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What Really Motivates You?

November 15, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
When was the last time you stopped for a moment and asked yourself: “Have I changed?”

They say that time is becoming more compressed. Perhaps it is due to the many things we want to do.

Perhaps it is more about the fact that we can do them.

Think about how life was for our parents or grandparents.

Times changed.

For example, vacations were not usually a whim but planned long-term in advance as an “annual event” similar to Christmas or Thanksgiving.

In many cases “that was family time.” And you often went back to the same place year after year. As kids, you yourself establish roots in these “family zones.” It was a time when Dad wasn’t, well – Dad. He was fun-loving and full of adventure. Little did we know he was actually being the person he really wanted to be?

I remember my father telling me how he loved to jump high cliffs – until he was married with kids. He said to me that was the biggest change in his life. It was not about just him anymore, it was about family. My mother may have slightly weighed in on this decision.

He changed and so did his priorities.

When was the last time we thought about what motivates us – today? Is it the same as 10 years ago? Do we have the same priorities for our future now as we did then?

Have we changed?

A “Motivation Matrix”

Earlier this year, Inc. Magazine ran a cover story “What Entrepreneurs Really Want”. In this article by Leigh Buchanan, they talk about a “motivation matrix.” Why do we go into business and have our perspectives changed over time? Buchanan talks about when entrepreneurs are asked these questions, they are often answered in relatively vague forms like “It’s in my DNA.”

However, there is more information now about what motivates us and like most things in life, it is subject to change.

Buchanan refers to Nick Wasserman’s book “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding Pitfalls That Can Sink a Start-up” who “urges people already running businesses to conduct a little soul searching about what they want from the experience.”

Wasserman is quoted further “One of the key things about entrepreneurs is that they have far more potential to make decisions with both head and heart.” He goes on “When you’re taking the world on your shoulders, you have to ask yourself, Why am I doing this? If you only listen to your head, the decisions you make at every fork in the road can drive you further from your personal promised land.”

Wasserman teamed up with Timothy Butler, senior fellow and director of career development programs at Harvard Business School and surveyed entrepreneurs about what motivates them. Their survey consisted of ranking 13 motivations. They found that entrepreneurs ranked highly “autonomy and power.” Non-entrepreneurs on the other hand, regarded “security and a congenial work environment” as important.

Motivations Change?

Their study indicated that “motivations change with age, women’s motivations shifting more than men’s.”

Men in their 20’s and 40’s for example ranked “autonomy” and ‘power and influence” as their top motivations. However as they became older other motivations changed. In their 20’s “managing people” and “financial gain” ranked highly. In their 40’s ‘”altruism” and “variety” took their place.”

For women as time goes on, their motivations changed more. “Autonomy stayed the same as the top choice but from there most other motivations changed. In their 20”s “power and influence,” “managing people,” and “altruism” was the order. In their 40”s this was changed to “intellectual challenge,” “variety,” and “altruism.”

According to Buchanan, Wasserman’s and Butler’s these interpretations on “how what makes you tick might make you act” :

Au = Autonomy: “If you are chief motivation is “autonomy,” consider flying solo, without partners or significant investors. That may mean settling for slower growth or a smaller scale business.”

Pi = Power and Influence: If this motivates you “be wary of teaming up with like-minded partners.”

Mp = Managing People: “Prepare to feel frustrated as distance grows between you and your troops.”

Fg = Financial Gain: If financial gain motivates you “you may have to surrender some control.”

A = Altruism: “… Nonprofit or socially responsive routes naturally beckon.”

V = Variety: An interest in starting things where a “strong No. 2 whom you can trust” may be important.

Ic = Intellectual Challenge: “… You should seek opportunities to diversify.”

You can go to www.inc.com/motivation and take a modified version of this interesting self-assessment tool.

Then ask yourself this question: would you have responded the same way 10 years ago and do you think these will be your motivations in the future?

New Definitions of Business & Community?

As time and change seem to move faster, we should consider not getting too lost in our current structures.

Does it always need to be thought of in terms of “sole proprietorships” or old boundaries or more in terms of “networks”? Is the structure of the future for our small towns and smaller businesses based more on regional corporations and business cooperatives?

I don’t know this answer. However, if we think more in terms of a beginning and an end, we may be better prepared to address change for our community, businesses - and ourselves.

 
 

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