Do You Know What Motivates Your Team?

Leading a high-performing team requires understanding how to motivate individual performers. When you know what motivates your team, you can better lead them to drive results. Even better, you will be able to help them lead themselves.

Let’s start by acknowledging that most people do not know what motivates them. If you ask one of your team members what motivates them, you will probably receive a vague answer (“money”, “family”, “praise”), if any answer. One reason is because they are trying to guess what you think is the right answer. No one wants to give the boss a bad answer. The other reason is because they legitimately do not know.

Few people spend the time to consider what drives them forward each day and what they want from life. They are moving too fast to consider it. Still, it does not hurt to ask. If you really want to know what motivates someone, though, the best way to find out is through observation. Pay attention to their interactions with other people. Notice what types of situations and conversations energize them and what challenges they shy away from or reluctantly accept.

I used to lead a sales team and I found 3 primary motivators among my employees. These 3 motivators extend beyond sales, so I thought I would share them with you, as I have seen them:

1. Motivated by Greed. Some people seem motivated by money–by financial goals. They want to make all the money they can and they will do whatever it takes to have more than the person next to them. Of course, money itself is not the motivator. The motivator is what they believe money brings–status, luxury, a reputation among their peers or family. They want to feel famous in their own world.

2. Motivated by Deed. Some people are motivated by winning. Money is nice but what they really want is to be the best. They enjoy recognition of their ability and they are not only “in it to win it” but they are also driven to perform as role-models. They take intentional, conscious action to learn, and work hard to do whatever they do better than everyone else. They love to see goals in front of them almost as much as they love blowing past those goals. They want to feel proud and accomplished. They are motivated by the action of perfection itself.

3. Motivated by Need. Some people just want to do right by others. They work in alignment with a moral code. They never want to be seen as a slick “car salesman”. They have to fill a need to be in service to others, volunteering for a greater charitable calling to help their church, or the environment, or local charities. Moreover, they need the people they serve to acknowledge their nobility or fortitude. They want to help people and they feel a need to have people know how much they sacrifice. They need to feel good about themselves.


By helping a team member or friend play to their strengths and motivations, I find they compel themselves to excel. Often, this is done by simply framing a conversation to align with their motivational view-point. For example, during a sales contest, I might frame a conversation like this for each motivator:

  1. Greed: Pat, if we finish number one in this sales contest, you will have an extra $1,000 in your pocket, which will make a nice first payment on that new Lexus you want. Just throwing it out there…
  2. Deed: Chris, you owe it to yourself to finish at the top. I know you can do it. You know you can do it. You have worked and practiced for this. Now let’s show everyone else why you are the best at what you do.
  3. Need: Sam, finishing number one in this contest means you could be a hero at the shelter. What a cool gift that would be to donate, and honestly, if Pat wins it, you know that money will not go to a charity. I want to see the look on your face when you write the check. Make me proud.


The important thing, of course, is to be authentic to yourself in these conversations. If you don’t care if Pat gets the Lexus, or Chris leads by example, or Sam gives the money to a charity, then don’t pretend to be on their side. If you are not motivated by them feeling motivated, then they won’t be motivated by you. Use a different tactic.

Either way, it is good to know what energizes the people around you so you can have conversations that energize you both. Whether your thing is Greed, Deed, or Need, knowing the prime motivators will help you succeed.



How To Have Nice Things

Every day I reflect on my life to figure out what lesson I learned that day. Then, I share that lesson with you.


I have really nice things. I carry one of the best smartphones, all my clothes are expensive (compared to most big box/mall brands) and fit my exacting needs. I eat organic, healthy foods and I drive a nice car.

I am not bragging. Less than 10 years ago, I lost everything. I was living paycheck to paycheck, wondering how I was going to survive a divorce, a new career, and a new life in a new city on less than half my former salary. I cried myself to sleep many nights. I had no friends, no family nearby. It was just me and my misery for a long time.

I am not looking for kudos or empathy. I know you have probably been there, or at least felt like you have at times. Maybe you are in a tough spot now. I thought you might like to know how I rebuilt, and ended up with even nicer stuff, in 3 easy-sounding (but immensely difficult) steps:

     1.  I singled out the real, true essentials. I turned to a minimalist lifestyle. I threw out every thing I did not need. I mean everything from old year books to pots and pans to clothes to furniture to towels to books. If I did not use it, touch it, look at it, or notice it over the course of a year, then I decided it must not be as important to me as I thought. I tossed it, whatever it was. Soon, I only had what I truly needed, with very few exceptions.

     2. If I could not afford it, then I did not buy it. Money was tight. I might have wanted a new (blank) to replace my old (blank) but if I did not have the money in hand, I simply could not buy it, just like when I was a kid looking at the candy in a grocery store. Sure, I wanted it all but if I only had 50 cents, then all I could afford was a couple of suckers, and that was better than nothing. No credit, no borrowing, no creative financing. The fun ran out when the money did and that was that.

     3. When I did buy it, I bought the best one I could afford. I needed jeans for a long time but I did not buy a pair until I had saved enough to buy the only pair I wanted–the vegan friendly Prana Axiom jeans with gusseted inseams and rugged stretch fabric. They were (and still are) the gold standard to me and the funny thing is, they were worth every penny. They still look like new and fit like a charm, plus I can sit cross-legged in them without any worry of tearing the fabric. I bought one pair. It was another year before I could buy a second pair. The same went for every product I now own. Until I could afford the one I wanted, I either bought nothing or the absolute cheapest piece of junk that would help me get by.


I still live small but everything I own is the thing I chose. I went from zero to luxury in less than a decade and you can, too. I had no idea how little I actually need and how much better I can live, when I think small, live without owing, and pay the most I can afford for the best I can afford.

For me, it is the tale of two worlds, and frankly, I like the world I live in now better.




The Idea

Today’s Lesson: Share your goofy ideas. They might become good ones.


The lesson I learned today has nothing to do with the idea I am about to share. The lesson is to share an idea. Having an idea and talking about it stretches your imagination, works your brain, and helps breed creativity, which leads to newer, better, stronger ideas. Even if none of your ideas become reality, they might become seeds for somebody else’s idea which may turn into a real thing… like doors that magically open when you walk up to them.

When Gene Roddenberry dreamed up automatic sliding doors for the original Star Trek series, it was something he imagined would happen another 400 years from now. However, the idea sprouted in other people’s minds and took form. Today, when we walk up to a grocery store and the doors whoosh open, we do not even think twice about it.

So here is my (admittedly poorly thought out) idea:

When you shop for something on Amazon, do you read the reviews before buying? I do. I check the reviews for any online product before I buy it. I even check reviews for products I have no intention of buying online. Some reviewers, though, are prolific. They review on multiple sites, they gain trust, and are essentially certified by sites like Amazon. They provide thorough information and are genuinely eager to help.

What if there was a new social media site (I don’t know, maybe “” or something) where all of a person’s reviews are gathered in one place?


No matter what you review, no matter what site you post your review on, you can link all your reviews to UReview (or whatever you call it). Reviewers can build credibility and reputation scores by votes and endorsements from other trusted reviewers.

Rather than search for the same product on 10 sites and checking all the reviews on each site, search for the product review from a trusted, verified reviewer on one site, then just pick the site you want to buy it from.

People can review anything: books, movies, boats, shoes, pet medications, whatever. If you want to know if something is good, you go to this site.


Anyway, if you decide to run with my idea, just remember me if it is a huge success. An annual check for 5% of the profits would be pretty cool. Just throwing it out there…

You never know what will happen with any idea you share with people, but you certainly know what happens with any idea you share with nobody.





What Would You Pay For It?

Today’s Lesson:  Value is in the moment, not in the price.


Yesterday was expensive. Typically, a day at the beach costs Nicole and me around $30. That’s $10 for parking and $20 for lunch. Yesterday was a beach day and we breezed through $160.

Because there was a festival at the beach we thought it would be fun to participate (and it was). Parking was at a premium, $25, plus $20 for tickets to the festival, $20 for lunch, $12 for drinks, $7 locker rental, and a rather bland $76 dinner at a fancy restaurant that made a fairly sad attempt to cater to vegans.

Overall, we had fun. It was worth every penny, even counting the bland, expensive dinner. However, if someone told us before we left our apartment that our trip to the beach was going to cost $160 (not counting fuel…this beach was an hour away from home), then we would definitely have stayed at the apartment and watched Netflix or something.

$160, honestly, turned out to be a bargain for the privilege and joy of spending the day playing in the ocean, enjoying amazing art, walking the shore, and watching fireworks on the beach.

It almost was not a magical day and it almost was a cheaper one. We almost headed for another beach when we found parking was more than double the normal rate but that would have meant another half hour of driving and more time spent looking for parking plus time lost when we could already be in the ocean. We paid it and we were glad to have a parking spot considering the festival’s turnout.

What something is worth, I realize, is whatever you are willing to pay in the moment. Don’t bother regretting it later. You spent exactly what you were willing to, and the best way to get your money’s worth is to be certain you enjoy parting with it.


Three Solid Money Tips

Today’s Lesson: Money is what you make of it. (Literally.)


“Money can’t buy you happiness,” I think, is what wealthy people say to placate poor people or what poor people say to avoid envying wealthy people. I do not know if money can buy happiness. I do know that money can buy a lot of things that contribute to happiness.

Money pays for security. People with money in the bank do not wonder if they will lose their job if their car breaks down again.

Money pays for toys. We all love toys and having fun is an essential part of living. Maybe the most essential…if you can not live joyfully, then you probably are missing the point of being alive, which is achieving personal happiness. Toys are not essential to being happy, of course, but if you like riding a bicycle, then being able to pay for a nice one will make you happier than not having one or having one that constantly breaks down.

Money pays for less stress. I have been lucky enough to make a lot of money and fortunate enough to have lost it all. I have seen both sides of the track and I can honestly tell you having a lot of money does not cure everything but having disposable income feels a lot better, safer, and healthier than worrying how you will make ends meet this week.

I am by no means a money-guru. In fact, I consider myself mediocre with money (because I have a propensity for getting rid of it) but I can share with you three valuable lessons I have learned over three decades of making and losing a great deal of it:

1. Never rely on credit. This goes against everything marketers, schools, and the government tells you, but NEVER use credit to pay for something. If you do not have the money to buy that shiny new thing now, and pay for it in full, then you can not afford it now. People tell you, “But you have to establish credit if you want to blah-blah-blah…” NO YOU DON’T. If you pay your bills on time, every time, then you automatically have credit if there is an emergency. Save up for the big purchases you want. Pay for them in full. If you are super-disciplined like Nicole, then you can buy your groceries with your credit card and pay them off the next week. I am not that disciplined and I do not want to track it, but if it works for you, go for it.

2. Do not balance your checkbook. Wait, what?!? This might be on the crazy side of advice but it works for me. I have less than ten bills to pay each month, including rent, utilities, subscriptions, everything. If you have so much money going out that you have to worry if you can cover it, cut the fat. I never have to set time aside to balance my checkbook and track every receipt, and hope I didn’t forget anything. I take five minutes to check my few bills once a week (on Saturday) to be sure I didn’t miss any, and I can use my bank’s phone app to check my balance anytime I need.

3. Buy less. I know, duh! Right? If you have read this blog before, then you know I am a big proponent of having less and doing more. I love technology but twenty years from now I won’t even remember what phone I was carrying today. I will, though, remember the amazing vacation Nicole and I took in Savannah, until the day I die. Spend less of your money on stuff and more of it on experiences. For every new shirt, pair of shoes, or gadget you buy, throw two things out (or give them away). You will quickly learn how unimportant some things are and which things are really important.


Of course, these three guidelines apply at all times in all situations, except when they don’t. My crazy ideas may not work for you or may not work for you all the time. They are just three guidelines that put my finances on track and kept them there. Take them as they are and run or twist them into something crazy and new for you (and let me know if it works), or toss them out altogether. All I can tell you is, it’s worked so far.


Save Money With This Simple Tip

It sounds different coming from someone else.


As most readers of this blog (or anyone who has met me) know, I love lattes. I make my own some days and some days I visit coffee shops and have them made for me.

Lattes are pricey. A 20 oz sugared up espresso with soy milk will set you back between 5 and 6 dollars. The way, I see it, though, I do not smoke, rarely drink, and have no expensive hobbies. My morning latte is a special treat to start my day off with a smile and a warm feeling in my tummy. For me, it is worth 6 dollars most days.

A funny thing happened, though. Nicole bought our lattes today. The barista told her our 2 lattes were going to cost $10.40 and I visibly cringed at the cost. I never think twice when I pay for a latte but hearing the same price quoted to Nicole struck me as ludicrous. I thought to myself, “$5.20 for a big cup of glorified coffee? She is nuts to pay that!” Then I realized that is the normal price I pay nearly every day.

I chuckled at myself. Hearing the price said out loud to someone else helped me see that I really do think it is too much to ask for a latte.


Today’s lesson: If you want to save money, try this simple tip to see if you really think the price for something is fair. Watch someone else pay for it and observe the transaction. If you think they would be crazy to pay that much for something, then you probably are, too.




When Is “More” Enough?

If I could rid the English language of a single concept, it would probably be to do away with the idea of “More.”


I sat in my driveway listening to a story about immigrant slave workers picking tomatoes for Taco Bell and other big box restaurants. That was 2005. Now, at the end of 2014, they still live in the worst conditions I can imagine in the United States.

Up to 12 workers are packed into trailers as small as 10 square feet–essentially, a room with moldy walls and a single toilet. They work in fields 12 hours or more each day in the blistering Florida sun in hopes of earning a couple dollars (literally, a couple dollars). They are shuttled to and from work in rickety old buses and not allowed to travel anywhere outside of home or work. They live in enslavement camps, having come here, ironically, to escape their primary nation’s poor economy and chase the American Dream.

I remember my eyes welling with tears and anger while I listened to the story on the radio. I was sad about the obvious injustice and I was mad at myself. I was sitting in a 2006 Nissan Titan SE–an impressive (and expensive) truck with every luxury I could order it with. I made good money, then, and it was my first (and probably last) luxury car instead of just the best car I could afford.

It struck me that my truck was as big as the entire home of the 12 immigrant workers I was learning about, and many times nicer. The Titan cost more than 4 years of their salary, if they spent their money on absolutely nothing else, not even eating.

I was sitting in my spacious truck, parked outside of my house. Unlike their living quarters, my house had a fireplace, fully finished basement, 2 kitchens, jacuzzi tub, cherry wood flooring, a big backyard, and a large, covered porch complete with a love-seat rocking swing.

The Immokalee tomato pickers, I knew, would do anything to live my life. They could not even imagine having it this good. Clean, running water would have been a huge improvement for them. They would have collectively traded their lives for my truck–a vast improvement over their own mold-infested dwelling, let alone my house.

I was sad for them, but what really made me mad was that I had no idea how good my life was. Before the news story came on, I was feeling depressed and upset that I really wanted to trade in my Nissan Titan for a Tesla Roadster and my house was entirely too small for me, my estranged wife, and my 2 cats.

Worse, I was lamenting that I might never be able to afford the house I was going to visit that night–a mansion belonging to two millionaire acquaintances–a lonely, but friendly couple with a lot of money and time to spend. Their house was the one I imagined owning, with huge artwork murals decorating their living room with 20 foot high ceilings, a second level so large it literally had a bridge to cross from one side of the upper house to the other, and an expensive multi-level hardwood deck. I had two kitchens in my home but this couple had a gorgeous metal, marble, and wood professional grade kitchen with a preparatory island nearly the size of one of my kitchens. Their enormous house was lavish, tactful, and drool-worthy.

I was not prepared for our conversation that night. Much to my surprise they complained about their sprawling home and wished they had a bigger house! They pointed to the even larger mansion next door, which had turrets and was entirely built of stone like a castle, with a large rounded archway that doubled as a entrance-way and driveway. It was truly a stunningly large home. Nonetheless, I was flabbergasted. I glimpsed my future.

I knew, then, that I would never be happy with “more”. There is no end to what I will want. I had a Titan. I wanted a Roadster. If I had a Roadster, I would want a Porsche. Or maybe a boat, and when I had the boat I would want a yacht, and it would never end. Here I was, unaware that a low middle-class American making at least $30,000 per year (much less than I made at the time) fares better and is wealthier than 90% of the rest of the world’s people. I was the person that 90% of the world actually aspired to be… I have the lifestyle 99% of the world wishes they had. And I wanted more. The people who seemingly had everything I wanted… they wanted more, too. I wondered about the residents of the castle home. I wondered if they lamented over only having 3 homes, and a smaller yacht than their friends, and only a Tesla Roadster instead of a Lamborghini and a Roadster.

Well, flash forward about 7 years and I left most of that life behind. I took a job for about 1/5 of the pay I had then. It was definitely a harsh adjustment at first, but I started over and rather than embracing “More”, I actively chose to embrace “Less”. Now, I live a minimalist lifestyle, I make about half of what I used to, I own much less than half of what I used to, I even weigh less than I used to… and I have never been happier.

To be honest, I still struggle with wanting more. It is impossible not to think about all the “more” things you could have in a country that thrives on consumerism and marketing warfare. I am not decrying Capitalism, by the way. I am a staunch advocate for earning and enjoying the pleasures brought by technology and innovation, and I believe you should pay fairly for things that offer greater style, engineering, functionality, or design. No one should work for free or expect anything for free.

However, I find letting go of things that do not serve more than the purpose I need, or serve no purpose at all, frees me to live in less space yet have more freedom. For everything I can live without, I gain freedom over Space (less clutter in my life; more space to think), Time (I do not have to spend part of my life caring for trinkets I rarely look at or use), and personal Happiness (instead of wanting more, I am focused on wanting less and learning to appreciate what I have).

Businesses, of course, fall into the same trap of “More is More!”. The goal of every business I have worked for is a never-ending quest for the elusive “more”. There is never a definition of what is “enough.” No business seems to have an end-goal in mind of when they will be satisfied, of when their workers are generating “enough” revenue, of when their production is “enough” to make the shareholders happy. When your goal is merely to earn more and more money, how will you ever reach your goal? There is always “more” waiting for you.

On a social level, when your goal is only to be more thin, how will you ever lose “enough” weight? The body you see in the mirror will always be able to trim a little here or there.

When our goal is more racial, or gender, or religious equality, then how will we ever become equal? There is always some (person, group, or thing) that seems to have more equal opportunities than someone else.

When your goal is to always be “better” (a variation of “more”), then how will you ever be happy knowing you are “good enough” for yourself? When “more” is the goal, then “good enough” is removed by default. What would “enough” mean to you when it comes to being “good enough”? Do you know where better stops?

I know there are some motivated listeners and motivational speakers who would convince each other that some vague nonsense constitutes an actual destination (“being better is the goal”, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”, “just be a little better than you were yesterday”, etc.). The problem here is when you have no definition of when “enough” is enough, then you have removed the possibility of happiness and contentment. There will always be “more” and “better” waiting for you in life. “Infinity” is not a goal.
If I could remove just one concept from our ideology or one word from our language, I think it would be “More”. We do not need more. We simply need enough, and sometimes, sadly, we do not know when we have had it.

Today’s lesson: In a society where “More” is all we want, more or less, then I challenge you to start thinking about what the word “enough” means to you and consider that sometimes “Less is More”.



Today’s Lesson: How Much Should Your iPhone Cost? [141025]

“I can’t believe how expensive these new phones are!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I could retire now. I am shocked at how quick people are to complain about prices of things they could not have even imagined would exist a decade ago.

What should the value be of a device that replaced your $200 camera (plus the cost of film, flash bulbs, and processing), and your $250 video-camera (plus the cost of bulky VHS tapes and extra battery packs, a tape rewinder, cleaning kit, and a VHS player to play it), plus your $300 Gameboy (and all the individual games and accessories), your $50-$500 watch, your $500-$1,000 big, bulky computer, monitor and desk, your $60 beeper, your entire music collection (and now even your video collection), every encyclopedia, dictionary, and other book you ever owned, your Franklin Planner, stopwatch, alarm clock, home phone, black book, recipe collection, etc… how much should a device that does all that and more cost?

The many thousands of dollars in technology and storage that we all used to clutter our homes and bodies with now literally fits in our pocket at a fraction of the cost and we have the audacity to whine that smartphones are too expensive?

Nothing has ever been as cool or as useful in all of human history as any mid-tier smartphone today. The truth is, we should marvel that we do not have to finance them over 5 years at Tesla-like car prices!

Yeesh. If we slept on king-sized levitating beds covered with gold-infused satin sheets, I think many of us would complain about one corner being too hot.


Today’s lesson is… some people are just committed to never being happy.




Today’s Lesson: The $24 Trap [141023]

Between the wax warmer, rinse cup, electric toothbrush, shaver, groomer, trimmer, and soap dispenser there was nowhere to set my tablet in the bathroom so I could keep listening to podcasts while getting ready for bed.

I am grateful this is the worst problem I have had so far today, but it sent me on a 2 hour shopping spree in hopes of finding just the right over-the-toilet-tank-shelf for extra storage. I put three potential shelves in my shopping cart and narrowed it down to one for the low, low price of $24 (and free Prime shipping!).

Then I realized I was making a bad decision. I choose to live a minimalist lifestyle and I was about to buy a product to allow more clutter into my life! I wish I had realized it about 2 hours sooner, but either way, I know it now.

I rearranged the bathroom counter and sink area, and cleared more room in the mirror cabinet. Everything fits fine. It turns out I was just looking for any excuse to spend $24. What could I have done with the $24 instead? Here are 10 ideas:

  • Save it. Squirrel it away for a rainy day.
  • Save it, but towards something, like a new car!
  • Buy something more important–a shelf literally just sits there!
  • Put it toward a nice dinner with Nicole.
  • Nothing. This is always a fine option. I can choose not to choose.
  • Hold onto it and wait for a better idea to come up.
  • Buy a gift card for someone.
  • Give it to a homeless person.
  • Enjoy a bottle of wine with friends. I will probably remember that in 10 years but probably won’t remember buying a bathroom shelf.
  • Fuel my car, or get a car wash, or go to a movie, or buy a concert ticket, or…


It is okay to spend money on things we enjoy, that make our lives better. It is very important, though, to spend our money wisely, on things that bring more joy than was borrowed from us to make it.

What would a minimalist do with another shelf, anyway?