30 September 2019
What can the distress behaviours of your team members tell you about what to focus on to motivate them?
We often talk about how managers need to be equipped with techniques that allow them to successfully motivate their team members and, most of us agree this is not an easy feat, as we are all different.
One method that I have tried and successfully used over the years is based on the Process Communication Model® (PCM), a highly reliable, behaviourally based development, communication and stress management model, used to individually tailor connection and motivation and build trust and rapport.
A bit of background about the Process Communication Model ®
The method was developed by American psychologist and university professor Taibi Kahler in the 1970’s and was first used by NASA in its selection and preparation of astronauts and later by Bill Clinton to tailor his political speeches to reach a wide range of audiences during his presidential campaign. Since then, PCM has been successfully implemented by more than a million people on five continents and is currently applied in a range of contexts including people management, sales and negotiation, education, recruitment, politics, parenting and personal relationships.
PCM personality profiles reveal a host of insights about how a person perceives the world, how they communicate, how they are motivated and how they will behave in distress.
If you're familiar with DISC®, Insight® or Meyers Briggs® (MBTI), then you have an idea of what this is. As helpful as these models are, they give a snapshot of a life, PCM gives a moving picture.
According to PCM, individual personality structure is comprised of six separate and mutually exclusive behaviours (personality) types. These are: Thinker, Persister, Harmoniser, Imaginer, Rebel and Promoter. Each of the six types communicates differently, learns differently, is motivated differently and has a different set of behaviours when in distress.
The metaphor of a condominium or apartment building is often used in teaching PCM, as it helps us to visualise the composition of each unique personality structure.
PCM teaches us that the personality structure presents a clear order of the six behaviour types, indicating the relative amount of time a person experiences and demonstrates the behaviours of a given floor type without using a lot of their energy.
The metaphor of an “elevator” illustrates the person’s ability to reach all of the floors and use all of their resources. It is more comfortable for us to activate the personality types that are closer to the base of the condominium.
Every person has all six types of personality, so it is normal to recognize in us elements from multiple types. They will appear as part of our behaviour with a higher or lower intensity, depending on how close they are to the base of our condominium and on the level of energy available on their specific floor, this also shows our natural preference for them.
Each personality type can be identified by specific second-by-second behaviours – which are categorised by words, tones, gestures, postures and facial expressions – and can be observed and recognised objectively with a high level of reliability.
Each of these six personality types is OK. Each has strengths and weaknesses and each of them has some important characteristics to bring to the table.
The ground floor, called the Base, indicates the dominant and most developed personality type. The Base personality represents our perceptual frame of reference and defines the “currency” we prefer to use in communication, our preferred communication channel, the words and the manner we use to communicate. The base personality is also the one that defines our strengths, the management style we prefer and the type of environment that is most comfortable to us.
The base will remain the same throughout all our life.
Below is a summary of the main traits, perceptual frame and “currencies” used in communication, as well as the strengths specific to every base personality type.
The concept of Phase is the main ingredient for understanding what motivates and stresses people. That is because the personality phase of each person reveals what is their main psychological need experienced in that phase of our life.
At the beginning of our lives, our Base is our Phase. One’s Phase can change one or more times through one’s life in certain conditions. Two thirds of the population will experience such Phase change at least once in their life. This Phase shift explains major personality changes that we note in ourselves or others.
This concept of a changing Phase Personality Type is also one of the keys to PCM’s success in providing a dynamic picture of one’s personality and part of the reason it was chosen by NASA and the White House as the main tool in recruitment, communication and profiling.
Meeting psychological needs – the key to motivation
Meeting our psychological needs is equivalent to charging our batteries. When our batteries are charged, we are more efficient, motivated and able to work and communicate better.
According to psychology research, when we do not get our Psychological Needs met positively, we attempt to get the very same needs met in a negative way, this is usually outside of conscious awareness of this ongoing, Phase-connected, distressed behaviour. This negative behaviour is observable, repetitive, sequential and predictable and is referred to as a “Distress Sequence” – and this is the most relevant point for our subject today - what can the distress behaviours of our team members tell us about what we need to focus on when seeking to motivate them.
Noticing how people react in medium or high stress situations (their distress sequence) will help us understand what their personality phase is, and thus, recognize their psychological needs. Once we understand what their psychological need is, we will know how to invite them out of their distress sequence, by meeting that need. It will be up to them if they accept our invitation or not. If they accept it, they will come back to their “condominium”, where constructive and positive behaviours take place.
The image above represents a short summary of the psychological needs of each Phase personality type, as well as of their distress sequence.
Using the table above, we can better understand when one of our team-members is in distress (do they exhibit some of the behaviours from the last column?). If yes, invite them out of distress by offering them their psychological needs that match the distress behaviour.
For the purpose of the exercise, and to make explanations more straightforward, I will consider that our team members have the same Base and Phase.
I will only give a couple of examples of how we can apply the summary in the image above, so it will be easy to see how it can be used in our everyday life.
Thinker Base and Phase
If I notice that any of my team members starts to:
- takes on as many responsibilities as possible
- doesn’t delegate
- starts to criticize the thinking of others
- become over-controlling
I will understand that they are exhibiting the distress sequence of the Thinker Phase.
As shown in the second column of the table, their Phase psychological needs are recognition of work and time structure. They desire acknowledgement and appreciation for their work and effort. They are motivated by awards, bonuses, a pat on the back, any recognition that they have done a good job. The need for time structure means that they want know what is to be done and by when.
Consequently, I will offer positive recognition (daily, if possible), something they have done well that day and thank them for meeting a deadline, while keeping the quality high. Weekly, I could have a meeting or send an email with a clear schedule of the upcoming deadlines and ask for their thoughts on some of the potential solutions to any of the issues we encounter. In this way, I would meet their need of knowing what is to be done and by when and I would also make use of their strengths (logic, good organisation skills, etc.).
Persister Base and Phase
If I notice that any of my team members starts to:
- criticise others, focusing only on what is wrong
- pushes beliefs
- scold others
- become righteous or suspicious
- believe that “if you’re not with me, you’re against me”
Most probably I will have a team member with Persister Phase who is in distress.
According to the second column of the table, their Phase psychological needs are recognition of work and of convictions. They need recognition for their achievements, as it indicates recognition of their strong commitment to and contribution towards the agreed goal. They feel the need to share their opinions/convictions. Their convictions refer to their having a commitment to a belief, an opinion or a judgement, and to how they demonstrate this in their actions. They want this to be valued and recognised.
Consequently, what I will do is to cover these needs by praising them for their commitment to quality and goals and for the quality of work they provide, their attention to details, dedication, etc. Additionally, at the weekly team meeting, ask them for their opinions.
I hope these examples will prove useful for you. By using the images above you will be able to construct your own authentic ways of meeting the needs of your team members in distress. Just pay attention to their behaviours under stress and you’ll know what to do. And when you do, do it sincerely, or it might not work.
Copyright Information: Dr. Taibi Kahler holds the copyright for The Process Communication Model® and all derivative works.