I think a lot of us assume - simplistically - that most people work for a paycheck. Of course, we all work for a paycheck at some level. We have to provide the sustenance to support ourselves and our families. But what I am interested in exploring is what other factors motivate people to work and especially to commit themselves to achieving more than should be expected.
One lesson I learned long ago - as a manager you cannot assume that everyone on your team is a cipher. In fact, probably one of the best things you can do is begin to understand what motivates each person individually and learn to manage them as unique individuals. Too often we assume that most people on our teams have similar motivations. As our work becomes more knowledge based and less reliant on repetitive tasks, workers have greater control over what they do and more intellectual investment in their work. This means that often they have more interest in their work and are more likely to find different motivation in their work. Another mistake a lot of new managers make is to assume that everyone has the same level of commitment and motivation as the manager does. Wrong. Every person on your team has their own level of commitment and motivation, and while it can be influenced you should never assume it is the same as yours.
I've seen surveys recently that suggest that there are other factors which motivate people beyond money - in fact some surveys suggest that money is not the first factor most people state when asked about motivation. Other factors include: the challenge of doing a great job, learning something new, control of the job and the tasks, corporate culture and co-workers. When setting expectations and goals with a team member, I think it's vital to understand what motivates them to come to work - beyond the paycheck - and understand how you can influence those factors to keep an employee interested and excited about work. When's the last time you sat down with the people you work with and asked them what motivates them? You may find out that there are key motivational factors within your control.
Note some of the difficulties of motivating knowledge workers, however. In traditional work environments, the work and the hierarchy was established so that many people had little control over their jobs and little change in their jobs day to day and even year to year. Now, however, to keep a strong knowledge worker motivated and excited, we need to provide them with some sense of control over their work and a job or task that changes and/or helps them learn something new. On top of those challenges, in a more knowledge based organization we are likely to work in cross-functional teams more frequently than in a command and control environment. This means that employees need to enjoy their corporate culture and their co-workers even more, since they are constantly working with a cast of people that is brought together for a project or task and then disbanded. The challenges to understand the motivations of knowledge workers and to keep those knowledge workers motivated is much higher than in previous generations.
I think great leaders understand all of this and motivate people by their vision and by asking for more from their employees and co-workers than they have any reason to expect. Creating a culture with very high expectations tends to weed out those who don't want to work for more than just a paycheck, so the corporate culture reinforces those that strive to do more. In a company that is constantly innovating and reaching for stretch goals, there will always be positions for people who are interested in learning new skills. An innovative firm which constantly reaches for new solutions and demands the best from its employees will find that motivation is created within the employees themselves.
I think you'll find that firms with great leadership and strong, positive corporate culture often have very motivated employees, while you can often find that firms and organizations that are more bureaucractic in nature and don't have a "can do" attitude suffer from a distinct lack of motivation. This is obviously painting with a broad brush, but that's all I can do in a blog post. My question for you is: what are you doing as a manager to motivate your people, and what features and attributes about your organization help motivate you and your team?