The Motivated Employee

Recently, when I was interviewing a candidate for one of our open positions, I was asked this question—and I’m paraphrasing here: “From an employer perspective, what are some of the things you care about the most when it comes to evaluating how well an employee is doing?”

This is obviously a solid question. And, it caught me a little off guard. I think I answered both thoughtfully and truthfully, but my answer was centered on the everyday requirements any person may have of another…integrity, commitment, effort, results, communication, attention to detail, and follow through/closing the loop.

All these things are definitely on my list, and they are all very, very important. But after having some time to reflect on that question, if I was asked again my answer would include this response—self-directed effort and results. Translation: What do you do when no one is looking? What do you make happen that’s not part of your formal job description? How many pushups do you do, just because you can?

Our organization, like many of yours, is not big enough to be hierarchical. Instead, we have a flat organizational structure. This means that you won’t find people in our company that have a full-time job supervising others and whipping them into shape. It also means that though we have project managers who are indeed taskmasters, they are not babysitters.

How we are structured affects how—and who—we hire. As legendary football coach Mike Ditka responded when asked how he motivated his players, “I don’t motivate anyone, I hire motivated people.” And that is why self-direction is so important to me and to our organization. Those individuals who will only give their best effort when their supervisor is watching over their shoulder and delivering a running critique will, in all likelihood, not work out here.

How is your organization structured? And is self motivation one of your key hiring criteria? Whether your organizational structure is hierarchical or flat, I believe you’ll create a stronger, more flexible, and more successful company by looking for those who don’t need constant praise—or a taste of the whip—to do their best work.

Agree? Think I’m crazy? We’d love to hear your thoughts and what works in your company.