What Motivates You?
What motivates you to be the best that you can be at work? I can almost guarantee you that your boss does not know the answer to that.
This post was prompted by an article I shared last week. I got a flood of comments from the following article:
95% of Managers Follow an Outdated Theory of Motivation by Walter Chen.
Maslow’s hierarchy provides the basis for the kind of managerial thinking that focuses on cash bonuses as a reward for good performance. The rationale is that money is a more fundamental need in the hierarchy than passion or purpose, and therefore you can neglect the latter in favor of the former.
The most important motivator for employees at work is what Amabile and Kramer call “the power of small wins“: employees are highly productive and driven to do their best work when they feel as if they’re making progress every day toward a meaningful goal.
I agree that most people are not motivated by financial rewards, but it is far more complicated than what he proposes.
Let me throw in my two cents.
What Motivates Us?
I believe we want some combination of the following six rewards at work. Usually, we want two or maybe three of them:
- Bonus Check
- Public Recognition
- Pat on the back from boss
- Pat on the back from team
- Pat on the back from client
Let’s discuss this in a bit more detail.
I find that people who are mission-oriented rarely care much about anything else. The organizational mission motivates them. The two main groups that fall into this category are the military and those who are drawn to non-profits.
I have to admit to being mission-oriented. Back in 1998, I went to work in IBM’s consulting group. My first and only gig was working on a point of sale solution for one of the major short-term loan (pawn) companies. After nine months, I had to leave the project because the company’s mission made me want to throw up. Loaning money at 20% per month interest to the poor violated my principles. The job was fine, but the corporate mission violated my principles.
Similarly, I started Career Pivot because of the mission and not because of the money.
Is it the mission that motivates you?
What motivates many salespeople is the financial reward of the bonus check. However, you would be surprised at how many salespeople are not motivated by money.
I have a client who works in a sales organization. He indirectly works directly for the CEO. The CEO thinks the only method for motivating his sales team is through greater financial rewards. They have consistently missed their sales targets.
Hmm…do you think the CEO understands what motivates his sales team?
Is it the bonus check that motivates you?
There are some of you out there that are motivated by receiving public recognition. This could be getting an award at a corporate function or just getting recognized in a company newsletter. I like this to some extent…as long it is not overdone.
Is it the public recognition that motivates you?
Pat on the Back from the Boss
Do you just want to get an “atta boy” from the boss?
I have a client who really wants the confirmation from his boss that he is doing a good job. I told him to go ask his boss how he is doing. The conversation went something like this:
Client: How am I doing?
Client: Can you tell me that more often?
Boss: Yes…and thank you for telling me that.
Think about that conversation. I come back to this later.
Is it the pat on the back from the boss that motivates you?
Pat on the Back from the Team
Do you just want to have your team tell you how much they appreciate you? This is really common with employees who work in close-knit teams. For people who value the pat on the back from their team, it is often more important who they work with than what they actually do.
Is it the pat on the back from the team that motivates you?
Pat on the Back from the Client
Do you get a high when your client says thank you?
This is my big one. My first job out of college was working for IBM writing word processing software. I never met anyone who used my software. YUCK.
When I went off to teach high school math after a near fatal bicycle accident, I had difficulty staying motivated. I taught Algebra I and II at an inner-city high school and I can tell you that, during your first year of teaching, your kids do not tell you how much they appreciate you. They give you crap, but when I started my second year of teaching, my first-year students came back and told me how much they appreciated what I did for them.
I went a whole year without getting the kind of strokes that I needed to stay motivated.
On the other hand, my day is made when someone tells me how much they enjoyed coming to one of my classes.
At my last technology startup, I developed a very complicated 3-day workshop that was taught to an extremely technologically diverse audience. It also lacked enough equipment and other resources.
After the first pilot class, I received an e-mail from one of my students. She told me that, when she saw the diversity in the audience, she thought the class would be horrible. She then went on to say it was the best class she ever took. That made my day, week, and month!
Is it the pat on the back from the team that motivates you?
Which Combination Motivates You?
Most of us want two or maybe three of these methods to keep us motivated.
Think about it.
When have you felt most valued at work?
If you want help reflecting back on your career, you can download my Career Reflection Worksheet (no registration required).
The reality is that we are all so different. What motivates each of us is unique!
Your boss has no idea what motivates you because it is different from him or her.
You need to tell your boss what motivates you.
So what motivates you? How about commenting below what combination motivates you?Marc Miller
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