ACHIEVING SCALE

3 Traits of Cultures that Motivate

Company culture isn't a mysterious mist that descends upon your company. As a leader, you're responsible for creating a motivational culture.
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Entrepreneurial ventures are based on motivation. Leaders who cannot motivate others inevitably remain holed up in their caves with their great ideas.
 
Motivation isn’t simply a question of extrinsic rewards--big bonuses, great salaries, and trips to Hawaii.
 
While many people successfully use extrinsic rewards to build motivation during a period of growth, what happens when things get tough? How do you motivate when there is no bonus, or when you’re downsizing? This is when you need is commitment based on intrinsic rewards. What you need is a culture of motivation--a culture that sustains forward movement even when things are rough.
 
Culture is not something that just emerges while you’re busy doing something else. Culture is not some anthropological mist that mysteriously settles in on your organizational terrain. It is something that you, as an entrepreneurial leader, are responsible for. 
 
A culture of motivation addresses three critical socio-psychological needs: the need to learn; the need for affiliation; and the need for reaffirmation.
 
1. Learning is the basic psychological need for efficacy and mastery.  It is the need to feel that your activities are expanding your knowledge, skills, and potential. It is personal growth.  How often do people drop jobs or projects because they the projects seem to be a dead end? Dead ends equal repetition: nothing new to do, nothing new to learn, no challenges, and no upward mobility.  
 
2. Affiliation is the most basic sociological drive.  It is the need to identify with and be part of a group.  It is the need for community. More often than not individuals are drawn to projects and activities that allow them the opportunity to identify and work with others.  Group-based projects and activities help people stay longer than if they were working alone. Having the sense you’re part of a group makes it easier to sustain momentum.
 
3. Reaffirmation is the basic socio-psychological drive for social reassurance.  It is the need for recognition. It is a public recognition for what you’ve accomplished, who you are, and where you belong. Without reaffirmation, you create feelings of being taken for granted--people feel overlooked and underappreciated.  Without periodic reaffirmation, you can stir up “why-am-I-here?” questions.  Without reaffirmation, few people will stay on your side, and you’ll be unlikely to sustain momentum.
 
Learning, affiliation, and reaffirmation are keys to creating a culture of motivation. The challenge to your entrepreneurial leadership is to create an organizational culture that will address each of these needs.  If you want to make sure your initiative is carried out in the most expeditious and appropriate manner by an active, engaged team, you must deal with the motivational issue.  You need to be deliberate about culture, and use it as a proactive tool.  
 
Entrepreneurial leaders understand they must manage the organizational culture just as they maintain resources and monitor performance.  Entrepreneurial leaders understand that culture is the glue that keeps everything else in place.  And they know how to manage culture to sustain momentum.
Last updated: Dec 2, 2013

SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies

Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School, and is director of Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. Among his books are Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side. His latest volume, A Good Idea Is Not Enough: Leading for Change and Innovation, will be published this November by BLG.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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