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Be yourself, always, and be proud of it!

  • Every person has a unique personality that sets them apart and contributes to their success.

  • Personality is more important than skills and qualifications when it comes to determining whether a person will be successful in a task.

  • Steven Reiss' life motives show that no employee can be moved against his inner drives and needs from the outside.

  • For an individual to be successful, their life motives must be in harmony.

  • The fit between task and motivation should have the priority: “Personality First.”

Our personality is the key to success.

Every person has their personality and individual traits that make them unique and set them apart. In the work and human resources world, however, the focus is almost exclusively on the skills and competencies of current or potential employees. I counter this. First and foremost, our personality and intrinsic motivation determine whether we succeed or fail in a task.

Galileo Galilei already recognized: “You cannot teach a person anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.”

Any motivational strategy that seeks to inspire people against their personality and their drive mechanism is fundamentally doomed to failure.

Why does every person have a different driving force? Identifying the motives that drive people—their purpose, their Why—is challenging for individuals. Personality research helps us visualize our drive and individual needs. Steven Reiss, an American professor of psychology and psychiatry, conducted intensive research in the 1990s. His goal was to identify what makes people happy and gives meaning to their lives. The result of his groundbreaking work is 16 life motives, which in varying degrees, shape each person's personality. Just as the sequence of amino acids as the building blocks of our unique DNA determines our genetic identity, the 16 life motives define our personality. Their multifaceted expressions and multi-layered nuances give each person their individuality.

Be authentically successful: The inner drive.

Every person is different.

According to Reiss, I use motivation diagnostics exceptionally effectively in my practical work in change management. The result often surprises the people themselves. The insight shows us the fuel that makes us perform at our best in our private and professional lives. It clarifies which tasks simultaneously make us happy and successful, and in which situations we excel and cannot. What sounds simple is a revolutionary insight not only into psychology, but just as much in human resources. I advise radically throwing all commercially available management guidebooks on employee motivation into the wastebasket. Reiss' life motives show that no employee can be moved against his inner drives and needs from the outside. This is because the identified motives are universal and hardly change in life. They are laid in our cradle.

The DNA of our personality

Only when our life motives are in harmony, do we realize our potential. Reiss' diagnostics help us recognize why some tasks come quickly and fill us up. Others, on the other hand, make us work hard without the right success. People with a strong expression of the life motive “power” and assert there will feel comfortable in a competitive environment. They work effectively and are entirely in their element. They function in their comfort zone.

In contrast, individuals with a strong sense of order and a penchant for perfectionism stumble into the chaos of a start-up. But the picture is more complex. The nuances are many, and the combination of the 16 life motives is as numerous as the genetic fingerprint. Exceptions are identical twins, and even these rarely have the same personality.

Being different is not a deviation from the norm.

Psychoanalysis is in the tradition of Freud, who differentiated between the healthy and the sick mind. To be different, however, does not mean to be sick. Being different merely means having another inner drive. It means that people function differently in certain situations. And this has implications for the way people master tasks at work. Reiss provides a comprehensive alternative to the simplistic pigeonholes we put people in that reflects the infinite number of individuals. He makes the complexity of personality visible, but simultaneously understandable and comprehensible. For human resources, his diagnostics allows him to say goodbye to the standardized ideal candidate. In return, HR managers can look at personalities in all their facets and systematically examine the interplay between motivation and situation.

People and tasks: finding the right lid for the pot

What does motivation analysis mean for human resources specialists? In recruiting, personnel managers focus on filling the position. Applicants must have the appropriate qualification profile, education, and skills and competencies required for the job. Job requirements read like technical specifications. Personality traits only come into play at the end of the checklist, if at all. People only perform sustainably in their jobs if their intrinsic motivation is right and the field of activity appeals to their life motives. Without this fit, there is no spark. Even the much-vaunted leadership techniques of modern management institutes do not get employees fired up and do not spur them on to extraordinary performance. Perfect professional qualifications only allow the job holder to develop his or her full potential if the job simultaneously appeals to his or her intrinsic drive.

Simple, ingenious, and yet challenging.

Anyone who wants to be successful in their career would do well to know their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses in detail. In the same way, sustainably successful human resources specialists look for the person who fits the task, the team, and the company. Since most people are not, or only sometimes fully, aware of their motivations, it is up to the HR specialist and the applicant to work this out together. I recommend the motivation analysis, according to Reiss. The fit between task and motivation should have the priority: “Personality First.”

Only then come the professional qualifications. Professional training fills knowledge gaps. Of course, personality is no substitute for a degree in medicine or engineering. But if the task, the company, and the employee do not fit together, the best degree or the most extensive professional or management experience will not help. Contrary to all management literature, the missing driving force cannot be created or even the personality corrected.

If tasks and personality move in harmony, people, and employees are highly motivated and can hardly be stopped. Then we put all our energy into the job and lead ourselves, our team, the project, and the company to success. This simple but revolutionary formula replaces sophisticated leadership training and time-consuming motivational workshops. Many people know the euphoria with which people leave training, and how quickly it fizzles out in everyday life. Implementing the essential insights of Reiss puts human resources at the center of breakthrough human resource management. Recognize the personality behind the qualification profile and ensure coherence between the job and the jobholder.

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