David McClelland is in the middle with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass)
I’d like to tell you a story about a time in my life when I experienced and utilized three types of motivation, as articulated by the research of David McClelland, one of my professors when I was a graduate student at Havard. The three types of motivation he identified are:
need for achievement
need for power
need for affiliation
First, I will go back to a time when I had just started junior high school in an old building in Ferndale, Michigan. I was in math class, sitting next to one of my friends, Jill Oliver. The teacher, Mr. Gray, had a nasty way of keeping order in the class. He would walk behind us to see if we were talking or if we were not paying attention to our work. When we could not see him, he would whop us in the head with the snapping motion of his finger. This, of course, was intimidating and it hurt. But in 1957 there was nothing we could do about an abusive teacher.
What type of motivation was Mr. Gray propelled by? I would definitely say the need for power.
Flash forward to 1963, when in our senior year at Ferndale High School, fights broke out in the parking lot between various cliques in the school. The school was divided like a caste system. At the top, were well-off students from northern Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge. Their parents tended to be professionals, business owners, and executives.
The largest group was second in the caste tier, they were a group of students whose parents were middle-class to lower-middle class. Many of the students had parents who worked in factories, especially for the Big Three, making automobiles. I was in the middle caste system. My father worked at a plating and chrome shop in Detroit.
At the bottom of the caste system were the students from Royal Oak Township, a small community that ran along 8-mile road. All the students from Royal Oak Township were black and generally quite poor. Other than sports, the students were basically invisible in school. If you look in the yearbook today, you will only find pictures of white people. The only pictures of black people were in the sports section.
Things were so divided and biased in the school district that in the late 60s, Ferndale School District was cited by the Federal Government for practicing De Facto Segregation against the students from Royal Oak Township.
In our senior year, the student body was shocked when John F. Kennedy, our beloved president, was assassinated in Dallas on November 22.
Motivated by the ideals of John F. Kennedy, I ran and was elected to the student council. Wanting to join the student council, was a combination of my power motivation, (the need to hold an elected office) and achievement motivation (the desire to win an election). My third motivation was affiliation. I wanted to be part of the student council kids, who mainly consisted of the “cool kids” from Pleasant Ridge. Somehow, my participation in the student council brought me closer to the students who I wanted to be affiliated with.
When I gave my candidacy speech to the student body, I was critical of the teacher bias in favor of giving the upper-class students the most opportunity to participate in activities, get the best classes, and be coached into going to college. I observed that the teachers often were not available to kids from the middle or lower classes.
After the speech, I had my next encounter with Mr. Gray, who was now teaching in high school. He walked up to me in a rage. He got right up in my face and shouted, How dare you criticize the teachers. My doors are open all the time to students. But “those people” never show up. I felt his breath on me and I thought, Same old Mr. Gray. At least he was facing me directly, and not whopping me in the back of the head. Mr. Gray had once again put on his power motivation face. I’m not sure he had any other type of motivation.
The student council turned out to be a social body made up of students who had failed to do anything about the fights in the school. Disappointed, I decided on my own to take action to improve the culture of the school. What I did was ask many of the kids I knew who were from every level of the caste system to get together to talk about the problems and to try to do something about them. A group of 15 boys (for some reason, we failed to include girls) gathered together every week to talk about the problems. Collectively, we made a decision to go directly to the teachers to discuss our perspectives the about the causes of problems in the school.
At the same time, we went to the student body as a whole to try to make them more aware of biases that existed in the school. Because the new group, which we called “The Student Relations Council”, consisted of a wide variety of students from all walks of life, the student body respected us and responded well to our efforts to change the school culture.
As I analyze my actions when I was 17, I see I utilized three types of motivation (of course, I did not realize this when I was doing it).
First, the need for achievement: to organize a group of people to confront the problems in the school.
Secondly, the need for affiliation: to bring together a group of people who I respected.
Thirdly, the need for power: I wanted to organize and be in charge of the Student Relations Council. Even though we all shared responsibility, I was the one who organized the group and got us talking together in the evening in our basements. I was proud of my leadership.
Through my efforts, I was selected by the teachers to be the first recipient of the John F. Kennedy Award for Scholarship and Service.
To conclude, I encourage the leaders who are reading this post to think about using all three types of motivation to achieve what they desire.
By the way, I never did hear from Mr. Gray about my award. And my friend, Jill Oliver, was elected homecoming queen. I kicked myself that I never asked her out on a date.
To learn more about the three different types of motivation, read here David McClelland – Achievement Motivation
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Cyber Security – Where do you stand?
Cybersecurity is like a chronic disease – it’s always going to be here and it’s only going to get worse, but there are things you can do to manage it. In our fun and interactive discussion, we will talk about the cybersecurity threats we are all facing every day, the threat actors who are doing this, and what we can do to protect our companies and ourselves.
SensCy was launched in July 2022 by former State of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, former State of Michigan and La-Z-Boy CIO David Behen, retired Michigan State Police CTO Dave Kelly, and Ann Arbor serial entrepreneur Bhushan Kulkarni. The cybersecurity product and services offered by SensCy are focused on small and medium sized businesses and are high-tech and high-touch. Their vision is to be the cybersecurity trusted guide for SMOs and partner with them to put in place a proactive cybersecurity program, which includes education and awareness training, development of an incident response plan, cybersecurity policy development, vulnerability scans, and more. They have clients in many different verticals as cybersecurity is impacting all industries. Feel free to check out their newsletters, blogs, and webinars.
David Behen is the co-founder and chief client success officer of SensCy.
Join us on Friday, February 24, 2023 at 8:00 AM at Zingerman’s Roadhouse for the discussion.