Episode 384 – Motivation with Catherine Stothart

Catherine Stothart‘Motivation is what drives your choice of what to do, and also how hard you try and how long you keep trying for.’

With a wealth of experience in coaching and training leaders from top multinational companies like Airbus, Google, and Audi, Catherine Stothart has developed a deep understanding of what motivates individuals and teams. Understanding these needs can help managers create the right conditions for motivation and engagement within their teams.

We also discuss the importance of aligning communication styles with individual preferences, as it plays a crucial role in building rapport, trust, and uncovering what truly motivates team members, and how so much of writing is actually about talking. 



Catherine’s website: https://essenwood.co.uk/

Catherine on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/catherine-stothart-19972bb/

Alison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/the-alison-jones/

The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge: http://proposalchallenge.com/

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Alison Jones: I am here today with Catherine Stothart, who is a leadership coach who’s coached and trained hundreds of leaders to engage and motivate their teams and to develop themselves in top multinational companies, including Airbus, Google, and Audi. And she’s also the author of two books, How to Get On With Anyone: A practical guide to understanding others and communicating with confidence and charisma, and Motivation: The ultimate guide to leading your team.

She has lived in Egypt and Brazil, but now, brilliantly, she’s just up the road from me in Chester, so welcome to the show, Catherine. It’s lovely to have you here.

Catherine Stothart: Thank you, Alison. It’s lovely to be here and it’s nice that we’re quite close, although we’re in different studios as it were at the moment. We are physically, as you said, not far apart.

Alison Jones: Just up the road. If I opened the window, I could bawl loud enough and you’d hear me, which would be really lovely.

So I’m going to start off with asking you about Motivation. Here’s the book, look, if you’re looking at it, there it is.

I’m going to ask you about Motivation, and you’ve got these sort of four key fundamental human needs that you set out, which seem to be very insightful.

Just talk us through what motivates us? How do we get the science of that, if you’re a manager?

Catherine Stothart: Okay. Right. That’s quite a big question, of course.

Alison Jones: I know.

Catherine Stothart: But basically it appears from research and evidence and so on, that there are four core needs we all share as human beings. So we need to feel that we belong, you know, to a team, a group, a family, or whatever. We need to feel that we’re competent and that we’re respected for our skills. We need to feel that we have some freedom, some choice and control over what we do and when we do it. And we have a need to fulfill our potential, and be the best we can be, sort of thing.

Now these four core needs, it’s believed that they’re universal, we all share them, but sometimes one of them can be more important for a particular individual than the others.

But basically we share them all. I haven’t sort of randomly invented these core needs myself. They’re based on research, so partly Maslow. So most people, most managers I work with are familiar with Maslow.

Alison Jones: Yes. Hierarchy of needs, certainly

Catherine Stothart: That’s right. Yes, and you’ll say who’s heard of Maslow? And they put their hands up and you’ll say and what’s at the top of his Hierarchy of Needs?

And they’ll look blank.

It’s self-actualization. That’s dead right, yes. And then you’ll say, what’s self-actualization? Nobody knows.

Alison Jones: It’s the thing that’s at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Catherine Stothart: Yes, exactly, yes. So, and I mean for me it’s about fulfilling your potential. But anyway, basically the point I’m trying to make is that most managers, they’re busy people. They’ve heard of Maslow and that’s it. But actually there’s a whole other body of well researched and well evidenced stuff by some people call Ryan and Deci and their self-determination theory, and they believe that we have three others, apart from fulfilling our potential, we have these needs for belonging, for competence, and for freedom. They actually use slightly different words than me, they call it relatedness for belonging. They say competence and they call freedom, autonomy, so they use slightly different words.

And if, well, I know that you will have heard of Dan Pink and his book Drive. His book Drive is based on the work of Ryan and Deci as well. What I’ve done, I’ve sort of used some of Ryan and Deci and some of Maslow to say, right, these are four core needs that motivate us.

And why is it important to know that? Well, for a manager, it’s important to know it because you are really responsible for creating the conditions under which people can feel motivated. So if we have these core needs, how as a manager can you engage them to give them a sense of purpose? How can you connect with them to give them that sense of belonging and meet their needs for belonging? How can you help them meet their needs for competence, by how you develop them or give them feedback, and how can you meet their needs for freedom, by delegating or whatever?

So for managers, I think it’s really important to know about these core needs and then therefore, how you might need to manage people. But I also think for you as an individual, it’s important to know, you know, if you know that, oh, well, I’ve got a need for such and such, say belonging, but actually I’m neglecting that at the moment, so I’m not able to meet that need, you’re not going to be as happy. You’re not going to have wellbeing.

And if you’re aware of that, you can think, okay, what should I do about that? How can I feel that I belong to my group, my team, my organization, my family, or whatever it might be? So that’s a bit of a brief overview, hopefully that sort of paints the picture a little bit.

Alison Jones: No, and really beautifully articulated. And of course, as you point out in the book as well, that sense that the dislocation, if your primary need is competence, but you’re managing somebody whose primary need is belonging; if you’re not aware of that, then you’re setting yourself up to fail, aren’t you?

Catherine Stothart: Yes, absolutely. Because if your primary need say is competence, then you are probably somebody who’s a lifelong learner. You probably like to be independent. You probably like to innovate, find better ways of doing things, be more strategic. So these core needs lead to certain patterns of behaviour.

So, you might be a manager who has that core need and has those patterns of behavior. But if you’re managing somebody who has a high need for belonging and wants regular feedback, or wants regular check-ins with you and wants to know how they’re progressing, maybe wants some more guidance than you would typically need yourself, then you’re not able to meet the needs of them. And then they don’t perform as well. They become less confident, and they don’t stretch themselves and they’re not so happy in their work.

Alison Jones: It’s a really lovely example of how theory plays so crucially into practice in the workplace. And I want to come onto that actually because it’s something that you do exceptionally well. But I also, before I leave this sort of discussion of what you write about, I thought it was really fascinating as well the way that that motivation stuff plays into the communication stuff. So your first book about how to get on with anyone and those sort of interaction styles. And I know in the prep I asked you this question, and you went ooh, that’s a really interesting question. So let’s just take a couple of minutes: how does that sense of what motivates you interact with your preference for communication, if you like?

Catherine Stothart: Yes, that is quite a complicated question, but I mean, for me, at a fairly simple level, you have to start with communication. So if you are a manager, you need to know how to communicate with the individuals in your team in a way that builds rapport with them, so that they trust you. Because unless you have rapport with them and they trust you, they’re not going to be open to having discussions with you about their performance.

You know, they’re not going to be that open to coaching, say, or having feedback or whatever. And also you are not going to be able to find out what it is that really motivates them, what’s important to them, what do they really enjoy, what do they really do well, unless you can get onto the same wavelength as them.

So my first book, How to Get On With Anyone, was based on a sort of framework of behavior called interaction styles. And that basically helps people understand how they come across, the impact of their behavior on other people and how to adapt that if it’s not having the impact that they want.

So, when we communicate, we usually have a positive intention. We don’t set out to be awkward or difficult. Well, I don’t think we do.

Alison Jones: Most people don’t. We all know some…

Catherine Stothart: Yes, so usually we have a positive intention, but sometimes the way we come across can have a negative impact and then we don’t have the influence we want. So if you’re more aware of, oh, well actually, yes, I’ve got this great intention. I’ve got this positive intention. You know, I want to get something done, for example. But actually the way I’m coming across is I’m being impatient or demanding, and then people aren’t responding in the way I want and they’re withdrawing from me. If you’re more aware of your impact, you can adapt that.

And similarly, if you’re more aware of what other people need from you or what’s driving their behaviour, you can again, flex and adapt to sort of meet them in the middle, as it were.

So, I’m not sure if I fully answered your question, but basically I think, you have to start with communication and I think the motivation side, you’re going a bit deeper because you’re going into not just what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, but you’re going into why doing it when you’re going into motivation.

Alison Jones: But the relationship piece is the foundational piece, because without that…

Catherine Stothart: …yes…

Alison Jones: …you’ve got nothing as a manager. It’s fascinating and I think we’ve already demonstrated that you have a particular knack for translating theory, quite chewy academic theory, into stuff you can use every day in the office.

So, and, you know, that runs like a golden thread through both of your books that I’ve read, so just tell me a little bit about that. Is it something you consciously set out to do? How do you do it?

Catherine Stothart: I don’t know. I mean, it is conscious in the sense that I see myself, you know, managers are busy people and they haven’t got the time to read all this research and they’re not interested in it. They have their own field of professional and technical competence. I’m interested in this stuff. I’m interested in behaviour and psychology and so on.

And so I sort of see my role as integrating, synthesising, gathering stuff and thinking about it and getting the nuggets out of it, and then just giving the managers the nuggets without all the fluff, the background that they don’t really want to know. So I’m the sort of translator of the more complicated stuff into some simple nuggets that they can use, but hopefully they’re also nuggets that are based on sound theory, sound research, solid evidence, experience. I mean, a lot of what’s in both my books actually, there’s case studies in both of them and a lot of the case studies are based on my own experience of people that I’ve coached or teams I’ve worked with where I’ve really seen the theory play out in practice.

You know, it comes to life and so then that’s what I try to do in the books: bring it to life.

Alison Jones: And also give it words that you can use in the office without sounding as though you’re talking like a textbook. You’ve already said you’ve renamed that stuff in a way that just makes it feel more like part of a normal conversation than academic speak.

Catherine Stothart: Yes. I don’t really like jargon…

Alison Jones: …yes…

Catherine Stothart: …at all. You know, organizations are full of jargon and it’s amazing, I’m somebody who, if I’m in a meeting and somebody uses an acronym I don’t understand, I will say, oh, what does that mean? But I’ve sat in meetings and I know people don’t understand what’s being spoken about and they’re too afraid of appearing ignorant, because they’re not ignorant, we just don’t have the same knowledge, or experience to draw on. So, I like to explain things in… I wouldn’t say simple because they’re not simplistic, but simple, clear language. I remember a very simple quick example, years ago I worked for ICL computer company and one of the issues with computers is radio frequency interference, RFI.

So I was very familiar with this term, RFI, meaning radio frequency interference. And then I went and worked in another organization and they kept saying RFI and I was sort of scratching my head thinking, I don’t understand this, it is not making sense. And what they meant was request for information.

So, I mean, I try to avoid acronyms, jargon and I want people to be able to read my stuff and understand it, not read my stuff and think, what on earth is she talking about?

Alison Jones: And I think this is, for me, the essence of a really useful business book: is that it’s drawing on really solid, well-established well-proven theory, well thought through, and it’s absolutely practical and it’s something that you can take into the office and use tomorrow and it helps you do your job better and it makes your life better.

So I think that’s a… when I say you do it and I’m really, I’m going to push it again because I just think it’s so interesting for people because people know they need to do it, but they find it really hard. And I know you find it hard to articulate how you do it,

Catherine Stothart: Yes.

Alison Jones: But that, I mean, in a sense you’ve given us a bit of the answer to the puzzle there. It’s just that relentless focus on making this something that people can understand without having read the manual…

Catherine Stothart: …yes…

Alison Jones: …without having been embedded in the field for the last 10 years. So when you write something, do you test it out on yourself? Has it become instinctive now? Do you test it on other people?

Catherine Stothart: Well, I certainly test stuff out on other people, as in, you know, with both my books I got other people to read them and so on. Do I test? Yes, I think I do. I think I do. And I think, I’ll tell you the other thing that has probably helped me. I do quite a lot of workshops and always have done, I’ve worked as a team facilitator for many years.

 And I’ve also done training, so I’ve facilitated teams, but I’ve also delivered training on things like, interview skills or appraisal skills, or whatever it might be. And when you are delivering face-to-face training, you have to explain things so the people in that room can understand you immediately.

And then they go and you break them into groups and they do some practical exercises and you know, you need them to be able to know what they’re doing, understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how to do it. So I think probably when I write, I’m almost, not deliberately, but I think in the back of my head, I’m sort of writing it as if I’m saying it to a group, as if I’m running a workshop.

Alison Jones: And you can imagine the blank looks that you would get if you said something without translating it first.

Catherine Stothart: Yes, yes, yes.

So I’ve only just sort of realized this since you’ve pushed me and asked me the question. I think I’m writing it as I would say it if I was explaining it to a group of people that needed to understand it so they could go and do something with it.

Alison Jones: Yes, brilliant tip, thank you so much. When you write, I’ve now got a lovely mental image of you sort of mentally in front of the room of people, I love that, what are your sort of, what’s your process? Because obviously you’re a fluent writer now, you’ve done several books, you’ve done a new edition of your first book.

What’s your ‘soup to nuts’ kind of process for how you do it, your systems and so on?

Catherine Stothart: Yes, I’m not very hot on systems. So I listened to one of your recent podcasts, I think it was Rachel Lawes, and I thought, wow, I don’t do it anything like she does.

Alison Jones: There’s a woman with a system.

Catherine Stothart: Yes, exactly. So I think that goes to prove that as a writer, for an author, you have to find what works for you.

But basically, how do I work? So, I mean with my first book, How to Get On With Anyone, I was thinking about the topic and running workshops and coaching people using this framework of interaction styles probably for about four or five years before I even thought about writing a book. So I sort of immersed myself in that and gathered content and gathered case studies and then I thought, oh, I should really write a book about this.

So, and then my second book, the Motivation book. I say second book, it’s actually my third technically, because I do have an ebook, but that’s only available to people that subscribe to an organization called BookBoon. And it’s certainly my second proper book, Motivation. Again, it was a topic I’d been interested in for a very long time.

I did my master’s degree 20 years ago, and motivation as a topic was a big element of that degree. So again, I’d been gathering information and examples and case studies for quite a long time, but basically what do I do? So I think I start with the content. Then try to make sense of it.

So, and I’m conscious at the moment, as you said, I’m writing a second edition. I’m about to start writing a second edition of How to Get On with Anyone, and it’ll have some new chapters and some new content. There’ll be stuff on leadership and there’ll be a whole chapter on EDI, equality, diversity, and inclusion. So for those, I’m already gathering content, but I’m not very structured in the way, I don’t use any formal systems or processes.

So for example, I might cut out an article from a newspaper, so that’ll get filed in a folder, you know, divided into sections. I’m slightly organized. Stuff that’s electronic, I’m just gathering into folders at the moment. You know, there’s a folder for leadership, there’s a folder for EDI. If I see interesting articles or interesting links I’ll put them into that folder. So they’re there.

And then I think my next stage is I gather loads of stuff, but then I need a model or a framework or whatever you call it. And I don’t know what that’s going to be for this, for the EDI, for example, I don’t know what my framework is going to be. I sort of start with gathering the content and then think, well, what’s going to work to make sense of this for other people?

So with my first book, How to Get On with Anyone, I, again, I gathered lots of material and then I thought, oh, this is really about emotional intelligence, so I could hang this around, you know, self-awareness, being aware of your impact on others and being able to manage the emotions that affect your behaviour and awareness of other people and being able to manage the relationships with them.

So I had that sort of emotional intelligence model, plus the sort of intention and impact that I’ve already mentioned, and then I could hang my material around that. And with the Motivation book, I came across a definition of motivation. It was something like, motivation is what drives your choice of what to do, and also how hard you try and how long you keep trying for. And I thought, oh, that’s persistence and resilience.

So the sort of model for the Motivation book is I’ve hung it all around this sense of having a sense of purpose, persistence, and resilience as well as the different patterns of behavior we were talking about earlier, the core needs.

So I think I gather content and then I say, right, what frameworks or model does this naturally fall into? And then I can make sense of all this content that I’ve got. So it’s very much a sort of synthesising, sort of synthesising stuff but then almost breaking it up again and analyzing it into whatever segments make sense.

Alison Jones: And it’s a sort of an in-out thing isn’t it? It’s really interesting that you create your buckets so to break down the buckets in the way that you do, you know, what you’re going to collect. You’ve got a structure in your head…

Catherine Stothart: …yes…

Alison Jones: …and then it’s almost a sort of ground-up rebuilding of that structure, depending on what you find and how you see it fitting together. It’s really interesting.

Catherine Stothart: Yes. And this is not something I’ve learned, this is just the way I work, you know, but as I said, other authors will undoubtedly I’m sure, you’ve met many authors, you know, they’ll work differently.

Alison Jones: Yes, I think there are similar stages that we approach differently, but that iterative nature, that sort of sense of, I’ve got a hypothesis, if you like, and I gather my information and then I process it and I rework and out of that comes something new, I think that is common to pretty much every author that I’ve spoken to. So it’s really interesting.

What do you find most enjoyable about the process?

Catherine Stothart: Enjoyable about that process that I’ve just described?

Alison Jones: Well, about the whole of the writing the book and into marketing as well. Why not?

Catherine Stothart: Ooh, gosh. So just narrowing it onto that process. That process I just described, I think what I find most enjoyable is feeling I’ve created something new or a new way of looking at something, and then people being able to use it, actually. That I’ve added something here.

The whole process of writing a book, oh my god, I mean, one of the things I find rewarding, I suppose, is when people say to you, oh, that book, it was so helpful. Or, I was speaking to a client last week and she said, and I’ve got a set of cards that she had bought and used, and she said I still have them. I still use them. I still refer to them. This is a year later.

So, I mean, I love that. The actual writing, I do enjoy writing. I have to say, and I think why I enjoy it is, I’m a bit of a thinker and it helps me clarify my thoughts. So I do actually, when I know I’ve got to write a book or in this case, the second edition, that’s coming up, I will set aside certain time for it, but I will look forward to doing it and I feel frustrated when I can’t.

So if everyday life takes me away from when I want to write, I feel frustrated because I know I’ve got stuff I want to write. That doesn’t mean that it always works though, of course. Because sometimes you can sit down, you can start off, Yes, I’m looking forward to doing this today. You start off and then suddenly, oh my God, it won’t come. Or I can’t, this idea I’ve got in my head, I can’t get it out.

So, but yes, I do enjoy writing. I enjoy writing, you know, I write articles, I write a blog, I have a newsletter and I do all of that because I enjoy writing.

Alison Jones: Yes. And you put it beautifully in that sense that it’s helping you clarify your thinking, but it’s also it’s the time where you focus on the stuff that really interests you, isn’t it? And when other people take you away from that, it’s really maddening.

Catherine Stothart: Which again comes back to motivation. If you know what motivates you and what energizes you, then the whole point of my motivation book was that you need to find ways to do more of what energizes you. And manage the things that drain your energy. You know, try and minimize them as much as possible.

But a lot of people I think at work don’t know actually really what motivates them, what their core needs are, and how they might meet those needs in their work life, but also outside work as well.

Alison Jones: Yes, and I think sadly a lot of people think that they’re not going to meet those needs at work at all and sort of disengage and find them outside the office. Which is a shame because actually work can be such a satisfying part of your life.

Catherine Stothart: And it’s such a big part in terms of time.

Alison Jones: Yes. In terms of the time you’re awake, it really breaks into your day, doesn’t it?

Catherine Stothart: It does, yes.

Alison Jones: And I’m going to ask you for your best tip, Catherine. So if somebody’s just starting out on this journey, well, I guess I’m asking what do you wish you’d known before you started writing business books?

Catherine Stothart: I think what I wish I’d known before I started writing the first one was how important it is to talk to other people. So, as you’ve probably gathered, you know, I’ve said I like writing, I like thinking, so I’m quite self-contained in many ways, although I also like talking as we’re doing now.

So for my first book, I think I could have talked to more people. Just all sorts of people, you know, just randomly, you know? Because when you say you’re writing a book to somebody, they’ll immediately want to talk to you about it and ask you about it. And so I found with my second book, Motivation, that I did; I was more upfront, because the first one, you know, you’re not quite, oh, am I really an author? I’m a little bit diffident about it, not quite confident about it perhaps to some extent. But with the second book I’ve already got, I’m a published author already, so I didn’t mind saying to people, oh yes,, I’m writing a book.

What happens, when they say to you, what’s it about? You have to be able to explain it in a way they can understand, they find interesting and engaging. So just that at a basic level is really, really important. I remember one guy saying to me, well, isn’t everybody just motivated by achieving things?

And at the time I didn’t have a very good answer to that, so, telling people about your book, whoever they might be, challenges you, it enables you to get your thinking even clearer and know what it is you really want to say. So talk to people and you know, I’ve learned that people will be happy to be interviewed for your book and then they might be willing to endorse it. They’re quite often happy to be quoted, as in case studies because they like it. They like feeling that they’re going to be in a book. And most of my case studies, by the way, are anonymous. Although, but some people in my second book said they were happy to be named with their actual names sort of thing, which is nice.

So yes, talk to people. Tell them what you, and you learn so much. You learn from other people all the time.

Alison Jones: Yes, it’s such a great tip and as you say, so many benefits from it. But even just that really basic one of having to describe your book, the first time you do it, it’s a hot mess, isn’t it? And then you sort of get better and better at it. And even that in itself, that would be good enough reason to do it. Brilliant.

I’m also going to ask you for a book recommendation, Catherine. So what book would you say that people who are listening should have a read of?

Catherine Stothart: Right, well, I was going to say Matthew Syed Rebel Ideas, but then I heard your podcast with Catherine Garrod and she recommended that one, so I thought, oh, I can’t.

Alison Jones: Not for the first time actually, it’s up few times, that one.

Catherine Stothart: Has it, right? Yes, no, it’s just, it’s about diversity of approach. So then I thought, well, actually a book I quote a lot is Timothy Gallwey’s, The Inner Game of Work.

People often know about, he wrote The Inner Game of Tennis, The Inner Game Golf. People often know about those, but he actually wrote one called, about 20 years ago called The Inner Game of Work. So it’s more work focused, but it does have tennis examples in, and I play tennis, so I like his tennis examples.

But his basic point is, ‘performance equals your potential minus interference’, the interference coming often from your own thoughts and feelings. So in a sense, both of my books are about how to manage your own thoughts and feelings better to reduce the interference that you, the way in which you interfere with yourself and improve your performance.

But anyway, I think that’s performance equals potential minus interference. That’s his core idea. And I think that’s really important. Yes, it is.

Alison Jones: Because there is stuff, there’s interference that you have no control over, but there’s an awful lot you do.

Catherine Stothart: Yes, and as a coach, I work as a leadership coach. You know, a lot of, when people realize they can reduce some of their own interference, it just lifts a weight from them.

Alison Jones: Yes, again, it feeds into that sense of autonomy, which is very energizing and yes, absolutely. Brilliant. Great recommendation. Thank you. And I haven’t had that one before.

Catherine Stothart: Oh, good. Good.

Alison Jones: Catherine, if people want to find out more about you, more about How to Get On With Anyone and Motivation, more about the work that you do, where should they go?

Catherine Stothart: Well, I have a website called Essenwood. That’s the name of my business actually. It’s www.essenwood.co.uk. And there’s pages there about my two books. There’s also a resource hub. Which has lots of explainer videos, very short videos, explain different things and articles and templates that are downloadable. And there’s a free workbook that goes with the Motivation book, that’s downloadable. So, and they can sign up for my newsletter there as well.

So I would say, go to my website. Both the books are on Amazon. If you’re thinking of buying the Motivation book, it’s cheaper on Routledge than on Amazon.

Alison Jones: Good to know.

Catherine Stothart: And I would love people to connect with me, connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s the other, I’m quite active on LinkedIn, so I always accept connection requests on LinkedIn. So that would be great as well.

Alison Jones: Brilliant. Well, I’ll put those links up on the show notes at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com along with the transcript of this conversation, and such a pleasure to talk to you, Catherine. Thank you so much for your time today.

Catherine Stothart: Thanks for inviting me, Alison. It’s been great.

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