A Manager’s Motivation

I once read that self-pity is unbecoming of a manager. This is not a self-pity post.

The fact is managing people can sometimes be stressful and isolating work. It’s not all giving high-fives and atta-boys. Managers must often make unpopular decisions and hold people accountable for their actions.

So why do we do it? Why become a manager in the first place? What’s stopping us from moving to Montana, living on a ranch, and living out our days in blissful stress-free simplicity?

(Pardon the day-dream, would-be ranchers. I bet no one’s life is stress-free these days.)

I remind myself of my motivations all the time. I’m driven by facing complex problems and finding creative solutions. I love the recognition and acknowledgment awaiting results like sales increases, cost savings, and employee retention. These are intrinsic motivators; the ideals that fuel my passion. Extrinsic motivators like salary and benefits are important, yes, but they only drive a manager’s motivation so far.

I like to compare the challenges of management to long-distance running. An extrinsic motivator like a good pair of running shoes sure helps, but it’s the internal will of the runner that gets her to the finish line. She wants to prove she can do it to herself and to others. She wants to finish the race because finishing is what she set out to do.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a recent organizational change that is creating challenges at work. Change is hard on the organization. Managing change inevitably leads to tough decisions and the isolating nature of holding people accountable. Your paychecks won’t motivate you through these challenges. You’ve got to love the tests and have the will to finish to be a player in the game of management.

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7 thoughts on “A Manager’s Motivation

  1. Great post! When my team sees how tough my job sometimes is, they often ask about my motivators. In addition to the intrinsic motivators that you wrote, I have to say my biggest motivator is helping my team and my company grow. It is a marathon, but it’s so rewarding when I can promote someone after they worked hard to deserve it or when the company can take on additional business because we’re working better. In my industry, extrinsic motivators don’t go very far for managers because our team members can, and do, get paid more than their managers… and they are not in sales.

  2. John is right on in his description of motivators. Money is down the list, at least in this country. Recognition and interesting work are high on the list. The first research on this took place in the US in the 1920s, and work since then shows consistent results.

    As a career coach, I see these motivators, or their lack, impacting employees all the time. I also see management sometimes thinking that more money is the best answer to improve productivity. Fortunately, this mind set is being displaced by new models and new ways of rewarding employees.

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