What Works Best: Manipulation or Motivation?

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A standard definition of supervision you may have heard is: “Getting work done through others.” Simple in concept, this definition is difficult in application. In the real world, supervision often becomes, “Do it my way!” Manipulation may be the most common supervisory technique!

You’ve probably studied numerous behavioral theories while in college or in self-help books. Mazlo, MacGregor, Drucker, Maxwell, and a long list of others provide insight into how to supervise. All of this learning is valuable. The only difficulty is that I can never remember it when I’ve got a supervision problem!

Long ago, I stumbled onto an easy-to-remember, practical definition and framework for supervising subordinates. I can remember it and it works! It’s called the “ICA” Formula and it’s as easy as A-B-C! I’d give credit to its author but I never knew who it was. So with credit to Anonymous, here it is:

A. Most supervision problems are the result of unfulfilled needs. Satisfaction of a person’s basic needs can prevent or eliminate many problems.

B. The key to successful motivation is needs satisfaction. Putting the other person’s needs first is the heart of servant-leadership.

C. Basic human needs can be categorized this way:


Most people want to be part of a team, group or organization. When they don’t feel like they fit in, they may concentrate more on people pleasing and performance orientation than on learning and their growth and development. Perhaps because of childhood or other experiences, most of us generally fear being excluded or rejected by others. We are even uncomfortable when others are excluded from a group or activity, perhaps because we may expect to be next!


Most of us have an inner desire to exercise some control over the tasks we are given to do. At the same time, we usually want the input and guidance of our supervisors. We need enough rope to expand and grow, yet not enough to hang ourselves! We need to control and to be controlled.


Whether we will admit it or not, we have a need to be liked by others. We want others’ affections for us to be unconditional. We don’t want to be judged when we’re wrong but, instead, to be evaluated considering our good intentions. The truth is, we want to be accepted for who we are, not just for what we do!

Post a comment and tell us what works for you!


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