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How Motivation And Self-Esteem Influence Performance And Success

This article was based on episode 85 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the mini-guide here or the full guide when you become a member at Purchase a single full guide at

Anyone who has directly managed a team knows that inspiring others can be a frustrating and challenging pursuit. How can I get my people to care? How can I make them want to work hard? How can I…?

As a behavioral analyst, speaker and author, Steven Sisler offers insight and recommendations on the processes of management and motivation. Working with clients in more than 18 countries, he gathers behavioral and attitudinal information on individuals within corporate settings and develops strategies for effective leadership, teamwork, and entrepreneurial success. Steven has been an innovator in the areas of leadership and temperament strategy, personality consultation, family and relationship dynamics and emotional intelligence for more than 30 years.


According to Steve, what fundamentally motivates people is working in an environment that allows them to be who they are and conforms to the way they think, in accordance with the way their brains are wired. In other words, people are motivated to do what feels most natural to them.

When there is a disconnect between the intrinsic motivator and the reality one experiences, the resulting brain tension leads to low motivation. For example, if my intrinsic motivation is power, I won’t feel compelled unless I am able to call all the shots, am included in important decisions and have the authority I believe I deserve.

What’s important for managers to know is that you won’t need to externally motivate people when there is a match between how the brain is wired and the work context. When this happens, the setting and conditions will be self-motivating. For this reason it is essential to figure out how your people are wired and capitalize on it by placing them in compatible environments.


All individuals possess ways of thinking and motivators that can be measured across seven different elements. We all contain a unique mix of these motivators, some being more intense than others. The elements are:

  1. Originality: This spectrum runs from being original and innovative to grounded and pragmatic. It includes how you create your individual work-life balance.

  2. Individualism: This scope of behaviors runs from avoiding the spotlight and being super cooperative to the need for free expression and autonomy.

  3. Efficiency: This scale ranges from those with heightened awareness of time, energy and resources to those who are unruffled by inefficiency and are easily satisfied.

  4. Power: This spectrum stretches from the desire for authority equal to or greater than their responsibilities to a comfort with following others.

  5. Sacrifice: On one side are those who put forward great effort toward getting someone else what they need. On the other side are those who will not engage unless they see personal gain (WIIFM).

  6. Regulation: This spectrum addresses the desire to comply. It runs from viewing everything as black and white, always coloring within the lines, to behaviors that are non-compliant or even subversive.

  7. Theoretics: This includes the varying degrees of curiosity and the need to know ‘why’. It ranges from an eagerness to learn everything possible to a general indifference.

Measuring these seven motivational components of yourself and each of your team team members enables you to align the results with your specific work environment. This is extremely powerful because it is unnecessary to encourage a team member to do what they naturally want to do. Correspondingly, no amount of motivation will make an employee consistently think or act in a way that is unnatural to them.


Steve suggests looking for future leaders among your team by identifying employees who assume initiative for responsibilities outside of the framework of their immediate job. They may step up to a project when it needs to be done and independently seek solutions to problems. This approach positions the goal of management from ‘spotting talent’ to ‘finding those who are already leading and giving them the title to match what they are already doing.” Too often promotions give someone a title, hoping they can live up to it.


According to Steve, many managers are actually in management because their position serves as a personal self-help program. Being in charge of something or someone makes you feel important and generally better about who you are. Therefore most managers feel invigorated by controlling others. Unfortunately this can lead to withholding opportunities for change in an attempt to remain in power.

Low self-esteem or devaluing of oneself is often the result of negative inner dialogue. Even when you are offered praise, your inner talk is making excuses for why you’re undeserving, disagreeing with the person’s assessment, or hoping they don’t discover the truth that you’re not as great as they believe. (This is a significant challenge for me personally. I’d never framed it as low self-esteem before, but that’s exactly what it is.)

When we encounter people with high self-esteem, we often view them as arrogant or self aggrandizing. While for some that may be a cover for low self-esteem and for others it could be true ego, it may actually be a strong sense of self.


It’s important to note that low self-esteem is a serious mental condition and more than half of the people with low self-esteem would benefit from counseling. (Please, seek medical help.) To begin immediately reversing this inner dialogue, you must rewire your brain.

Your brain is a self-organizing, pattern-recognizing system, constantly constructing neural pathways based on how you perceive the world. What you choose to celebrate determines what you continue to think about. This in turn impacts the design of your neural networking. You can change a negative neurological pattern (i.e. change your mindset) by shifting from noticing personal defeats to noticing and celebrating personal victories. With continual practice the new input will build and strengthen positive neural pathways.


The one element that consistently seems to trump the “brain-motivation-environment” fit is whether you have a manager that you believe cares about you. People care more about the people they work with than about the company they work for. If you have a manager who cares about you, you will bend over backwards to meet that manager’s needs. On the other hand, if you don’t feel your manager cares about you, then you will not be inspired to meet their needs.

Instead of asking, “How am I doing as a manager?” try asking, “What do you need me to do to be the best manager you ever had?”


Become a member of The Modern Manager community and be eligible to win a full behavioral, motivational, and axiological analysis and a 90-minute debriefing. These tools will gather information about your brain type, communication type, motivational orientation (what moves you), emotional consistencies (what emotions you rely on for decision making), effective nature, default instincts, emotional needs, self-esteem, self-direction, practical thinking, structured thinking, work/role-awareness, etc. Learn more about memberships at

This article was based on episode 85 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


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