Whether you’re hiring someone in a new professional role, seeking to motivate a team of volunteers, or leading a student organization, the fact remains: not everyone is in it for the same reasons. I don’t mean it in a catty Bachelor contestant kind of way (“I just don’t think Haley is here for the right reason”), but more to say that people join organizations for a number of reasons. Suzanne Brown and Sara Boatman recognized that when they developed their GRAPE Principle as being key to the supervision of teams. The GRAPE Principle boils down the myriad reasons someone might choose to get involved in an organization to five; I’ve shared them below, along with the guiding questions that Boatman and Brown shared to tease out which might be motivating your team members.

  • Growth: those members who choose to work with you to increase their skills, experience, and confidence in a given area.
    How do you feel when you have the opportunity to complete a stimulating and exciting task?
  • Recognition: those members who choose to work with you to gain feedback and/or respect from the group.
    How do you feel when you are given genuine recognition for a job you did well?
  • Achievement: those who choose to work with you for the opportunity to solve problems and see an idea become a reality.
    How do you feel when you achieve a difficult goal?
  • Participation: those members who choose to work with you for the intrinsic joy of being active and “doing” something.
    How do you feel when you can say with real honesty, “it was a pleasure working with you”?
  • Enjoyment: those members who choose to work with you for the chance to have fun, be part of a team, and feel a part of something important.
    How do you feel when you genuinely have fun on a project?

As I think about leading and guiding a team that might have members with all of these differing factors pushing them to do their best work, I am sensitive to the idea that even an outstanding supervisor is dividing their attention several ways to ensure all these people have what they need for success. And if this is the case when business is, for lack of a better term, “as usual,” how hard might it be when a task requires something unusual? What if a group is charged with making something new? What if a group is doing something they’ve never done before? How, then, can you motivate all of these people effectively?

Once again inspired by the Cultivating Creativity manifesto, I have some ideas for where to position folks on a creative team based on their motivations. It is my hope that, by learning what drives those you work with, you’ll be able to best harness their talents and interests toward an outstanding final product…whatever that may be.

For Those Motivated By Growth…Focus on Broadmindedness and Allies/Advocates

Who on your team is constantly looking to improve his or her work? These are the people who are hoping to go to conferences, who are reading and listening to podcasts, who are most likely to start a conversation with “I just heard about…” in a way that could change the way you work. If you’re seeing these people on your team, and the project at hand is in need of some new information, charge them with finding it.

Encouraging broadmindedness means that this individual will feel empowered to find information in places beyond just what’s “related” to the work. What is there for a medical supply company to learn from a technology and innovation conference? If anyone can draw that connection, it’s the individual oriented toward growth. Drawing connections between seemingly disparate ideas, industries, or sources of inspiration can make the difference between an effective solution and an innovative one- so allow the latitude to draw those connections imaginatively.

The broadminded coming to your meetings like… IMAGE CREDIT: GIPHY

Similarly, allowing this person to initiate and develop contact with allies, advocates, and activators will provide context for the project at hand. One key thing we learn from these individuals, generally higher in stead or with a longer tenure at an organization? Context. Where has this idea or project perhaps been tried before? What tripped folks up? How might an idea need to be phrased for it to take hold? What information do these allies, advocates, and activators have that can grow the project you’re working on? Charging the individuals interested in growth with uncovering the answers to those questions, will allow them to contribute in a way that best utilizes their energy and interest. They’ll be more satisfied with their work, and you’ll have what you need to tackle the next challenge.

For Those Motivated By Recognition…Focus on Allies/Advocates/Activators and Collaborators

It can be tempting to scoff, sneer, or look down on those who are motivated on recognition. After all, aren’t they just looking for an unnecessary treat or trophy for doing what they’re supposed to be doing? Not necessarily. I prefer to look at those who work for recognition as people who seek feedback as a means to do their best work. One way to weaponize this desire to solicit feedback or recognition for work: have these individuals seek out others to work with. Be they the aforementioned advising powers inherent in allies, advocates, and activators, or the more “peer” level collaborators, part of the process of bringing these team members on board is learning to tell your story.

Synchronized dance moves not required, but you’d know you were cooperating! IMAGE CREDIT: GIPHY

By utilizing the energy of these individuals in this way, those seeking recognition will find it not in the proverbial cookie or a good job. Rather, it’ll come from the knowledge that their ability to articulate their (and their team’s) successes will result in new partnerships- and the resources, visibility, and additional humanpower that can afford. This means of seeking recognition is constructive; in seeking out new collaborators, we share our accomplishments in hopes that they’ll want to align with us. Similarly, we are forced to be thoughtful about our gaps and to speak about them candidly, so it has an added need for humility that we don’t often associate with seeking recognition.

Recognizing individuals in a manner that fits (a) the task, and (b) the individual is crucial; this form of contribution is amenable to either. Share with the team what new partnerships are formed as the result of their work, or thank the individuals personally through a card or visit to their workspace. In either case, appreciating the work they do will be the final means by which you respect and offer the motivation they seek.

For Those Motivated by Achievement…Focus on Growth Mindset and Determination

Here again, the precise definition of the word in question can help direct efforts. For those motivated by achievement, the reward of a task comes in completing it effectively and proudly. In my mind, an individual so oriented would excel in the areas of growth mindset and determination.

Growth mindset, in this instance, means to address roadblocks that might recur in the process, and devise ways to overcome them. Contrary to the version we’ve grown accustomed to – effort counts more than effects! – growth mindset here acknowledges that there are things we don’t always recognize in ourselves as assumptions, prejudices, or mental shortcuts. If you’re working on a task which has elicited the dreadful phrase “we’ve tried this before, but it didn’t work,” this is where the achievement-oriented individual will thrive. Encourage them to examine the circumstances of the last failure, compare them to the present circumstances, and work to counter that skepticism. If ever there’s someone who can respond with “here’s why it’ll work this time,” it’s the achievement-motivated person on your team.

Let Michelle motivate you when things get hard. Or, you know, the Michelle of your team. IMAGE CREDIT: GIPHY

This may not be an easy thing to do. Even with a well-prepared argument, overcoming resistance or challenges to your big idea might be difficult – and, at times demoralizing. It is in these moments that determination becomes essential. Those motivated by achievement have determination in spades, and can help others cultivate it. Especially if the determined person is made aware of what other folks are motivated by, they can suggest mechanisms and help frame challenges in a way that appeals to their “let’s do this” impulses.

For Those Motivated by Participation…Focus On Collaboration and Determination

Please don’t make this true for your people. IMAGE CREDIT: GIPHY

Participants just want to be, as their name might suggest, “part of it.” And yet, it might surprise you how many opportunities we have to do this, where we instead count people out. How often do we keep new, younger, or less senior additions to our staffs in the dark, instead of taking the time and energy to appraise their ideas and perspective?

Here again, allowing these “part of it” motivated people help guide collaborators can be a powerful way of empowering them, their skills, and their knowledge. For as long as they’re able to put in the time and energy, and supported as they do so, it’s likely they’ll do good work. What’s more, for as long as they feel appreciated for the work they’re doing, they’re going to keep doing it. Tied closely to the recognition motivation: if someone’s participation makes a difference, let them know! That will yield more, substantive work.

For Those Motivated By Enjoyment…Focus on Heart

Yes, I know that not every job can (or should!) be fun in the traditional sense. But you will find people who enjoy the work they do, regardless of how “fun” the task or circumstances at hand are. Many will choose to marvel incredulously at these people, or even occasionally make fun of them for their enthusiasm. But I’d advise you to, instead, appreciate these people in your organization and enlist their help in keeping you on the “right” track.

If they could describe their work in a font…well…IMAGE CREDIT: GIPHY

Historically, people who find the most enjoyment in their work have the deepest connect to who the work impacts. If that’s the case, these are the perfect individuals to help the rest of the group focus on the why of a difficult project. Who does the project help? What harm is being avoided? And if a creative project is being attempted, what good will the proposed changes do? How will end users benefit?


A productive and successful creative team needs people who work in all different types of ways, have all different types of skills…and yes, get different things out of the work they’ve chosen to embark on. The most successful teams will seek to learn this information and use it responsibly. Have you had success with this? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear more!