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Motivation and the Strength Deployment Inventory


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Bulletin of Psychological Type, 33(1)

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Motivation and the Strength Deployment Inventory

  1. 1. A theory of interpersonal relationships that draws on ideas from Sigmund Freud, ErichFromm and Carl Rogers should offer the potential for important insights into behaviorand the Strength Deployment Inventory® (SDI®) delivers on that promise. The SDI is aself-scoring motivational assessment designed to promote greater interpersonalawareness. As an MBTI practitioner, it is important for me to have other high-impacttools that allow clients to explore their behavior from a different standpoint thancognitive functions and attitudes. It is the SDI’s focus on motivation, in general, and onrelationships, in particular, that makes it distinctly informative and effective.The SDI was developed by Elias Porter (1914-1987) who worked closely with CarlRogers and contributed to Rogers’ development of client-centered therapy. Porter’s goalwas to create an instrument that would help people learn how to create satisfying andmutually meaningful interpersonal relationships. The SDI is based on Porter’sRelationship Awareness Theory® which asserts that all individuals want to haverelationships with other people and, therefore, our behavior is an expression of this desireto be connected with others. The SDI, then, measures how we are motivated to go aboutestablishing and maintaining our relationships in a way that provides us with a positivesense of ourselves and confirm our sense of the value we have to others.The SDI identifies seven general themes or clusters of motives where certain behaviorsare consistently exhibited over time. These clusters are called Motivational ValueSystems and each one is an observable style of relating to others when things are goingwell for an individual. It is one’s Motivational Value System that provides a filter forevaluating our actions and those of others; engages us in behaviors that enhance our senseof self-worth; and focuses our attention on certain things while minimizing theimportance of others.Each Motivational Value System is identified by a color-coding scheme which makes itso very memorable to clients. The seven styles are: Motivational Value System Key MotivationsAltruistic-Nurturing (Blue) Nurturing, support, protection, growth and welfare of othersAssertive-Directing (Red) Task accomplishment and the organization of and influence over the resources to achieve resultsAnalytic-Autonomizing (Green) Self-reliance, self-sufficiency, individualism and the assurance that things have been properly thought outFlexible-Cohering (Hub) Teamwork, inclusion and consensus, and meeting the needs of the group through situationally appropriate meansAssertive-Nurturing (Red-Blue) Helping others by directing and guiding them towards the achievement of their goalsJudicious-Competing (Red-Green) Intelligent and strategic assertiveness that accomplishes tasks in an optimal mannerCautious-Supporting (Blue-Green) Nurturing another person’s growth to self- sufficiency by accurately analyzing their needs
  2. 2. As insightful as the concept of Motivational Value Systems is, it is in the area ofinterpersonal conflict where the SDI really shines. Conflict, as understood byRelationship Awareness Theory, occurs when one’s sense of self-worth is threatened.When this happens, a person behaves in a way that attempts to defend their MotivationalValues System. The theory states that each of us moves through conflict in a series ofstages: • Stage 1 – where the conflict has just begun and we are trying to maintain our sense of self-worth • Stage 2 – where we feel more seriously threatened and move to defend our self- worth • Stage 3 – when we feel distressed or wounded and act out of self-preservationIn each stage, we are trying to re-establish a higher order of relating with the goal ofbeing out of the conflict and able to once again operate from our Motivational ValueSystem.The SDI identifies our Conflict Sequence or typical way in which our behavior changesas we work through relational conflicts. For example, one person may initially respond toa conflict in a way that accommodates the other party (Blue). If that does not succeed,they may withdraw from the other party in an effort to logically understand what hasgone wrong (Green). If that doesn’t work, the individual may finally resort to self-assertion and battle for their rights (Red).Therefore, the SDI is really two instruments in one: the first assessment tells us how wetypically behave and what we are trying to achieve when things are going well for us inour relationships; the second assessment tells us how we typically behave when we arefaced with opposition or conflict and how we proceed to defend our self-worth in thosesituations.My experience in using the SDI is that it is very self-evident and has an instant, “a-ha”impact that allows people to rediscover themselves in a profound and powerful way.Because the motivational styles are so apparent and the color scheme is so memorable, itis very easy to have effective and applied training. And when clients tell me that they arehaving issues or stresses related to interpersonal conflict; team culture; or motivation andengagement, I have found that the SDI is my tool of choice.However, an even better approach is to use both the MBTI and the SDI. As such, I canhelp clients better understand: • What they want (SDI) and how they go about getting it (MBTI); • What is emotionally satisfying (SDI) and what they have mental energy for (MBTI); • How to retain staff by understanding what people want to do (MBTI) and why they want to do it (SDI); • Work style (MBTI) and the personal meaning of one’s work (SDI).
  3. 3. Combining the SDI with the MBTI allows richer discussions about what it means forsomeone to be himself or herself by allowing them to see their selves through differentlenses.