What is motivation? A young sales manager asked me for advice on motivating his team. I asked a few questions about his team and then asked if he knew what motivated his teammates individually. He told me that was easy. Since sales generated commissions, they were all motivated by money. And since he considered money his primary motivation it made sense that his team felt the same. He added that no one on his team had won the lottery, so they all needed to work because, well money.

I asked the young man he if had ever left a position and taken another at a lower pay rate. He said he had and I asked why. He told me he disliked his boss and explained the manager was a bully. I replied with, “So, money wasn’t your primary motivation then?” He looked at me for a few seconds and thoughtfully answered no.

Surveying the Team

I suggested he interview his team individually and give them a chance to share their motivators.

Two weeks later he contacted me with the results of his survey. Of his six employees, one said his primary motivation was money, three said recognition, another said being part of a team, and the last told his manager a feeling of accomplishment was what motivated him to dig deeper, go further, and commit to excellence. This last team member was the top producer on the team.

All of these motivators are important, money, recognition, being part of a team, and a feeling of accomplishment. However, I don’t think leaders look at how important the last motivator is to building a successful staff.

Are Some Motivators Stronger?  

According to Psychology Today, The Key to Self-Esteem: Accomplishment, “A look at accomplished individuals who regularly win prizes and awards are more driven by the effort rather than the result.” The article explains that the positive effects of rewards are often short-lived. Dopamine floods into the system and brings a feeling of contentment. However, it’s gone in a flash. Those motivated by accomplishment are driven by the effort as well as the commitment to applying oneself to the task. This is a lifestyle choice, not a fleeting feeling.

A Lesson for me

The young manager and I discussed the results of the survey, what he’d learned, and how he planned to use the knowledge. And I walked away with a lesson. Striving for accomplishment may be the most productive of all motivators. People who live for the feeling of accomplishment may work harder, smarter, and be more committed to excellence than workers motivated in other ways.

Regardless whether this is always true or not. I’m adding a question or two to my employment interview checklist. Maybe I’ll ask,

  • How important is a feeling of accomplishment to you?
  • Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to accomplish a task?
  • What’s your proudest workplace achievement and what did it take to accomplish it?

What Motivates Your Team?

Is anyone on your team motivated by accomplishment more than recognition, money, and other rewards? If so, are they a top producer? Let me know. I’d like to hear your answer.

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out. It might help you stop putting off what you want to do.

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash