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How You Perform is
Not Just About Motivation

In the Institute and on this site we write a lot about motivation. As we define motivational and attitudinal factors, they have a lot more to do with performance than we think.

If anything, we’re trying to shift thinking about the relationship between motivation and competencies because so much of what we do (hiring, developing, etc.) is based on competencies versus other characteristics.

Beyond Motivation and Competencies

At the same time, not all of how someone behaves is a result of their motivation and competencies. In the “Performance Model” there are two other elements—what we call “Criteria” and “Emotions” or emotional intelligence.

While emotions are also a powerful contributor to behavior and ultimately performance, there is much less said and written about the category called criteria. In this category are factors such as values and goals.

Linus Torvalds

What led us to write this piece? A Ted Talk with Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. (Click on the picture to view the interview.)

Based on his history, it is easy to conclude that Torvalds is a brilliant guy (competency).

What else appears, however, in this interview are the contributions of motivation and values to his success.

Torvalds’ Motivation

In the interview, he shares that one of the factors that others observed is his persistence. The interviewer uses the word “stubborn.” What came to mind for us is the “Consistency” pattern in the iWAM. That pattern is an indicator of whether an individual needs for convincer data to remain consistent over time in order to be convinced. Someone who scores high may need to be convinced several times.

Interestingly, when studying successful sales people a decade ago, we discovered that high Consistency scores in high performers correlated positively with high persistence (behavior). In doing assessment feedback with leaders, the same seems to be the case. Based on the data and experience, we assume that once someone with a very strong “Consistency” pattern decides to do something, that individual “is difficult to convince that it can’t be done.” Thus, they are motivated to behave in a stubborn or persistent manner.

Torvalds’ Values

One cannot listen to this interview or follow the path of his life over the last 30 years without being struck by Torvalds’ values. He reveals his values at several points in the interview, the last of which was in response to the interviewer’s question about whether the fact that some companies such as Google have made billions of dollars using Linus “pisses him off”.

Torvalds said “no.” His rationale had two components. First, he said that he chose the path he took knowing that this outcome was possible. Second, he said “I’m doing well enough.” With regard to the latter, Greed does not seem to be among his seven deadly sins.

There’s no question that part of who this man is and who he has become is grounded in his character and values.

Interaction of Motivation and Values

There’s one final area to discuss. This one may involve interaction between values and motivation.

At one point Torvalds talks about being a fairly strong introvert. In addition, he describes how sometimes his style is offensive to others. We expect that if he took the iWAM, he would have a very strong “thing” and a much weaker “people” orientation.

The cumulative effect of what he describes as introversion can be interpreted in the context of his motivation and values. During the interview, Torvalds mentioned that sometimes his behavior is interpreted as offensive. While he understand why that could be the case, what he didn’t understand was why those same individuals couldn’t or wouldn’t accept that he is who he is and that he is different than they are.

That struck us as a possible connection between motivation (high Tolerance in the iWAM) and values of accepting others for who they are (perhaps lower Assertiveness in which they are not so prone to want others to “follow their rules”).


This twenty-one-plus minute Ted Talk is well worth the listen. And, you may not only see how the iWAM provides a “window into the soul”, but also remember Linus Torvalds every time you use your Android phone.