During the holiday season most everyone is busy, frantically shopping for just the right gifts to give their loved ones. It’s also a great time to take stock of the gifts each of us has. As I pondered this thought, the gift of motivation entered my mind.
What a wonderful thing it is to be a motivated person. Motivated people are constantly in search of personal growth. They are driven to always reach higher. When properly balanced with a core set of virtues, their motivation is liberating because it creates a sense of being the master of one’s own destiny. You can truly make anything you want out of your life if you’re motivated.
Of course, motivation is an important component of leadership as well. A leader is responsible for organizing teams of people into pursuing a common goal. Therefore, motivating team members is usually at the forefront of leadership challenges. So, what motivates people?
Napoleon Bonaparte held an interesting perspective on motivation, “There are only two levers that move men – fear and self-interest.” These are indeed the fundamental motivators. All motivation can be traced to one of these two factors. The leader who understands this simple principle has already traveled a long way down the road of understanding human nature. In corporate life, the best approach is for a leader to reduce fear and to relentlessly show everyone how team-interest aligns with self-interest.
So why are some people so highly motivated and others constantly need a kick in the pants? There are many variations as to why. The general answer is it depends on how we manage our internal self-interest and fear equation. Some people just don’t have a fire in their belly. They are easily satisfied, and only do what they absolutely must to get by. If you’re in a leadership position, you’ll find that these types of people create 80% of your headaches. People who don’t seem to be go-getters may also be paralyzed by fear of failure. In some cases, a solid leader can help subordinates overcome their fear if this is what’s blocking their success.
Fear can also propel people toward achievement. For example, some people are motivated by an extreme fear of poverty. This drives them to work like fiends and “squirrel away” as much cash and assets as possible, so they are never in danger of experiencing want. Personally, I don’t consider this a healthy emotional condition. However, as long as the individual is not harming others and acts like a team player, his internal motivation can still be positive to the greater whole.
Others are simply builders and creators. They’re motivated by the thought of spawning new organizations and businesses. They thrive on the challenge. Creating new inventions and works of art thrills them. Maybe they are driven by applying science to creating solutions, which brings me to a great example I’d like to share.
Applying science to solve problems became the life long work of Dr. J. Robert Beyster, the founder of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). In fact, the tagline for the company that endured for years was “From Science to Solutions.” The application of science to solve problems was Dr. Beyster’s core motivation – his self-interest.
As the leader of his once fledgling company, Dr. Beyster chose to put the “self-interest” component of motivation to work through others. He developed an employee-ownership model to motivate everyone in growing the company. One of his core company values became,
“Those who contribute to the company should own it, and ownership should be commensurate with a person’s contributions and performance as much as feasible.”
This core value played well for those who sought to improve their personal condition in life by contributing to a greater whole. This was pure genius in the art of motivation. It was also a perfect tool in aligning the self-interest of individuals with the mutual-interest of the organization.
I worked at SAIC for almost five years. I loved the employee-ownership culture. With the exception of starting 4 Power Leadership, I have never felt more connected to a business than during those years. Employee ownership really works as a motivational tool.
You can read the full story of Dr. Beyster’s achievements in his book, “The SAIC Solution: Built by Employee Owners”. It’s an excellent insight into the creation of an outrageously successful business.
I was also pleased, as I read Dr. Beyster’s book, that the leadership advice I provide in “4 Power Leadership: Your Pathway to Leadership Success” was validated through the study of his experience.
If you aim high, do what you love, and apply the Power of Persistence, you can’t lose.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!