Metaprogrammes: Achieving Goals and Avoiding Pitfalls

We all operate from a set of values.  What one individual regards as important may be very different to another.  Our values reveal themselves as patterns in what we say, how we say it and what we do. These intrinsic values (or drivers) are often referred to as metaprogrammes.

metaprogrammes - balancing act

Understanding what motivates ourselves and others (and adapting our behaviour accordingly) is often the key to achieving goals – it certainly removes a significant element of chance!

As many as 60 individual metaprogrammes have been identified influencing how we are motivated and how we work.  I am focussing here on 3 key motivational metaprogrammes which can make a big difference to success in achieving goals.

Our values reveal themselves as patterns in what we say, how we say it and what we do Click To Tweet

But first the “Health Warning” – Metaprogrammes are neither good nor bad.  Flexibility is the key to success.  Recognising your own preferences will enable you to understand how best to motivate yourself, and why you have no difficulty in achieving some goals, and find others a challenge.  Likewise, understanding how others operate helps to improve relationships at home and at work.  Remember they are just preferences, and preferences can change from one context to another so how you get motivated at work may be very different to how you operate at home.

All the metaprogrammes can be viewed as a sliding scale, not an either/or some people may be at one end of the continuum or the other, but the majority are somewhere in between.

So how do you spot them, and how do you use them to motivate yourself or others?

Towards and Away From

If you have a “towards” programme, you tend to move towards pleasure. You set goals easily and frequently create new goals for yourself. If you have an Away programme, you focus on moving away from pain and avoiding risk. You make sure everything is safe before moving forwards.

If you are running a “towards” programme you will be interested in what you will achieve, gain, get, have etc.  This means that you may be viewed as forward-thinking, goal-oriented, possessing positive energy and drive.

On the downside, because you are so excited by goals, you may get entangled by too many new initiatives at once; you may be perceived as ‘gung-ho’; with a tendency to leave things unfinished.

To motivate a “towards” person, really focus on the outcome, use words like – attain, obtain, have, get, include, achieve, enable you to, benefits, advantages, here’s what you would accomplish…

To motivate yourself, focus on what the pay-off or reward is for putting in the effort to achieve the goal.  Consider creating a vision board.

Those with an “away from” preference have a tendency to focus on situations to be avoided, gotten rid of, and the exclusion of unwanted situations & things.  They have a tendency to focus on problems.

This means they are excellent at finding and solving problems, assessing risks and recognizing what to avoid.  Taken to extremes, “away froms” can appear overly cautious with a tendency to focus on the downside; may appear negative and unwilling to try new experiences; and make choices based on avoidance rather than a desire for something new.

To motivate “away froms”, use words like – won’t have to, solve, prevent, avoid, fix, prevent, not have to deal with, get rid of, it’s not perfect, let’s find out what’s wrong, there’ll be no problems.

If you have an “away from” preference, motivate yourself by giving yourself a deadline! Be clear about the downside of not achieving the goal.


Options and Procedures

If you have an “options” programme you like to have choices in your life. If you have a procedures programme, you like to have rituals and routines to follow in order to be effective.

“Options” people explore many options and like to provide people with choices; happy to test and break rules.  The downside is that they may procrastinate and avoid making decisions until forced to do so by circumstances; these people are very good at reinventing the wheel!

To motivate people who are biased “towards” options, use words like – opportunity, choice, break the rules, another better way, unlimited possibilities, an alternative, that’s one way, here are the options, there’s got to be a way, the sky’s the limit…

If you prefer to have options then concentrate on the greater freedom or new choices achieving a goal will get for you.

“Procedures” people tend to answer “why” questions with “how”, focus on the facts and steps that have been or need to be taken and tend to be sequential.  They are usually very efficient; good with rule-based administration; and will stick to agreed procedures.

The danger for procedures types is that the procedure may become more important than the job to be done; this can lead to them being judged as bureaucratic and blocking.

To motivate someone with a preference for procedures use expressions like “the right way”, speak in procedures: “first…then…after which…the last step”, “tried and tested”, reliable, just follow the procedure, proven methodology

You can motivate yourself by following this simple process – Set your goal and then identify the steps you need to take to achieve the goal, break the steps into smaller steps and create a plan you can follow.  If you need to generate more options for yourself, create a procedure for this!


Detail and Global

If you have a “detail” programme, you will be concerned about the specifics of a situation. Your conversations are likely to be long and will cover all the details. While focusing on the details you sometimes forget the overall purpose. If you have a Global Program, you look at situations from the bigger picture and speak in general terms avoiding detail. You move conversations onto different topics in preference to discussing details.

People who are most comfortable with detail can be excellent at spotting mistakes, they cope very well with large documents and lots of small print.  The danger is that they may become bogged down in the detail and may lose sight of the bigger purpose.  Others may view them as fastidious or pedantic.

To motivate a “detai2l person, use words like – exactly, precisely, specifically, details, use sequences and lists.

If you identify with this programme, set your aim and then create small, bite-size goals.  Remember to check-in regularly to make sure you are still on the right track “towards” achieving your ultimate aim.

People who favour the global programme like overviews, summaries, abstracts and bullet points.  They tend to make good strategists or concept creators – they can generate big ideas.

Other people (particularly those who want more detail) may view them as having their heads in the clouds.  “Global” people can become very frustrated with detailed conversations (or meetings).

To motivate global types, use words and phrases like – the big picture, the main idea, the important thing is, in general.  Leave out details.

If you recognise this preference in yourself, start with the end in mind, be clear about what the ultimate goal is, make it compelling and irresistible, be clear about what is the goal beyond the goal.  Remind yourself of this higher vision or purpose at regular intervals.  With this in place you will be more comfortable with descending into the detail of taking action because you can see how this relates to the big picture.


Benefits in understanding Metaprogrammes

Understanding metaprogrammes is a key to motivating yourself and communicating effectively with others.  In the workplace, the strongest (and most successful) team will be the one that has a good mix of meta-programmes and a manager who understands that each type requires a different type of motivation.  One size really does not fit all.

Contact us to find out more about coaching using metaprogrammes.  If you would like to undertake the iWam psychometric test which profiles your metaprogrammes find out more on the MBS Coaching website

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