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.