If you are leading a senior team, a critical part of your role is facilitating the high performance of key individuals and the collective.  This means tapping into key motivations.  It is well documented, that intrinsic motivation is both more meaningful and more sustainable for senior executives. They still enjoy extrinsic rewards, and will happily accept them when offered, however, the smart leaders will do their best to ensure team roles are structured to connect to key intrinsic motivations.

To help understand this more, we asked over 20 senior executives what really matters to them and how are they motivated to perform and work hard?

Whilst most worked with large international companies, there were a handful leading smaller more entrepreneurial businesses.

The answer to the “motivations “question was quite conclusive: The 3 core motivators for these senior executives were:

  1. Level of Influence & Impact that they can bring to their role and to the organization.
  2. Ongoing personal and professional development – Continuous Learning.
  3. A chance to make a Broader Contribution beyond the organization

These executives talked with passion about having a role that offered a significant degree of influence. This influence was not always bottom-line related, as they acknowledge the complexity of corporate governance and the importance of collective decision making when it comes to getting things done. But for the most part, influence means being able to put in place strategic imperatives. It means, within the confines of suitable risk measures, being able to take ownership of and drive hard for significant business outcomes that have been agreed. It means being able to select and engage resources to develop and implement against their business plans. It means having some scope to decide what, when, and how.

Perhaps one of the more surprising outcomes was the high rating given to ongoing professional development as a core motivator. Senior people want to keep developing themselves. They want to learn whilst on the job, which means the use of coaching and mentoring rather than out of office executive programs. Many senior executives believe in themselves and have a strong ambition to reach their full potential, and will choose organizations or situations that can facilitate this.

AND they also want to make a broader contribution. They want to be able to impact the industry, a city, an eco-system or a region beyond the specific organization that they work for.

This broader contribution has many faces. For some this may be industry or community initiatives, for others philanthropy, or a small portfolio of board and non-executive roles.

These core motivators, when in place, can also help build a team or business culture that is generative and systemic, rather than selfish and ego-based.   Here lies the win/win for organizational leaders.

We offer 2 questions that you may reflect on:

  • How would you bring these motivations alive for your team?
  • And for yourself?