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Motivation Cards can Help Develop your Staff

This blog is based on how one organisation is using motivation cards to make a difference in how staff are managed, developed and coached.

How do we identify what motivates our people?

It’s the age old thing that every person who manages people wants to know. I mean, what management course doesn’t include a session on motivation? This is the story of how my motivation cards have enabled meaningful conversations to happen at Snap-On Tools in Kettering, Northamptonshire.

I’m always eager to design new training games that stir up the neurons. I personally enjoy kinaesthetic tools – things I can touch and feel – to help me clarify my thoughts. I love designing cards to use on courses and for Managers to take away. I used my motivation cards with a fab group of Managers at Snap-On, and I was thrilled to meet with them to talk through how they have used them.

One Manager stated that she used to find it difficult extracting development idea’s from her team mates during their regular reviews. The motivation cards gave her the chance to understand what excites and inspires them to support some robust planning. She used the same method I had shared during our training. She gave each team member a set of the cards and asked them list, in order, their top ten motivators. This highlighted how some people had different motivators than she had expected. It highlighted previously unseen potential, even when managing some of her team mates for some time, such as ‘teaching/training others’

Motivation Cards for a New Team

Another Manager explained how the cards gave him the opportunity to understand a newly formed team.  He used coaching skills by applying the GROW model and having meaningful discussions with his team mates about their work.  The cards helped him understand where members of the team needed a fresh view.  One person wanted a longer term career and saw their potential as “leading others”. It enabled both to have a meaningful and productive coaching session.

So How do the Motivation Cards Enable these Discussions?

A Team Leader explained “The cards allow someone to comfortably demonstrate how they are motivated by clarifying an individual’s thoughts and feelings. For instance, saying “I want to teach others” may be uncomfortable. But using the cards allows a person to apply them to their personal situation. One-to-one conversations were much more meaningful as it was easier to open the conversation up around the cards they had ranked 1-3, or in the top ten.  Get examples of work that motivated people, or demotivated them, and ask ‘What?’, ‘How’ and ‘Describe’ type questions.

The cards helped the process of relaxing people –as they are tangible and individually focused. It makes it easier to get to know people. If people get frustrated in their roles, the cards help us to work on what options are available to improve their situation and support positive change.”

So the cards have been used to identify demotivators, and potential motivators in 1 to 1 reviews.

Longer Term

There are plans to use them longer term, too. Repeating the exercise with staff will unearth any patterns. One Manager stated “I hope longer term to see trends by using the cards thus allowing me to help my team mates map out their own development.”

“It was really interesting to see that three cards came up time and again with one team. Work-life balance, money and our bonus. Think of the implications to how we manage people, and how easily we could mess up the positive motivators without knowing this information!”

End of Year Reviews

The Customer Service Manager explained that they were planning to use the cards in the end of year reviews for establishing meaningful personal goals.  She said, “It’s been interesting to see the journey my Managers have taken during the training provided by The Development Company.  The cards are just one tool that has helped our Managers have more valuable and focused conversations about work.

“Let’s be honest, motivation changes, so if we can use the cards to discuss career changes, this will help us with our people plan, which can only further develop our talent.”


The reason for my job is to enable people to have a more meaningful working life, to enable managers and leaders to get the best from their people. I am overjoyed that a training activity I designed is being used in such a pragmatic way.

Kay Buckby, The Development Company


 Pick up your set of motivation cards here and let us know what difference they make. Also please let us know how we can improve them.

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