What Drives Organizations and Individuals to Excel?

As a 30-year sales manager for a big corporation, my dad used to advise his team, “Lead the pack.  But if you are not in first place, then stay comfortably  in the middle.”  But with tremendous competition and pressures to win deals, organizations are no longer safe with strategies that keep you in the middle of the road.  As Jim Hightower, the colorful Texas populist, said, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”  It is no longer enough to be pretty good at everything and just chase any deal that crosses your path.  Continuing to do things the same way will not produce new and better results.    In order to win in today’s tough market and transform your company to top-line growth, you and your team need to be motivated to change and take the necessary action to gain the competitive edge and build sustainable accounts faster.  You need to know how to motivate your team to excel.


What motivates your leadership and the ones they lead to excel?

For years, owners have believed that the bigger incentives, the better performance.   However, current science is now proving that extrinsic motivators often produce the opposite of what they set out to achieve.  What used to motivate individuals and teams no longer produces impressive performance results.  Today’s workers and clients are more independent thinking, plugged-in than ever before.  They are purpose maximizers and relationship driven.


What motivates?

The trend across the U.S. is to be leaner, less hierarchical, more self-directed, creative, and purpose-maximizers.  In the upside-down world of intrinsic motivation, “if-then”  rewards can often produce less of the very things you are trying to encourage.  Even worse, when used improperly, extrinsic motivators can give us more of what you don’t want and have unintended collateral consequences.   Instead, consider some of these principles described in Daniel Pink’s  book Drive:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:


1) Autonomy – the ability to make their own decisions; direct our own lives; leads to better engagement

2) Mastery – the ability to accomplish something; make a difference; make a contribution; opportunities to have fun while developing or improving skills

3) Purpose – the motivation to work towards something bigger than ourselves; yearning to contribute in a meaningful way

How do you apply these motivating factors on an organizational level?

Culminating the broad concepts presented in Daniel Pink’s book along with in-the-trenches field experience of our practice, Wayne O’Neill & Associates proposes some transformational evaluations for organizations and their leaders:


1.  How can you create a culture that embraces “autonomy”?  Who are the higher level innovative thinkers with whom you would like connect and engage?

2.  In what areas does your organization have “mastery”?  What can you contribute collaboratively  to your potential client or need your collaboration to achieve mastery?

3.  What is your potential client’s mission or “purpose”?  What do they value?  For example, are they “going green” or emphasizing “for benefit” along with “for profit”?  How could you position yourself to add value and impact the “C” level leaders?


Why bother changing how we motivate? 

WOA recognizes that in today’s business environment, people are thirsty for opportunities that lead to mastery. We suggest implementing these principled transformations that will both motivate your team to achieve top-line growth and facilitate the structure shifts necessary to uphold the resulting development.  Think carpe diem…seize the day!  Every day is a new opportunity to motivate your people with a new focus on autonomy, mastery and purpose.


For details on how to motivate specific groups in specific settings, check out the last portion of the book,  Drive, for Daniel Pink’s toolkits to identify practical approaches to motivate individuals, teams and companies.  For a more personal, customized approach to motivating your team within the context of your company and shaping new strategies for success, contact us.


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