How to Get What You Really Want (Top 12)

crazyman900x300I’m often asked why people behave the way they do.  People are wondering what the top motivations of employees are.  They’re also wondering what are the top motivations in life.  At some level, these questions have rather simple answers; in other ways, the answers are pretty darn complex.

The easy answer is this: people behave the way they do because of their motivations and values.  That is, people are motivated to get what they want in a way that fits with their values.  That’s so simplistic that it sounds stupid, I suppose.  But it is more complicated…

The number one rule in psychology is “it depends.”   For example, why do people eat?  Because they are hungry, you might answer.   But in actually, people eat because food is in front of them.  People eat when food is freely available and tastes and smells good.  People are often not hungry when they eat.

Let’s forget for a moment about basic biological drives, urges and impulses.  Let’s explore the top 12 reasons why people behave the way they do, above and beyond primal urges.  Let’s explore why employees behave the way they do: what are their motivations?

The list below focuses on the top motivations of employees, and includes some values and general preferences too.  Each employee has a complex pattern of motivators, which then compel them to do what they do.  This list highlights the complexity of the motivations people have in life.

Top 12 Motivations, Values and Preferences

Click here to download a one-page handout of this Top 12 list.

You can think of each of these 12 motivations and values as being on a continuum, from Low to High.  A person can be motivated by many of these factors, or just a few.  There’s no “right” way to be motivated, of course.  Even though others might expect us to be motivated in a certain way (e.g., by Money or Achievement), our motivations are not likely to conform to others’ expectations or demands.

Here are the top 12 motivations, values and work preferences:


Indifferent to Accomplishment vs. Achievement-oriented, Autonomous and Influential

Striving to achieve results, be autonomous, control resources, and gain responsibility. Low scorers are want others to lead; high scorers want to take charge, have control and make a difference.


Maintaining Consistency and the Status Quo vs. Developing New Skills and Knowledge

Wanting to learn and improve each day.  Low scorers care more about applying current knowledge and skills; high scorers care about deepening knowledge, learning new things and enhancing skills.


Task-focused vs. Connecting to Higher-level Purpose and Meaning 

Driven to connect daily life experiences with a higher purpose.  Low scorers care more about tasks and achieving goals; high scorers seek to understand connections to meaning and life purpose.


Indifferent to Financial Matters vs. Focused on Financial Objectives

Driven to achieve financial security and monetary measures of success.  Low scorers have modest financial aspirations; high scorers strive to achieve financial success or financial freedom.


Serious-minded and Disciplined vs. Fun-Loving and Enjoyment Seeking

Wanting to have fun, minimize boredom and enhance variety.  Low scorers are restrained and self-disciplined and don’t mind repetition; high scorers are fun, avoid boredom and want to enjoy work.


Indifferent to Approval vs. Wanting to be Recognized and Shown Appreciation

Seeking approval and acknowledgments of being valued.  Low scorers are unconcerned about getting noticed or appreciated; high scorers want clear evidence they’re valued and appreciated.


Independent and Private vs. Wanting Social Interactions and Personal Connection

Wanting opportunities to build and enhance social networks and collaborate with people. Low scorers prefer to work alone; high scorers search for interaction and meaningful social connections.


Intuitive vs. Data-driven in Problem Solving

Preferring objective, rational, and data-driven approaches to decisions.  Low scorers prefer quick, intuitive “gut-level” decisions; high scorers seek truth and appreciate data- or fact-based decisions.


Valuing Others’ Self-Help Efforts vs. Being Eager to Help Others

Looking for opportunities to help those who are struggling.  Low scorers believe in letting others “pick themselves up by their own bootstraps” and high scorers are quick to extend help to others.


Valuing Convention and Tradition vs. Wanting to Create, Innovate and Change

Seeing new possibilities and anticipating trends.  Low scorers value historical structures and proven approaches; high scorers are inspired to create, challenge the status quo and explore possibilities.


Risk Tolerant vs. Risk Averse

Wanting certainty, stability, consistency and security.  Low scorers appreciate uncertainty and have a high tolerance for risk; high scorers value defined clarity, job security, consistency and predictability.


Practical vs. Artistic, Sensory and Creative

Wanting sensory experiences and appreciating the arts.  Low scorers care most about functionality and practicality; high scorers care about creativity, self-expression and sensory experiences.

Click here to download a one-page handout of this Top 12 list.



About Curt Buermeyer

I am the founder and president of LeadPeople. I hope you enjoyed this post and encourage you to subscribe to receive these in your inbox. Thanks for visiting!

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