To What End?

Maslow & Consulting

October 1, 2015

I am not one of those people who remembers who writes what when it comes to literature. The quotes, concepts and applications stick but not the names.  So, when I can actually cite something, it means it really took hold.

Hello Maslow.[1]

Now I know most of you have heard of Maslow, can see the pyramid and perhaps even have a recollection of the elements. (Click for a great overview) But how many of us really think about the ways in which it still pertains to our work and if not tended to, theimplications.

As consultants working in the field of personalities, passion, values and intention which weave their way through the intersection of strategy and evaluation, we are particularly mindful of where our potential or actual client might be placing our efforts on Maslow’s hierarchy. This helps us assess fit and approach.

For instance, if an organization is in year 4 of 5 year funding about to seek renewal and no evaluation efforts have been implemented to date, and they want one in 6 months they might be at Stage 1 – Psychological – hunger, thirst…etc. In short, they may feel as if their basic needs (funding) are in jeopardy.  This state of mind will likely influence their approacimagesh to the work and their expectations of what they hope we will deliver.

If the client is at Stage 3 (Belongingness needs) or Stage 4 (Esteem needs), the purpose and frame of the work shifts.  At Stage 3, they may want to explore evaluation and/or strategy questions that place their work in the broader field to understand how they fit in relationship to others.

In Stage 4, they may be more ready to state their claim/position in the field, and so the evaluation questions more likely benchmark their results against others.  The strategy questions might have to do more with documenting and demonstrating competitive advantage.

Your turn. How aligned is your work with your client’s state on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

With that in mind, explore the following questions:

  • How might you change your approach or focus given your understanding of where your work fits on your clients’ hierarchy of needs? Does it explain some of the tensions in getting responses?
  • Are you asking your clients to engage in efforts without acknowledging the pressures in their day to day and not offering any resources to address?
  • What might you need to do to differently to address their needs so they can engage in your work more fully? This might look like different work or even pausing the work.

That Maslow, he was on to something.


[1] Huitt, W. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from,

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