Discover What Drives You — and Others — at Plug In

At Apra’s Plug In to Prospect Research event, attendees will gain tools to improve what can be one of the biggest challenges at work: interpersonal relationships. During the keynote session, Janice Cunning, CPCC, ACC, will guide attendees through an exploration of key motivational value systems — People, Performance and Process — and will teach attendees how to identify them in themselves and others.

We spoke to Cunning, an experienced facilitator and certified coach specializing in nonprofit leadership development and coaching, about the ideas behind Relationship Awareness Theory and what attendees can expect from the session.

Let’s talk about the idea of key motivational value systems. It’s interesting that we apply this at work. Is this something that’s particular to this industry, or is it bigger than that?

The idea behind this comes from the Relationship Awareness Theory. It can help us within our work, in our personal relationships and in our family situations. And for those of us who work in fundraising and research, we naturally think about what motivates our donors, so it’s very understandable for us. We can’t position a donor for funding if we don’t understand what motivates that donor. So what I like is taking that lens that we often use outwardly as fundraisers and researchers and using it in our own team.

You also talk about the goal being to learn to influence others. Why use this word instead of, say, direct or request?

It’s about trying to really understand that other people may have different reasons that they’re doing something. And we often create conflict because we misjudge why someone is doing something based on why we would be doing it. Rather than trying to get frustrated or try to get someone to do something in the way you would do it, it’s better to try to really understand what would make it feel good for that person to take on that task in a way that would be exciting for them. Then you can actually motivate them to do it in a way that’s fulfilling for them. So if someone’s behind on entering information into a database, it could be that they’re more people motivated. But what we can do is explain to them that when we enter information into a database, we’re providing the details needed to better set up the relationship with those donors. That way they can see there’s a bigger purpose for the task.

Is there an element of uniqueness to the nonprofit world? I imagine certain personalities are drawn to this world — does that impact how this plays out in nonprofit workplaces?

As researchers and fundraisers we have a natural curiosity about other people. What I’m going to try to bring is this understanding that we all innately have the capacity to do this, it’s just that in the fast pace of our day-to-day work, we forget to step back, first for ourselves and then for our teammates.

When we look at our donors, we may say, This is what I think they would be interested in, or I think they’d love to meet our students. What’s exciting for me is if we actually took that skill within our own team, we could have a lot less conflict when we acknowledge that people are different and the power of those differences. That helps us achieve our goals without bumping into one another at work.

More and more we hear that relationship management is one of the most critical factors for success in your job. Do you agree with that, and why is it so?

Yes, for me it’s that we get the sense of fulfillment and empowerment when we can really show up at work as who we truly are. So we don’t want to be trying to fit some mold, we actually want to be acknowledged and appreciated and celebrated for our unique gifts and talents and motivations. And when that happens, people get along better and also feel a sense of energy that comes from that.

What can attendees expect to walk away with?

The journey’s going to be first reflecting on yourself — what is my own motivational style? — which we’ll do through storytelling to help people self-select. And then it’s looking outward to start to think about what might my teammates be and what are some different strengths that my teammates might have that I may have been misjudging. And then we’ll have attendees end with some reflection time of, What can I do with this now? That could be internal or external — for example, when I find a task that’s one of the least satisfying parts of my job, how do I find a way to motivate myself? So it will be a combination of both internal and external awareness of both styles — in an hour!

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