Challenges as a Motivator- When does a Challenge become a De-motivator?

Beth Miller |

A 2009 article  in Talent Management references a study that challenge is the key motivator for executives and managers. Executives are motivated more by challenge than managers by almost 30 percentile points. And even more interesting was the difference in employee motivators between large and small companies. Pride in ones job was a motivator for 77% of all employees in companies with less than 1000 employees while in larger companies pride impacted only 43% of employees.

So if you are a leader in a company with less than 1000 employees, increasing pride in employees can have a significant impact.  What influences pride?  My belief is that a strong company culture with a purpose that connects employees are the two most powerful factors that influence organizational pride. Having a purpose or “why” as Simon Sinek writes in his book Start with Whyprovides employees with a belief and understanding that they are part of something much bigger than themselves.

This information got me thinking about the implications it has on a company’s leadership development practices.

If the research is true and there is such a wide difference between executives and managers motivated by challenge, when evaluating managers for future executive roles, should you be identifying those who are motivated by challenge? And how does pride factor into your evaluation process?  And if so how would you go about evaluating a manager’s motivations? One method is to implement Hogan Assessments’ Value Report which measures leaders core values and drivers that influence motivation.

I also wonder about the word “challenge”. What is one person’s challenge is another person’s nightmare and thus a recipe for stress and potential failure. As a leader, how do you know when you are challenging a person versus creating stress and negative implications on an employee?

My recommendation is to have a candid conversation with the individual before placing a “challenging” new task or project on an employee’s plate. During the conversation, explore what resources and skills will be needed to be successful. Ask for ideas from the employee as to how resource, skills, and knowledge gaps can be bridge quickly to insure success.

Image Credit: The Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu) User: juliaf

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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