Lead from need: 4 Ways to Motivate your Members


His quarterly reports are in, and Scott is clearly alarmed. Unless next quarter’s goals are met, the Governance Committee will ask for his resignation. He grabs his phone and calls Jarin, his gregarious section president, who has transformed his dysfunctional section into one of the most electric in the association. “Jarin, I need your help. My members are not producing like they once were. They are lethargic, apathetic, unmotivated, dis…”

“Disengaged,” interjects Jarin. “So how are you keeping your people engaged?”

“We’ve been investing heavily into member engagement programs, but they’re not really working. We keep pouring money into recruiting and retaining the best. We even keep increasing benefits and perks, basically giving them everything they want, but nothing’s working.”

“The problem is you’re giving them what they think they want, but not what they really need,” explains Jarin. “Your members are emotionally detached; their real needs aren’t being met. Attention and perks are great, but what they really want is to be inspired, connected and living a life of purpose. They need to feel valued. As their leader, you need to lead from need. Once our basic survival needs have been met, we all aspire to satisfy the four deeper needs; connection, contribution, freedom, and growth.”

Jarin is right and is part of a new wave of leaders who know that to get the best out of someone you need to coach and empower them to greatness. As a leader in your organization you want to ensure that your members feel they are:

  • Connected: building relationships with others
  • Contributing: doing something meaningful
  • Free: have a sense of choice and autonomy
  • Growing: developing personally and professionally


Chapters with members who have strong personal ties to each other have far higher engagement rates than those that don’t. To connect with your members, create greater trust and loyalty by being more authentic. Great leaders don’t fret over public opinion and neither should you. Let go of whom you think you should be, and just be yourself. You will gain their trust and respect in the process. Be vulnerable. Show them the real you. We all have the same fears of not being good enough, smart enough or worthy enough, so why pretend we are the exception? The best leaders connect deeply with their members by paying attention to what’s important to them. Carve out some time each week to grab lunch or coffee with your key team members. Find out what they enjoy doing outside of work and get to know them personally. Finally, let them know that you and the association care for them. As their need to belong is met, they will give more of themselves, which, in turn, fuels their next need: their need to contribute.


Doing something meaningful gives our life purpose. We all want to be doing something significant with our lives and have those efforts recognized. Studies show members are happiest when they know they are making a difference and helping others. Often their contribution goes unnoticed. Metrics for measuring a member’s contribution should shift from measuring their individual performance to measuring their chapter’s or division’s performance. How are your members influencing those around them? A member with excellent soft skills who constantly uplifts his fellows is an incredible asset to your team, yet this won’t show up in any assessment. To help your members feel they are contributing something meaningful you can try recognizing and publicly celebrating their accomplishments as often as possible or sharing a story that shows your members the difference they are making in someone’s life.


Self-direction is the key to performance, creativity and engagement. The real you only shows up when you feel free. Members are far more loyal and productive in environments that respect their freedom and encourage their self-expression. To ensure your group feels a sense of autonomy remind them that everything they do is a choice. Choice is power, and when members believe they have a choice they will become more engaged in the process. Align their choices with their values, not their fears. When we choose from fear, our actions lack power. When we choose from our values our actions have more power, more meaning and more energy. Give members more flexibility to accommodate their schedules. What long-held beliefs might be blocking new win-win opportunities? Decentralize whatever authority you can to give the members more decision-making power. This will empower them and make your chapter much more efficient.


If your chapter feels they are not making progress in their own personal development, they will soon become disconnected and seek opportunities elsewhere. Ensure that each member is constantly challenged so that they can grow. The greater a person’s belief is in his own power to influence an outcome, the more likely he is to succeed with a new challenge. To help your members grow, try building confidence. Challenge any belief they might have that is limiting their performance. For example, if a member thinks he isn’t experienced enough to manage a project, such as membership retention, you can remind him of his unique strengths and capabilities.

Another way to promote growth is modeling. Have inexperienced members watch other colleagues with similar skills perform more advanced tasks. Seeing others with similar abilities succeed at a task will help them develop positive, “can-do” beliefs. Recognition and positive feedback are key to helping your members feel more competent, motivated and open to growth. Negative feedback can devastate those with low self-esteem. Finally, optimize the environment. Create a vibrant, energetic, stress-free chapter that encourages your members to get the food, exercise, rest, and water their bodies need so they can perform at their best.

The most successful leaders in the world unleash the energy and creative power of their members by honoring those four needs: connection, contribution, freedom and growth. They know that what really motivates people is their desire to grow and develop as human beings, connect and collaborate with others, and contribute something to a worthy cause. Like Jarin, you can inspire your members to reach their full potential by making your chapter a place where those four needs will be met.