How to take your team to the top of Maslow’s pyramid

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In 1943, Abraham Maslow invented the pyramid of needs that shows how people in general achieve a sense of satisfaction.

Maslow said that these needs must be satisfied in a hierarchical order and that higher-level needs can only be satisfied once lower-level ones are met. The pyramid of needs is widely used in business management to explain employees motivation.

It is important to understand that not all people are motivated by the same things and that they don’t move up the hierarchy at the same pace. In order to help your team reach their full potential, you should think of different types of incentives on a case by case basis.

1.Biological and physiological needs

It is safe to assume that people working in the creative industries have these needs fully met. We are lucky to live in societies where access to water, food and shelter are no longer part of one’s day-to-day struggles.

This gives people more energy to focus on moving up the rest of the of the pyramid.

2. Security

Security in the workplace can be divided into two big parts: physical and psychological.

The work environment must be free of any physical safety hazards. It’s as simple as that.

Once you are physically safe at work, you can focus on the trickier part, the psychological aspect and perceived job security.

Your team will have more time and energy to focus on the work they have to do when they don’t need to worry about the security of their jobs or the health of the company. By creating a stable work environment, you empower your team to move up the pyramid and do their best possible work. You can achieve that by being a trustworthy leader. Sticking to your decisions and vision inspires confidence and a sense of stability.

3. Belongingness and love needs

The next level of the Maslow’s pyramid is people’s need of affection and belongingness. Love, acceptance, friendship and companionship are what makes people feel good about themselves and drives them to be better in both their personal and professional lives.

Your team needs to feel good about working together. As it turns out, when reviewing their job, people tend to say that the relationship with their co-workers is a deciding factor on whether they like it or not. When your team knows one another well enough, internal communication is smoother and they are more likely to work well together. People who already know, like and respect each other are more willing to collaborate better and this translates into an increased quality of the work they produce.

Given the fact that people spend most of their time at work, the development of good relationships with their colleagues can increase your team’s morale.

All of the these factors add up to one common result: a happy team that is naturally more eager to perform well. Occasional gatherings outside of work and team buildings are some of the most effective ways of increasing your team’s sense of belongingness.

4. Esteem

At this level, Maslow’s hierarchy shifts its focus to the personal ego: achievement and recognition. It’s pretty simple: people need to feel respected and valued for their work. At the same time, they need to feel like they are growing professionally.

What stimulates and engages people is a constant pursuit of new, exciting challenges. Everybody wants for their work to make a difference. The more complex and challenging the goal is, the prouder they’ll feel when they reach it.

Another important component of esteem is mastering the domain you work in. This is the reason why people feel the need to learn more about their work and learn new skills that will make them masters at their job. It makes them feel they are performing at their full potential and gives them a sense of independence and autonomy when they no longer have to depend on others.

Create engaging new programs where your teams can learn new things about the industry they work in and where they can improve their skills. Challenge them with exciting new projects and you will see their motivation increase considerably.

5. Self-actualization

In Maslow’s view, the need for self-actualization represents the growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs: those for meaning in life, in particular. According to the hierarchy, this level feeds the highest-order motivations, which drive people to realize their true potential and achieve their “ideal self”.

In the business environment this translates into people that give up their ego in order to reach their full potential. The ones who accept themselves and others despite any flaws, the ones who are interested not only in the destination but realise the journey is more important.

Even though few of them reach this level, they all have the potential. Leaders who started from the bottom of the org chart and reached management are the best example. They are now an example of constant effort and work ethics for everyone around them and their experience is an inspirations for others.

Every organization has these types of people and you as a manager need to identify and encourage the ones that are driven by this need. Offer them opportunities in which they can shine and it will benefit both them and your team.

So here they are: the 5 levels of Maslow’s pyramid. Understanding and putting it to practice can have a huge impact on your company’s success and your people’s state of mind. Don’t be afraid of a little psychology. It can show you the potential that you and your team can have to achieve great things.

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