What Motivates You?
by Joan Lloyd, Executive Coach
We all know that motivation comes from the inside, but we also know there are leaders and environments that create a culture where motivation can bloom. So, what motivates you? And does your workplace nurture that or squelch it?
I started thinking about this the other day as I was working with a new team. They are a seasoned bunch, who have been brought together to tackle some vexing problems and capitalize on some opportunities in the market. The leader asked, “What motivates you?” He was attempting to figure out how best to tap each of their talents and desires.
One of the members said, “Whatever you do, don’t buy me a dinner, or give me a gift card.” He went on to explain he was motivated by the work itselfâ€¦a job well done; a happy customer; a problem solved. The rest agreed: give me satisfying work and acknowledge my contributions once in a while.
Several weeks before, I was working with another company and the managers were discussing the need to recognize their processors, who had put in many overtime hours over the holidays. Ideas ranged from pizza, to gift cards, to bonuses, to days off.
What works for you? Chances are if you don’t have a job with much variety or autonomy (like the processors) you may really value a gift card, especially if your wages aren’t high. On the other hand, even if your wages are above average, you may still be motivated by a bonus. But is it your only motivation? What gets your engines humming?
If you look at entrepreneurs, you may find a different set of motivating factors. If they aren’t working, they aren’t paying the rent. And yet, many agree with the old saying, “If you never want to work a day in your life, work for yourself.” Many are motivated by being in control of their own lives. In fact, studies have shown that one of the major reasons women have been leaving their jobs to start their own businesses is not because of the “glass ceiling,” but because they want to be in control of their own life and destiny.
A young woman I spoke with recently said, “I’m goal driven so I keep coming up with things I want to buy, or a trip I want to take, to keep me motivated at work.” Her pay is a combination of salary plus commission, so she spurs herself by having a tangible goal to shoot for.
Sometimes having something to prove is a powerful motivator. Aaron Rogers, MVP quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, has said in interviews that being underestimated has been a powerful motivator for him.
I’ve worked with people who have been fired or left an unhappy work situation and vowed to be successful—“I’ll show them.” Similarly, individuals who come from poor backgrounds, or even abusive situations can be motivated to achieve their way to a better life.
So, again, I ask you: “What motivates you?”
If you know the answer to that question, it can lead to better choices. For example, perhaps moving from a commission-based job to an internal sales position; or, working for yourself; or simply telling your boss you’d like more responsibility or visibility.
If you know what makes you tick, you can take steps to wind your own clock.