In my quest to be a great CEO, I have been going around trying to find out what motivates people to go the extra mile (put in 150%).

The general consensus that I got was:
  • Ownership
    1. In the company’s success. A feeling that your success and the company’s success are linked. Usually via stock or stock options which have good potential value. If you have an insignificant amount of stock in the company or the value of the company is in the toilet, then this loses its power to motivate.
    2. Being a part of a delivered product which is important. Examples are developing the core pricing algorithm for your product management solution or derivatives valuation engine.  Usually there are few positions like this because the problem is broken down into smaller pieces worked on by a team.
  • Buying into the company values, mission, and culture
    1. You feel the company is trying to solve a problem that you care about personally. But most companies do not adequately build their values, mission, and culture in a way that people can rally around.
  • Recognition
    1. You feel that what you are working on will be acknowledged by higher ups if it is successful. Unfortunately, many projects may fail or only produce mediocre results.
  • Effect on the company’s success
    1. You feel that what you are working on will help the company be successful and will have a great effect on the company’s future. This is getting harder and harder to do. If you look at Apple, almost every project that they were working on in the past had this potential but now the environment and expectations are higher.  Making it difficult to surpass prior results.
  • Effect on other people
    1. You feel that what you are working on will positively affect people in the world. It is debatable whether most products that are developed today are really making the world a better place.  Even electric cars are powered by electricity generated by coal fired plants in many parts of the world (including the China, US, and India).  And what do you do with the caustic chemicals from the millions of batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles that will need to be disposed of later?
  • Rewards
    1. You will get some prize (bonus, additional stock, vacation trip, etc.) for successful completion of a project. This is difficult to do because you are expected to deliver your projects because you are getting a salary.
So the end result that I have seen is that many people are discouraged to put in extra effort.  They don’t believe that what they are doing will produce any great reward, promotion, or outcome in their lives because the usual suspects get all of the rewards and promotions.  Some feel that this is a result of favoritism or because of a situation where people who got early opportunities capitalized on their luck to establish themselves.
Usually companies have a ranking system where the “outstanding” (top 15%) employees are fast tracked and the rest move a bit slower up the ranks.
So the rest of the 85% accept their position in life and choose the option of "balancing work and life".  Just collecting a pay check and trying to do whatever they have to at work.
The thing most people don’t realize is that life is a long journey.  What you do today to make yourself outstanding may not get recognized at your current company but if you work at developing yourself and your passions it will get recognized in your next job.  This leads to the final motivator.
  • Self
    1. You believe that you need to be constantly improving and adding value because you know you will be sought after and recognized by the next company that sees this value.
    2. You know that you want to be the best so you continually read, study, and apply yourself to your practice and area of expertise to become a recognized expert.
    3. You constantly are reaching out to different parts of the organization to try to build synergies because you understand the power of breaking down silos.  You also understand the power of communication.
    4. You provide value to your company by going above and beyond in as many ways as possible because this allows you to be more marketable for your next opportunity.
    5. You accept that today’s environment is challenging. Competition is getting fiercer every day for the highest paying jobs.  You understand that in order to be selected you need to be able to stand out.
    6. You take responsibility for your future. You spend your own money to train yourself.  You do not complain and seek to embrace all that the future offers in both challenges and benefits.

So if you feel like you are in the 85%, look inside yourself, see what you want to become and work toward that every day.  You are your best motivator.