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The 3 Things That Motivate People

Last Updated Oct 5, 2010 7:38 PM EDT

As a leader, it's important to have good ideas, but if you want to do something great with those ideas, you must be able to influence others to join forces with you. You need to be able to convince people to share your vision. You can use a tasty carrot or sharp stick -- both have their place -- but I think it's better to have a keener understanding of human nature and what it is that motivates us.


Daniel Pink has an inventive video that describes the three things he believes are the greatest motivators of all: (1) autonomy, (2) higher purpose, and (3) mastery. (You'll notice compensation isn't on the list.)

Pink's conclusions contradict what most of us probably think about motivation. They got me thinking about about some of the things we do and encourage here at Blinds.com.

Autonomy: Every time we require a Call Center representative to get approval to accommodate some customer request, we're violating this principle. We provide a couple of monetary constraints but we also say to employees: "We think you're smart and rational, that's why we hired you; so just do whatever you think it will take to satisfy the customer." Our Employee Handbook echoes that idea. No one wants someone always looking over his or her shoulder. Good leaders lead by providing direction, not by pushing from behind.

Higher purpose: Sure, the primary goal of every business is to earn a profit and make the highest return on invested capital, but that surely isn't what will drive our motivation. That's why we talk more about solving our customers' problems and making their lives better -- we help them feel secure, maintain privacy, lower energy costs, and darken rooms so their babies sleep longer. Being able to donate money to the less fortunate in our community as a result of our success, is another motivator. And for me personally, I enjoy immeasurable satisfaction from being able to pass along lessons I've learned to other entrepreneurs.

Mastery: If you've read my posts before, then you know that Improving Continuously is one of our key core values. Training and constructive feedback, therefore, are not just important for the company -- they also keep people happier. You've probably read or already know that many people leave their jobs because they feel stagnant. When there is an opportunity for promotions and for people to learn new skills -- even without a title change -- they'll still feel like they're moving up. When people have higher skill levels, their value goes up and they're in a better position to get raises, or at the very least, they're equipped to handle new jobs at other companies.


These are just some of the ways we've tried to motivate our people by tapping into what really keeps employees satisfied. What do you do at your company?

Photo courtesy of lumaxart
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    Jay Steinfeld is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window blinds sales. He is an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His company was named Best Place to Work in Houston, won the American Marketing Association's Marketer of the Year, and Steinfeld was named by the Houston Chronicle as Houston's top CEO in the under-150 employee category for the last 2 years.