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Know Your Motivation

Are you a schoolteacher working in the inner-city, helping shape the minds of our youth and ensure no child falls through the cracks? Do you know someone who was in a bad car accident and, as a result, you decided to make it your life’s mission to working on safety topics at a large automotive manufacturer? Were your parents too poor to afford family vacations as a child and your goal was to pick a profession that would allow you to see the world on the company’s dime? Have you seen so many bad managers and mentors throughout your life that you made it a point to break the mold? Whatever it is, everyone has some sort of motivation for being where they are… Even if it simply means a warm place to go everyday that provides a steady paycheck.

I know a woman that has a Director Level position within her company. At a leadership retreat they were asked by a leadership coach what motivates them. They were provided a list of predefined items and everyone could select from this list or come up with their own ideas. Just to be clear, they could select more than one item. One of the items that she chose was money, an item that every single other person in the room shied away from. When they read their motivations aloud, other managers snickered and made her feel shallow. The coach then turned it back around on them and asked if they would do their jobs for $1 a day and made it a point to say that we do this work because we get something in return. Being motivated by a number in our paychecks does not make her less of a manager. In fact, we should praise her for recognizing what she needs in order to be able to give more of herself at work.

I’m going to break the ice here and tell you that I too am motivated by money, and also by responsibility. And I’m not ashamed to have you judge me for it. I sat in a meeting with one of my previous bosses and said those exact words, without shame. He laughed and said, me too. I find, often, that it is our past experiences that drive our motivators. Let me tell you about a couple of my experiences.

I have been micromanaged before. I have seen managers skate by, providing absolutely no support for their teams. I have seen Management continuously instill fear into their employees, screaming at them for every decision made or not made. I have seen managers take credit for their team’s work. I have seen people treated like absolute crap. I have used those situations to reflect and decide how I would handle a similar problem should I ever be in a more senior role within a company. I thrive off the ability to be creative in my day-to-day, even if I am not in a creative role (I’m not the Creative Director at some advertising firm and I don’t design cars for a living). This means that the process I am executing or the people problem I am handling is not being driven or designed by my boss, but by me. That I can call the shots for my team and make autonomous decisions because he/she trusts me. I have recognized that this is one thing that I need to be happy in an organization. When I don't have this I feel restricted and frustrated, so I work to make sure I demonstrate that I am capable of receiving this responsibility. 

Now on to the other motivator... I used to work at a startup company where we made very little. One day, I calculated how much I made per hour and cringed. It changed my whole perspective on the 60 - 70-hour workweeks we were putting in. Were we completing work that I believed in? Most certainly. But it was disheartening to see what I was worth at the time. Once I left, I knew that if I was going to give my all for a new company then I wanted them to show the same gratitude in return: in Dollars. Or Euros. Or Yen. Wherever I was in the world I just wanted to be paid fairly for the job I was doing. Little did I know that this would be a motivator to start talking to working women on social media, to start encouraging women to play a bigger role within the workplace.

I have seen pay scales in certain organizations. I have personally seen that I was making [tens of] thousands less than my male counterparts. I have seen men get raises where I was told, “You need to first show me that you are capable of this position and then you will get the raise and title.” And you know what? I’m sick of it. So, when I tell you that money motivates me, I am not ashamed. In fact, I am proud of myself for being able to recognize what drives my day-to-day and communicate that to my superiors. While you might think I am shallow (or greedy), you may fail to recognize that I am also trying to help pave the way for other women to start earning what they deserve. And that drives me every single day.

Don’t ever fault another person for recognizing their desires and having the gumption to stand up for themselves and ask for it (within reason). Instead, think about what it is that would make you happy. Is it the ability to take on a few employees to mentor? Is it the opportunity to travel for your company or be invited to certain meetings? Or is it simply that you are paid the same amount as your male counterparts? Whatever it is, find your voice and be firm. You never know where it could one day lead you, or who you could be setting an example for.


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