Three Things That Motivate Me and Three Things That Don’t – Day 117

Wednesday 10:27pm, Hyatt 48 Lex, Lexington Avenue, New York

Motivation is a fascinating phenomenon. It has the potential to change lives and it can write history. Without it the great thinkers and leaders of our modern world would not have realised their dreams and we would not have had the civil rights movement, free trade and market competition or the world wide web; we would not have discovered DNA or understood the impact of global warming.

Motivation at work is essential for all organisations as it tends to bring out the best in people. Conversely, lack of motivation, dissatisfaction even, has the opposite effect.

Before I release the fourth and final part of the mini-series on control, I thought I’d share the top three factors that motivate me as well as the top three factors that dissatisfy me.

  1. Success. The feeling of having exceeded my own and others expectations by whole heartedly immersing myself in an activity. Nothing feels better that succeeding or winning.
  2. Making a difference. Success means nothing if I don’t feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s to enable my team to develop and progress in their professional life or to connect our products and services with those that need it, making a difference matters to me.
  3. Challenges and complexities. Give me an easy task with fairly obvious methods and a predictable outcome and I’ll probably neglect it or do it very last minute. On the other hand, give me a complex task where it’s not immediately obvious which way to go and where the outcome is difficult to predict, I’ll most likely deliver a 4-page strategy document, complete with a SWOT analysis and sections on assumptions, dependencies and a forecast for good measure.

Upon reflection it’s scary how this particular characteristic has followed me throughout my entire life. As a child, I dedicated myself to classical piano and spent over a decade learning how to master Rachmaninoff, Mozart and Beethoven. As a teenager I was drawn to science and left high school in the top 20% of my class. This trend continued through university, both at UCL and Oxford, where I received my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. As an adult, I trained to become an Iyengar yoga teacher in my spare time, completing 8-10 hours of practice or teaching per week for over a decade. A few year’s ago, I felt that work wasn’t intellectually stimulating so I picked up Mandarin, as I found myself travelling to China for work. And more recently, I completed five 23km obstacle course runs in 18 months. Oh, and of course, starting this MBA.

I think you get the picture. Definitely a sign of over-achievement syndrome.

Having identified what motivates me, what about dissatisfaction factors? Or in other words, things I dislike to such an extent that it stops me from remaining satisfied:

  1. Inefficiency. When I cannot be efficient due to let’s say poor decision-making time frames, I tend to run out of steam sooner or later.
  2. Unfairness. Nobody likes to be treated in an unfair way and I detest it. Treat me or any of my colleagues in an unfair way, and you’ll have me knocking on your door to tell you otherwise – irrespective of who you are. Maybe my Latin roots are showing their true colours, or perhaps it is my upbringing in the socialdemocracy that was once Sweden, but to be treated in a fair way is essential to how I feel at work.
  3. Abuse of power. Nothing leaves me feeling more powerless than when a line manager throws their weight around and uses their position to win an argument. I’m a firm believer in seeing other people’s perspective and I’m happy not to have my way as long as there has been an intelligent discussion.

There you go. Three things that will have me working harder than ever and three things that, if not fixed, will see me walking out on you. But what about my team? Do I know what makes them tick? Do I know what they dislike?

As a manager, it is essential to know this and I recently discovered that I didn’t.

To be continued…

Tough Mudder

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