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Personal fit question: How do you motivate others?

Anonymous A asked on Feb 05, 2018 - 5 answers

I've been asked this question at several interviews and am curious on how would you answer this question? I know it is specific to each person's experience, but I would just like to get some ideas if it is possible. Thanks a lot!

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replied on Feb 06, 2018
Former BCG decision round interviewer with 300+ real interviews in 8 years
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As you mentioned, the answer to this can vary a lot depending on personal experiences, leadership style, work environment. That said one tactic that is mentioned very frequently is that you can motivate others by understanding what is their benefit in doing the task you are trying to perform and making sure that you Communicate that you understand and they will get a benefit in return (e.g. Participate in this project and you will have VP visibility, etc).

Now, that raises the question about what you would do if there is nothing that would benefit them. At that point you can go with building personal rapport, influence, etc...

hope it helps,


Anonymous B updated his answer on Feb 05, 2018

I would answer it in a way on where i have demonstrated leadership and slowly segway that into motivating others into working in certain way. Perhaps think of "motivation" as "influence".


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replied on Feb 10, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

That’s a great question! Definitely not easy to give a succinct answer, the easiest thing would be to start from a successful personal experience you had, as you will always have to backup the theory with an actual real example.

As for my experience, the best way to motivate people is to show them that they can achieve 10X their goals, and that the path for that is doing what you want to motivate them for. Many people either don’t think about their goals, or set very low goals. If you are able to show them a 10X goal and how the task will benefit them, motivation will normally move them. To so you have to:

  • Understand what is important for the other person – their NEED
  • Show them how that they can not only achieve that goal, but even more - and that this is feasible – AMPLIFY THEIR NEED
  • Show them how doing what is required will help to achieve their goal – transform the boring task in the SOLUTION for their need

Eg: if you want to motivate you general manager:

  1. Understand what is important for him: family? More free time? Prestige? Reputation?
  2. Show them that they can obtain that with the right commitment on the current job – eg promotion faster than usual, early retirement
  3. Connect the task they have to do with the final result – show the path to promotion, partnership, etc

(By the way, this is done pretty clearly in consulting with the vision of paid MBA, great exit opportunities, partnership etc).

This is just one way to think about your question. Quoting “How to win friends and influence people” (strongly recommended if you want to go deeper in the topic) you can add:

  • Compliment every small improvement
  • Show first own mistakes before mentioning the other person’s ones
  • Ask questions instead of ordering to do something
  • Avoid creating “de-motivation” situations. Eg. never humiliate anyone, even when he/she is totally wrong
  • Help the other person to create a reputation to defend, eg mentioning in public accomplishments done and expected for one person (after previous alignment)



replied on Feb 07, 2018
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With these questions you need to think what is the information they are trying to dig up by asking it. Motivation Qs are essentially a question about how you influence others but targeted more at your peers and juniors. To answer this well with the right story, think about what motivating others mean to you. Typically motivation isn't something you "impart" but rather "invoke" in others. Remember:

  1. motivation is NOT something you are giving others. It's something they build on their own and you somehow find the right levers to initiate that journey and then just support it.
  2. It's NOT about you, it's about THEM. You need to give them the power/control.
  3. Find out what is causing them to be demotivated. People are lazy only when they aren't excited by the version of themselves doing whatever it is they are doing at work. Find out why. Solve it and motivation will come on its own.
  4. Money is almost NEVER the right motivation.


Dan replied on Feb 07, 2018
Dedicated to practicing and improving the performance of both myself and my partners. Prefer candidate-led style.

As you are aware, this is a question that is best answered by drawing extensively from your own experiences, and is ideally supported with 1-2 examples. For the record, this is a common interview question across many industries (including my current one), so I'll try to give you some advice based on what I've heard candidates say.

I want to build on what's been said - show the other person the personal benefit to themselves - by emphasizing the importance of empathy and understanding others. If you take courses or read books on influence and motivation, one of the foundational principles you'll learn is that you have to understand where the other person is coming from. What drives them? Caring for their family? Salary? Management visibility? Do they have particularly strong motivators or deterrents? In other words, do they respond more to "carrots" or "sticks," and if so, what form do those take?

Once you understand how the other person views the world and what they value, you can motivate them by linking a task to one of their core principles. As a hypothetical example, if an employee loves helping people and is tasked with completing a mind-numbing, multi-day process update, you could help motivate them by explaining that updating the process will save other people time. This links a potentially unsavory work assignment (updating a process) to one of their core values (helping others).

In many ways, I think my response is similar to the "show the other person how they benefit" argument that was articulated by others; personally, I find it easier to understand the empathic explanation rather than the transactional answer. This is why I framed my response in the way that I did.

I hope that provides additional insight!


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