Forum Exercise: What Motivates Us

Listening to the lifelines presented at a Forum orientation, one is struck both by the differences – and similarities – in our lives so far. In this exercise, we explore what our individual histories suggest about our different fundamental motivations.

Steps in the exercise:

  1. (Optional before the meeting) Ask members to think in advance about why people do things important to them and what are important drivers for how you live your life today.
  2. The moderator or a member of the Forum facilitates a discussion, identifying possible “motivations” that could drive how we and others live and make choices in our lives. (See the list below of possible “Seeking Motivations” and “Constraining Motivations” which the Forum can use to jumpstart its discussion.)
  3. One member of the Forum serves as the focal point/presenter, discussing their motivations and how that relates to their life so far.
  4. Other members take turns sharing what they believe have been their motivations and how they are reflected in their life so far.

Possible motivations

We may be seeking…

  • Autonomy – Be My Own Boss/Work Alone
  • Lifestyle Freedom (defined as time to pursue other important activities)
  • Altruism – Feeling I am Giving
  • A Supportive Family
  • Be the Boss
  • Affiliation – Part of a Team/Community
  • Directing/Managing People
  • Create and Raise My Children
  • Working/Being with Other People
  • Power & Influence
  • Intellectual Challenge/Stimulation
  • Want to be a Star
  • Creating Something New
  • Security
  • Support My Spouse
  • Financial Gain
  • Want to Keep Doing Different Things
  • Positioning for Big Thing Later
  • Doing Something Important
  • Prestige
  • Want to Win
  • Parents’ Expectations

We may be constrained by…

  • Risk Aversion
  • Shame of Who We Are
  • Fear of Loosing
  • Wanting to Work/Be Alone
  • Fear of Rejection by Others
  • Family/Community Expectations

Adapted from an exercise suggested by
Rick Williams, Member
Harvard Business School Club of Boston Alumni Forum

The Forum Value Chain

The core of a great Forum meeting is a great presentation with quality experience sharing.  Working backwards, this result rests on the following Forum Value Chain:

  1. Good Presentations come from…
  2. Good Coaching, which comes from…
  3. Good Topic Selection [answering the question, “what is the deepest, most meaningful issue?], which comes from…
  4. Good Parking Lot, which comes from…
  5. Good Issue Capture Process [everyone should have at least 7 issues at any given time], which comes from…
  6. Good Updates [event, emotion, impact], which comes from…
  7. Good Meeting Preparation [i.e., doing Updates in advance], which comes from…
  8. Good Trust/Vulnerability, which comes from…
  9. Good Confidentiality.

Mo Fathelbab

The least likely, but most valuable, source of experience

I am sitting in a forum presentation, and members have begun to share their experiences.  I sometimes think, unfairly, that one particular forummate will have little to contribute on the current issue.

This is where the power of experience sharing (instead of advice giving) often surprises and delights me.  The member I have in mind may not have the confidence or expertise to tell the presenter what to do, but he or she has a deep reservoir of experience that can be surprisingly relevant.

I’m thinking of two particular examples.  In one case, a forum member had described a significant business decision that would have huge impact on his employees and community.  The least likely member to contribute (in my narrow mind) shared not a business, but a personal experience, that in the end resonated more with the presenter than any of the seemingly more relevant business experiences that others had shared.

In another case, an older member had presented on a tough family relationship situation.  In response, a younger forum member shared his experience of a relationship at work and what he had done to repair the relationship.  The younger member was at a very different life stage and had no directly comparable way to shed light on the older member’s family dynamic.  He instead drew on a very relevant work situation.

I’ve learned that before we jump to give advice, we need to trust the process.  Sometimes the most valuable contribution comes from the least likely place because we have empowered every member to share experience, not limited ourselves to those best positioned to give advice.

Bob Halperin