The Most Powerful Way to Motivate Anybody


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You're listening to the School Leadership Reimagined Podcast, episode number ​​​f​ive.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...

where we rethink what's possible to transform your school. If you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now, here's your host, Robyn Jackson. ​

Hello there, and welcome back to another episode of school leadership reimagined. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today I'm going to tell you a secret. So if you remember from last week, I talked about the antidote to judgment. It was an episode four, and in that episode I talked about how sometimes we're all dealing with a teacher and we catch ourselves judging that teacher. We don't mean to judge, but there are times when we catch ourselves thinking things like future is lazy or this teacher doesn't really want to serve kids or this teacher is so resistant or you know, or whatever. And we all do it from time to time. But here's the thing, you cannot influence a person as long as you're judging that person. So if you want to have influence over person who is resistant or who seems like they don't want to do the work that they need to be doing or serving kids or whatever, if you want to have any chance of impacting that teacher and giving them feedback that they'll hear and that they'll act on, then you can't judge them.

The problem is that once we find ourselves in a, in a judge-y plates, I mean, it's not even a word judgy. OK, well I just made that word up. So once you find yourself in a judge-y plays, it's really hard to get yourself out of judgment. So last time I talked about the antidote to judgment and the good news is that there is an antidote and that antidote is curiosity. So in episode four, I shared with you the vibes framework to help you shift from judgment to curiosity. Now, I love the vibes framework and it could really be helpful in helping you understand where a teacher's coming from so you can choose the right response and have the best chance of being able to influence that teacher to think or to act or to behave differently, but as I mentioned last time, there's another secret weapon that you can use to not only get yourself out of judgment, but to help you understand where teachers coming from and to show you how to shape the way that you deal with that teacher so that you can have the biggest impact on that teacher.

The secret weapon is so powerful, so potent that it really needed its own episode to discuss while my friends. This is that episode because today I'm going to share with you the most powerful way I know to help you understand, have impact with those you're trying to build. It works with students and in my book how to motivate reluctant learners. I show you exactly how to use it with students and I'll link to the book and the show notes for you, but it is just as effective. Maybe even more effective when you use it, when dealing with adults, so are you ready to learn the number one way to understanding and influencing those that you are working to build? The secret is something that I call will drivers and understanding the secret will literally change your life, but before we jump into what will drivers are and how you could use them, I want you to know that...

​This episode is sponsored by...

by my book Never ​Underestimate ​Your ​Teachers. This award winning book is the most comprehensive guide that I know on how to impact teachers will and their skill, and it shows you exactly what you need to do to help any teacher become a master teacher and as a special thank you for listening to today's episode, you can get your own copy of never underestimate your teachers at 15 percent off the regular price. Just simply go to ​ and use the coupon code there, and if you're not in front of a computer right now and you still want to take advantage of this offer, I'll be sure to put that special link in the show notes.

Again, you can find the show notes for this episode at school leadership reimagined slash episode number five, and it's just episode and five. Don't put the word number. That'll mess everything up.

OK, so now let's dive into ​Will Drivers...

because I'm about to reveal to you the most powerful way that I know to motivate another human being will drivers help you understand people's actions and they show you exactly how to respond to get and keep someone motivated, energized, and excited about their work over time.

But before I tell you what will drivers are and how they work, I need to say something really important here. By understanding the four will drivers, you're going to gain a special power. It's almost like a superpower that is going to give you uncanny insight into other human beings. And because this power is so potent, you really must promise me that you're only going to use this power for good and not evil. So right now I want you to raise your right hand and I want you to say this with me. I will use my will drivers super power for good and only good. OK? I feel a little bit safer now to share with you the secret. It's a secret that comes from the research and motivation, so over the past 20 years we've learned a lot about how human beings are motivated and about five years ago, maybe it's more than I'm not sure, but a few years ago I spent quite a bit of time studying the science of motivation because I was working on a book at the time, and let me tell you, there is a lot of research out there.

Well, the more I studied, the more I began to notice a pattern.

You see, the research says that human beings need four primary things to be motivated and these things are autonomy, mastery, purpose, and belonging or connection. So autonomy is the need to have choices about the things that matter to you. We all need that. Without that, it's hard for us to be motivated. Mastery is the need to feel that you can get good at something that matters. Again, if you can't feel like you can conquer something or that you can get good at it, it's really hard to be motivated to do the work in the first purpose is the need to feel that you are doing something that matters and connection is the need to feel that you matter to those who matter to you. So I call these four things are w​ill drivers because they are the four things that drive our willingness to do something and they drive our motivation. Now, while all this is really interesting, I started paying attention to people a little bit more closely and I noticed something fascinating. You see why all of us needs autonomy, mastery, purpose, and connection.

Each of us has a dominant will driver...

because you just get goosebumps there. Well, I tell you, I got it. The first time I realized this. Let me tell you why this is so important. I should say here that this is not in the research that I've read. This is Robyn, not research. This is my own observation, but it's proven to be true over and over again. So for those of you who are looking for a footnote, just put robin in the footnotes, but it's based on my understanding of the research and then my working this in the field and I'm telling you, it is the most powerful thing that you can possibly use to motivate people.

So the reason why, the idea that everyone has a dominant will driver is so important is because our dominant will driver outweighs all the other drivers and it governs how we attempt to meet our needs. What that means is that if you can understand someone's dominant will driver, you now have the secret to how to motivate them, and you also have the secret key that explains the majority of their choices, which means that you can really understand why they do what they do and how to help them make different choices in the future. So let me show you how this works and I'll use myself as an example even though it means that I'm giving you the secret key to motivating me. Now, I'm only telling you this because you already swore to me that you would only use this power for the good, so my w​ill driver is mastery.

That means that although I still need autonomy, that's really important to me having meaningful choices. Although I still need purpose, I want to be driven by a greater purpose and although I still need connection, I want to make sure that I'm connected with people who liked me and who I like. If I don't feel like I can have mastery, if I don't feel like I can get good at the things that matter to me, I wouldn't even be able to get out of bed in the morning and in fact, I pursued the other three will drivers through a lens of mastery. Here's what I mean by that. If there is something wrong in a relationship, the first thing I'm going to do is try to figure it out and fix it with this very mastery mindset. So I'll read a book about it or I'll go talk to an expert about it.

The reason that a lack of autonomy often bothers me is because I feel like that lack of autonomy gets in the way of my ability to do a good job. I don't care about choices that don't affect my ability to do a good job. I only care about the choices that do affect my ability to do a good job. What's my purpose while in my company mindsteps my purposes? Any teacher, a master teacher. So mastery is even a part of my purpose. So while all of us need all four will drivers, we all need autonomy, mastery, purpose, and connection or belonging. Even though all of us need all four of them. We all have a dominant will driver.

Now here's the mistake that we make as leaders...

we try to motivate teachers using our dominant will driver instead of using their dominant will drive it. It's the thing that separates leaders from builders. Leaders have one way to motivate people and without even realizing it that one way is their dominant will. Driver builders have four different ways to motivate people and what builders do is they pay attention to the people they're serving. They figure out what that person's dominant wolf driver is and then they motivate them in a way that aligns with their dominant will driver. So then what we need to do is we need to figure out what people's dominant will driver and we also need to understand how to feed their dominant wheel driver. If we ever hope to motivate them well, I've got a quick shorthand for you to help you figure out someone's dominant will driver and be able to feed their dominant wheel driver. And it all boils down to each person's dominant will driver question.

So let's start with a person who's autonomy driven.

People who are autonomy driven. They're dominant question. The question that they walk through life trying to answer is, what are my choices? What do I have to do? Where am I options? So if you are working with someone and you suspect that autonomy is their dominant driver, if you want to motivate them, you have to answer their big question first. So you don't go in to their classroom and you don't say, Hey, this is what you did wrong and this is what you need to fix, and you give them this laundry list of things to work on. They can't you because they're scanning that list. Looking at what do I have to do, where my options, a better approach would be to start off by saying, here's what's required and here are your options around what's required to see the difference. When you go in and you give them their options and you answer their dominant question, they're more likely to listen to you and they're more likely to do what you're asking them to do because you've couched it in a way that answers their essential question to begin with.

Now, if you're dealing with someone who's mastery driven,

can you guess what their question is? That's right. Mastery driven. People want to know how. How do I do this the right way? How do I get the quote unquote a, how do I make this better? That's what's driving mastery driven teachers, so if you are working with a mastery driven teacher, when you go in and give that teacher feedback, you don't just want to say you need to fix this. You also want to talk about how or engage them in a conversation about how they're going to fix it. These are the teachers who want resources. These are the teachers who want direction and they don't want to know a way to do it. They want to know the right way to do it. Mastery, different people are always walking around looking for the right way, so they want that feedback from you.

The purpose driven teachers are a little different

because they don't want to know what their choices are. They don't want to know how to do things the right way. Purpose-Driven teachers want to know why. Why are we doing this? What's the purpose? And they can't get going unless they have a solid answer to why. Now, purpose driven teachers often feel argumentative. They pushed back a lot of times and a lot of times we think that resistance, but in a purpose driven teacher, it's not resistance at all. Purpose driven teachers processed the world by probing and pushing. They want to know what the research says. They try on a lot of different theories in order to figure out a why that makes sense to them. So if you really want to motivate a purpose driven teachers, start off by answering why we're doing this. Engaging them in conversations around that. Why let them understand the theory and the thinking and the research behind it before you start telling them what to do. If you do that, you're going to get them way more motivated. So autonomy driven teachers want to know what, mastery driven teachers want to know how, purpose driven teachers want to know why?

What's your guess on what a connection or belonging driven teacher wants to know...

Who? You're absolutely right. If a teacher is connection or belonging driven, they want to know who. Who Am I to you? Who are you to me? Who is my friend? Who is my enemy? Who's in my corner? Who Do you perceive me to be and you'll hear that in their language. They're talking to you. If you go into a classroom, you give them feedback whether or not they accept your feedback all hinges upon who they perceive you to be and who they think you perceive them to be. If they think you believe in them, they will accept your feedback. If they think that you don't believe in them or you're judging them, they will reject your feedback so you have to answer that question correctly or they can't hear whatever else you're saying and that's true for all four will drivers.

If you don't answer their primary question correctly...

if you don't address it, then it's really hard for them to get motivated. So that's my short hand. When I'm talking to people and remember last week when I was saying, you've gotta be curious instead of furious when I'm talking to people, you can listen to people and you can hear their dominant will driver because as they're they're complaining or as they're asking questions, they will always come back to their essential question and if you listen carefully and you hear their essential question, that's the biggest clue to their wheel driver and if you answer their essential question in the way that you deal with them, then you can get the motivated.If you avoid doing it, if you miss it, you will have a very hard time to get them motivated. So now that I've given you kind of a shorthand to help you figure out how to feed different peoples will drivers in a way that's motivating,

I want to give you three ways that you can detect people's will drivers.

So the first way is to listen to their complaints. And I know this sounds counter intuitive, but this is probably one of the most powerful ways that I know to detect somebody will driver now on mastery driven. So every time somebody would come in to my office, when I was an administrator and complain about something, I would take it personally because I was mastery driven, I worked really hard to do things the right way and every complaint represented evidence that I wasn't doing something the right way, so I had a hard time with this one. But when I shifted to being curious instead of furious and I started really listening to people's complaints, then my mastery drive can kick in because now I'm trying to figure out what's there will driver their complaints and it took a lot of stress out of some very stressful conversations. So here's what I mean.

When a teacher comes in and complains to you, if you listen carefully, that teacher is telling you his or her world driver. Let me give you an example. You know this new initiative that you just created, it's really hampering my ability. I had a curriculum, I was good at that curriculum and now I don't know this new curriculum and it's going to take me months to learn it and get it right. What are you hearing that? What I hear is how, how am I going to do this? How am I going to get it right? The concern is about getting it right, so if I go in and I say, well, this curriculum change was really important and I give them why that's not the question they're asking. The question they're asking is, how am I going to be able to do this? How am I going to get it right? So instead I'm going to go back and talk to them about the curriculum. I'm going to give them resources to help them master it as quickly as possible. When I do that, I'm not going to get the same kind of push back on the new curriculum initiative. So that's mastery.

Let me give you another example...

of how a different will driver might sound in a complaint. You keep throwing this new stuff on us and you're taking away our creativity and now we're being prescribed and everybody has to do the same thing the same way on the same day. Can you hear autonomy in there? The question is, what am I choices and you're taking away my choices. You're inhibiting my ability to exercise agency over my work and because of that, I'm not motivated, so when you address that, you show people, you get them focused, not on all the choices they don't have, but on the choices they do have. Now that has to be meaningful choices involved or else they're not going to be motivated no matter how well you try to finesse it, but when you get autonomy driven, teachers focus on their choices. You can often get them motivated.

Here's another complaint.

Every time you stand up in front of the staff and you start talking, you treat us like we don't care about kids. You treat us like we're not working hard. We're working very, very hard and you need to stop treating us like we're not working hard. Can you hear the WHO question? That's because people who are connection or belonging driven, their complaints are always around who, who you perceive me to be? Who is my enemy, who is my friend, and so you've got to go back and reassure them that you do believe in them or else it's hard for them to be motivated and then here's the last one.

This is my favorite...

This used to drive me crazy when I used to give workshops at the very beginning because there was always that one person who raised their hand and they say something like this. That's a really interesting point, robin. Are you familiar with the bulk? Certain such because their theory is very similar to what you're talking about here. Or they'd say, how does this relate to this other theory that I've read about or what's the research basis for what you're sharing with us today? And I would say, look, who cares about that? Just do what I say because it's right. That's the mastery and me coming out, but that person who's asking those questions, they're not trying to be obstructionists. They're not trying to be obnoxious. They really are asking the question, why? Why does this work? Why should I believe in it? And if I don't address that early on, if I don't do that, then I lose those people. They're not motivated to do an act on what I'm telling them to do. So I've learned at the very beginning of my presentations to share the research basis, to spend some time talking about the why and I don't get those questions anymore. People get excited about the work. So the first way to detect someone's will drivers. And for me the most powerful way is by listening to their complaints.

You can also watch them and see what they respond to. So if I'm starting in a new school and I don't know people yet, one of the things that I'll do is I will feed all four will drivers and then I will figure out where people responding, who other people who are stopping by my office just to chat. They're probably the belonging driven people who are the people who never stopped by my office and just kind of leave me alone and give me a wide berth. They're probably the autonomy driven people. So I'm paying attention to people and I'm deliberately feeding all four will drivers and see where they light up, what they respond to. The last way is to listen to their dreams because in people's dreams, their aspirations, what they want to do, their sense of purpose in life. Well underneath all of that is there will drivers.

So I'll tell you a story...

about a time when I use this to kind of get over a really bad situation. So I went to a school to do some pd around rigor and the principal and I had made the arrangements and it was going to be doing this as a part of an afterschool staff meeting. And when I got to the school, the principal said, well we've got a little bit of a problem. And I said, OK, what is it? I'm thinking, you know, the room we were going to use isn't working or something like that. And she said, well, the teachers have been complaining to the superintendent that about me and about the training that I'm offering. And they call the superintendent about today's training. And the superintendent told them they did not have to stay beyond their duty day, so even though you're training is scheduled to be a 90 minute training, about 45 minutes from now will be the end of the duty day and a lot of teachers are planning on walking out.

And I'm sitting there and I'm looking at it, I'm like, really? Why? So I said, well, OK, we'll just deal with it. So she takes me down to the room and the staff is already there and they are so mad at her, they can't stand her but they can't take it out on her. So they decided to take it out on me and she is happy for the relief. So she takes me down there and introduces me to the staff and then she leaves. So I was so mad at or too. So I'm in a room all by myself with 20 hostile staff members. And the first thing one teacher says to me, she walks up to me and she says, look, my duty day in 45 minutes, I have something to do. So I'm going to have to leave early. What am I supposed to do with that?

So I just said, OK, well we'll make it work. And I set up my slide presentation when it occurred to me. Nobody's paying attention to my slides. These people are not here to hear rigor. I've got to get the motivated first. So right when it began, I went over to my slide deck on my laptop and I just cover the overhead, the overhead projector, and then I just said, OK, before we begin, I need to get to know you a little bit. And there I started rolling because you know who wants to play a get to know you game. They know each other. I'm the only stranger in the room. And so I knew that they were gonna hate it and I said, listen, can you go around the room, tell me your name and then tell me why you became a teacher. So they're like, oh goodness, here we go.

This is going to be just as useless...

as we knew it was going to be. And you can read all that from the body language. And so I waited a few moments and finally the ringleader raised her hand and she said, well go. And I said, great, so what's your name? And she told me Your name, and I said, why did you become a teacher? She said, well, actually I never wanted to be a teacher. And I thought, oh goodness, this is going to be. This is going to be worse than this is going to hurt. And so I said, Oh really? Well how did you end up here that I'm not trying to play calm, but inside I'm just bracing for the blow but I know is coming. But she started talking about why she became a teacher. She said, you know, I was going to go to medical school.

I was a bio major and I was going to go to medical school and I graduated in December and I was waiting to get admission to medical school and I decided I would substitute teach in order to make some money before I went into medical school. But when I started substitute teaching and teaching biology, I found out I was really good at it. I enjoyed it. And so I decided not to go to medical school and instead to get my masters in teaching because I was so good at it. And that's how I became a teacher. Now, two things happen. First of all, colleagues were like, Whoa, we didn't know that. Oh, that's a really cool story. But I heard in her dream what she said, I became really good at it. And so I enjoyed it. And so I stayed mastery. So I started feeding mastery.

I said to her, you know what? That's so great. I'm so glad you're here. One of the things we're talking about today is a rigor and I'm going to show you a way to help you get really good at it very quickly because it's so important. And I went on and on and I just fed mastery. And then we went around the room and each teacher told his or her story. And every time I heard there will driver in their story, I bet there will drive her. And by the time we had gotten around the circle, the atmosphere of the Rome change completely. I started my presentation and when we got to the part where it was at the end of their duty day and I stopped and I said, now I know some of you have to leave, so I want to take a break here so that you have an opportunity to leave and those of you are staying after the break.

We're going to be talking about x, Y, and Z, and the teacher who told me at the beginning, well, I have to leave because I have things to do. She said, no, why don't you keep calling? We're enjoying this. We're learning. Keep going, and we did and we finished. It totally transformed the room. So this is why I started out by saying understanding people's will drivers. It's a super power because when you feed people at their core and we answer their essential question and you understand and recognize their dominant will driver, and then you feed that, you can overcome the resistance and then open them up to what it is that you have to say. It's just that powerful.

So let's recap what we learned today.

First, we all need for things in order to be motivated. We all need autonomy, mastery, purpose, and belonging or connection.

Autonomy is the need to have choices about the things that matter to you. Mastery is the need to feel that you can get good at something that matters to you. Purpose is the need to feel that you were doing something that matters, and connection is the need to feel that you matter to those who matter to you.

Now, although we need all for all of us, has a dominant world driver that guides every decision we make and shape how we see and interact with the world. The main reason that we can't get through to a teacher or get a teacher motivated is that we don't tap into their dominant will drivers, so if you want to motivate a teacher, you need to listen carefully for their dominant will driver and then feed their dominant wheel driver. And the way you do that, the shortcut is to listen for their essential question.

This is the most powerful way that I know to motivate teachers or to motivate anybody really, and it's also the most powerful way to sustain your motivation over time.

Now, before we go...

I want to remind you about today's Freebie, which is a great infographic that summarizes the four will drivers and shows you how to respond effectively to each one so you can download the Freebie by going to And a lot of people who have used this Freebie in the past. What they do is they keep it kind of nearby on their desk and it shows that if a teacher has this will driver, here are some ideas about how you can feed that will driver. So again, go to It's the word episode and the number five. No space between the two and you can download that Freebie and don't forget that if you really want to learn more about will drivers and learn how to use them to motivate teachers while the whole second half of my book, which is never underestimate your teachers, talk to you and shows you very specific ways that you can tap into somebody dominant, well driver and feed that dominant world driver, it shows you how to do that with your feedback, how to do that with your support.

The whole second half of the book, it's all about their will drivers so you can get a copy of that book by going to ​mindsteps​, and then on that page there's a coupon code so that you can get a copy of that book at 15 percent off the list price and finally, come on. For those of you who are still not connected on Linkedin, I really don't get it, so find me at Robyn Jackson on Linkedin and let's connect. Let's stay connected. That's a great way to give me feedback. It's a great way to raise questions for future episodes. I want to connect with you so please, let's connect on linkedin.

So this week we talked about the texting and meeting the will driver needs of the teachers who serve, but did you know that you also have a dominant driver and your dominant driver not only affects way that you lead, but affects how others perceive you and how others relate to you whether you realize it or not, your will driver is always showing.

So next time we're going to talk about...

how you can discover and manage your own driver and I'll bet you'll be surprised at just how much your own wheel driver affects the decisions that you make and whether or not people will support those decisions.So make sure that you tune in next time for that episode. It's going to be a good one because we're going to go deep inside of you. In the meantime, if you liked today's episode and you found it useful, would you do me a favor and go on over to iTunes and leave a review? I read every single review and it would mean the world to me if you would leave one there and let me know what you think of the show, so thanks for everything. Make sure that you leave a review on ​iTunes, and that's it for now. I will talk to you the next time.

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