3 Types of Motivation: What is driving you and how can you drive others?

Aug 10, 2016 by Svetlana Mukhina


According to the Theory of Needs by David McClelland, there are three main drivers for motivation: a need for achievement, need for affiliation and need for power. Let’s see what these needs are about and how we should deal with them.

Motivation: Need for Achievement

Have you ever met people who are always interested in improving themselves (and actually others as well), to become faster, smarter and more productive than ever? It seems they cannot stop developing themselves to be better; they are eager for achievements and enhancements. To tell you the truth, I also share this drive and would like to provide a "how-to" that can help readers motivate and manage these achievers, as they are called in the Need Theory model, more efficiently and less stressfully.

What Motivates People with the Need for Achievement

Be better than yourself

  • They develop themselves;
  • May compare past and current achievements;
  • Winning is more important than participating;

Be better than others

  • Compare their results to others;
  • Show interest in how others are progressing;
  • Don’t like when others make fun of them

Challenging tasks

  • The task should be difficult, but achievable
  • Can do monotonous work, when it’s a part of an interesting endeavor;
  • Prefer to fulfill tasks step by step;

A stable and long-term career

  • Interested in becoming a good professional in one area, rather than a jack-of-all-trades

How to Deal with This Drive

  • Provide a clear plan/path for professional growth;
  • Define how the person can build his/her career within the project/program;
  • Give an opportunity for them to attend conferences and trainings;
  • Set clear goals and meaningful KPIs;

  • Share what the evaluation criteria is for team members;
  • Explain why someone is/is not getting something;
  • Ensure that the bonuses and appraisal systems are transparent;
  • Communicate openly about the achievements of team members;

  • Clarify how the task impacts the project or program;
  • Make sure the person is clear on why it is important that they are doing the task;
  • Check that the task corresponds to the person’s skills;

  • Provide opportunities to deepen their knowledge;
  • Confirm that the project/program is stable enough for long-term career planning

Motivation: Need for Affiliation

Sometimes we have to make hard choices and decide: what is more important? Is it to A. get the desired result, or B. maintain good relationships with your colleagues? For people with a strong need for achievement, the "result" answer is obvious. But for the ones with a need for affiliation, relations usually matter more. Let's see what else motivates people with this drive

What Motivates People with the Need for Affiliation

Find new friends

  • The possibility to meet new people;
  • Can easily start conversation with strangers;
  • Are open-minded and easy-going.

Stay in touch with friends

  • Enjoy calling and writing to people they know;
  • Like showing they care and when others care about them;
  • Prefer to work with friends more than with experts;
  • Have lots of friends in different areas and companies.

Spend time together with people

  • Know how to have fun and inspire people around them;
  • Are able to provide support and encouragement;
  • Loyal to different points of view;
  • Appreciate teamwork;
  • Don't mind doing routine/monotonous work;
  • Can easily practice the Management 3.0 style (even without knowing what it is).

How to Deal with This Drive

Allow them to contact new people from other teams and the client side. They are good communicators and are able to set up connections between people;

  • Invite to kick-off meetings;
  • Involve them in onboarding new team members;

  • Engage in mentoring and coaching activities;
  • Make sure they have enough interactions with other project/team members (they like face-to-face meetings, calls and correspondence – the more communication options they have, the happier they feel);
  • Show empathy and interest;
  • Allow them to assist other team members when they are able;

  • Assign them tasks that require good collaboration skills;
  • Can experience stress in an unfriendly/competitive atmosphere;
  • Try to avoid involving them in confrontations/conflict, as they can feel discomfort because of it;
  • Be careful with negative feedback, especially when sharing it publically – they can take it personally and become deeply hurt;
  • Encourage them to share their ideas and contribute to team activities, as they will be grateful for this;
  • Show appreciation for their good results at work, as they will be glad to hear "thank you";
  • Involve them in social and volunteering activities, as they can bring lots of value.

Interesting fact: parents with prominent affiliation drives usually raise children with the need for achievement drive.

Motivation: Need for Power

Do you know people who often use the following words: influence, control, status, struggle, discipline, subordination and leadership? These kinds of people also find pleasure in vertical career development. They like to manage others and they are driven by power.

What Motivates People with the Need for Power


  • Opportunities to exude control over other people;
  • Given power to delegate tasks;
  • Enjoy doing multiple activities at once;
  • Like to know what is going on around them;
  • Need to keep track of their own and others’ activities;


  • Need to see the reactions to their ideas or actions;
  • Care about how other people perceive them;
  • Can find pleasure in influencing the emotions of others;
  • Enjoy intrigues, power games.


  • Enjoy being followed;
  • Are pleased when praised;
  • Glad to lead others;
  • Like public speaking.

Status recognition

  • Social success means a lot to them;
  • Collect status artifacts;
  • Count their victories;
  • Like to be engaged in volunteering activities.

How to Deal with This Drive

  • Provide them with opportunities to manage others;
  • “Career development” to them means increasing the number of people they manage;
  • Give them some freedom in decision-making;
  • Assign multiple tasks;
  • Don’t assign tasks directly to their subordinates;
  • Consult them and ask for advice;

  • Allow them to influence you and show your reaction;
  • Direct their power games into constructive areas/context;
  • Develop your own management style, soft and hard skills – they need strong leaders around them;
  • Pay attention to them, and don’t ignore their ideas/actions;

  • Delegate them to give presentations to the public;
  • Publicly announce their successes;
  • Set community creation tasks for them;
  • Allow them to train and mentor employees;

  • Make sure their position has the corresponding status environment;
  • Provide them opportunities to join corporative clubs, non-public communities, and other special events.

You can find more approaches and instruments for team motivation, trust building and collaboration in the recording of the webinar, “Team Coaching, Part I and Part II” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/one-tip-turn-criticism-suggestions-svetlana

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