and improve their motivation. If you want to improve something, it always helps to have a way to measure it first. The motivation diagnostic takes 10 of the most common intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence motivation and allows people and teams to rate each on a scale of 1-5, where 1 means that you are extremely unhappy with this factor right now, and 5 means that it is perfect for you right now.

Intrinsic Factors

  • Autonomy - you have the ability to direct your own work. You have enough freedom in what you do, how you do it, when you do it and who you do it with.
  • Mastery and Learning - you have the space and the opportunities to learn and master new skills and gain new knowledge. You are able to get better and better at the things you enjoy doing.
  • Purpose - you are working on something that is part of something bigger. You can connect the work you are doing to the purpose and it feels meaningful to you.
  • Flow - you regularly get into a flow state where you are immersed in your work, lose track of time and forget your surroundings.
  • Curiosity - you are curious about the work you do and find it interesting.

Extrinsic Factors

  • Impact and Results - you can see the results of your work and the impact it makes.
  • Accountability - you have someone or a group of people that hold you accountable in a healthy way.
  • Recognition and Appreciation - the work you do is recognised and appreciated by your peers and leadership.
  • Cultural Alignment - you are happy with your company and team culture and it aligns with your needs.
  • Belonging - you feel part of a team. You work with others towards a shared goal and have people who support you.

If you want to measure your individual motivation, it is simply a case of rating each of these 10 factors on that scale of 1-5, then adding them up to get a score out of 50 and working out a percentage. This isn’t a scientific percentage of how motivated you are, but a reference point that you can use in the future to understand how your motivation is trending over time.

I used this tool regularly on myself whilst developing it and found that by identifying the weakest factors I was able to take some actions and improve my overall score by around 10 percentage points over a period of a few weeks. However, the biggest increase in my motivation didn’t come until later in the year when I moved to a different company and role. This resulted in a significant improvement to my purpose, levels of curiosity, learning and cultural alignment and boosted my overall motivation score by more than 25 percentage points.

Running a Team Motivation Retrospective

I’ve designed a one-hour format for a team retrospective that you can use periodically if you’d like to understand and improve your team’s motivation.

When running this with teams, I have found it useful to ask everyone to think about each motivation factor individually and rate themselves first. This gives team members some time for self reflection, and I’ve had feedback that it makes it easier for them to think about overall team motivation once they have had time to consider their own motivation.

Once everyone has completed the motivation diagnostic individually, I ask them to give the team a rating for each factor, taking into account their own individual motivation, but also how they feel within their team.

You can find the format and suggested time boxes for this retrospective below. This should take about an hour, but if you have longer it will give team members more time for discussions and coming up with improvement ideas.

  • Opening - explain the purpose of the retrospective and provide an overview of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation if needed (5 mins)
  • Individual Diagnostic - talk everyone through the 10 motivation factors and ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 for each (15 mins)
  • Discussion - ask everyone to get into pairs or threes and discuss any insights from going through the diagnostic, then do a debrief with the full team (10 mins)
  • Team Diagnostic - ask everyone to rate the team for each of the 10 factors, taking into consideration their own score for each factor. You can easily do this on a whiteboard and ask people to dot vote on a score for each factor (10 mins)
  • Improvement Ideas - identify the 3 strongest factors and 3 weakest factors for the team, then discuss what you can do as a team to improve the 3 weakest factors (20 mins)

I have experienced that this retrospective can lead to some very animated discussions between teammates when they discover differences and similarities in the motivation factors that are most important to them. It can be a great way to help teammates to get an appreciation of how everyone is feeling right now and what is currently motivating or demotivating them.

Be sure to leave enough time to discuss improvement ideas during the retrospective. I’ve found it useful to think about the circle of influence and control to identify which factors the team has the control or influence to improve.

So far I have found that many teams put learning and mastery and/or flow at the top of their list of areas to improve. Many of the actions that teams have taken have centred around how to create enough time and space for flow and learning, free of interruptions and meetings. and how to find opportunities for work that will help team members to develop and improve their skills.

How to Increase Motivation

Some of the things that I’ve found to be helpful to increase team and individual motivation are listed below. Ideally you want the team to come up with their own ideas to increase the overall team motivation.

  • Giving teams problems to solve rather than features to build - teams who are given a problem to solve rather than a feature to deliver are likely to have increased motivation. I experienced this recently when a team that I was coaching had the opportunity to be significantly more involved in the discovery, problem solving and design aspects of a new piece of work. I witnessed a huge shift in the team’s motivation as a result of this - they became more curious, got excited about the opportunity to solve an interesting problem and held each other accountable for developing the best solution possible for the customer.

  • Having a "Learning and Mastery" workshop - taking some time to understand each member of the team, their skills and their desired areas of development can make it easier for them to increase learning and mastery. I’ve run workshops like this for many of the teams that I’ve coached and have found that once everyone in the team is aware of each other’s learning goals, they spot more opportunities in their day to day work to help these team members learn, or opportunities to mentor one another and share knowledge.

  • Create opportunities for feedback and appreciation - sometimes this doesn’t come naturally for every team, but there are things you can do to facilitate or encourage this. Kudos cards from Management 3.0 provide a nice way to share appreciation for team mates. Customer and stakeholder feedback can also be very powerful to a team’s motivation, both from the perspective of helping the team connect more closely to their purpose and to get feedback so that they feel appreciated and have opportunities for growth. One of the teams I worked with recently put in place a very simple customer feedback loop on the new pages they were developing within their project. I could see the excitement and motivation of the team rise every time they released something and got their first piece of feedback, which usually came within a few hours of each release.

  • Creating conditions to get into the flow state - I often hear teams complain that they can’t get into the flow state due to having too many meetings, or too much work in progress. Blocking out meeting-free times in the team diary and encouraging team members to limit their WIP (work in progress) can help to create more opportunities for flow. A team I worked with recently created a set of meeting norms and some principles around respecting each other's diaries and blocking out common time. These simple changes not only helped create more space for team members to focus, they had a significant impact on the overall team health and motivation.

  • Building a strong team culture - you may not be able to influence the overall company culture, but a lot can be done to build and maintain a strong team culture. Having a team startup (or reset) workshop to agree on a team charter, ways of working, norms and getting to know more about each other can help to set a new team up for success or strengthen an existing team.

You may notice that I’ve not listed rewards and bonuses above as a way to increase motivation. The candle experiment discussed in Pink’s book looked at how monetary rewards affected people when they were asked to solve a problem requiring creative thinking. This experiment was repeated in countries around the world over the decades and consistently found that the groups who were offered a reward performed the task on average 3 times slower.

Many organisations spend a lot of effort on extrinsic motivators such as bonuses and rewards, despite the fact that there are many scientific studies that show that extrinsic rewards can often have the opposite effect to what we expect to have.

Make Time for Regular Self Reflection

If you are feeling unmotivated, it is good to remind yourself that it is perfectly normal for our motivation to fluctuate and for us to feel unmotivated from time to time. I suggest taking regular time to reflect on your motivation to increase your self awareness. I’ve had lots of feedback from individuals that the motivation diagnostic helps to give them a structure for this reflection.

To do this, just go through the motivation diagnostic factors listed above, rating each factor one by one. Once you’ve rated each factor, pick 2-3 factors that you’d most like to improve right now and think about what is within your control or influence to improve these. Often there are actions that you can take yourself to improve your motivation, or conversations that you can have with your manager or a teammate to help influence something that will make a difference to your motivation.

Taking some time to regularly reflect on your motivation. Using a tool like the motivation diagnostic can help you to become more self aware of your motivation and help you and your teams to feel more motivated and engaged at work.

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