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CEOs Need a New Set of Beliefs

Posted September 27, 2011 10:28 AM by Dylan Miyake

In a Harvard Business Review blog yesterday, Raymond V. Gilmartin argued that CEOs need a new set of beliefs. What's surprising -- especially for those of us that work in the mission-driven sector -- is that this even bears saying. But what struck me the most in the post was that Professor Gilmartin (the past CEO of Merck) argues that "Purpose, meaning, and recognition are more powerful motivators than economic self-interest, and large external rewards can reduce intrinsic motivation."

This idea of "purpose and meaning" was one of the founding principles of Ascendant, and recently we've been working with a lot of our clients on wrestling to the ground exactly what that means. Both formally and informally we understand that just financial-based motivators are like sweet candy -- fill a need for a moment, but don't provide any lasting nourishment, while more squishy things like culture and work environment can provide more lasting motivation to organizations.

But, are we just being cheap? Are we saying that we invest in culture instead of salary in order to justify to ourselves a messed up pay scale? Or can work be more than a paycheck -- can it be a way to make the world a better place? And how do you value these "squishy" benefits? As a way to continue this conversation, we've invited Dan Pink, the author of Drive and A Whole New Mind to come speak at our conference next year. His work on motivation is especially relevant as we try to figure out how best to reconcile the idea of performance management (control?) with empowerment.

Whether you believe that CEOs need a new set or beliefs or not, I encourage you to read the article. It's at least the start of a very interesting conversation about where the next century of American capitalism leads.

Mark Aesch, another keynote speaker at our upcoming Summit in Washington, DC, has a different take on tying motivation, purpose, performance, and compensation together in the workplace based on his internationally recognized turn-around of The Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA).

In his book, Driving Excellence, he says:

"We set base salaries by looking at what executives at other companies like ours make. If we at the top want to earn above-market money, we have to attain predetermined strategic goals and cash in on incentives. There's no shortcuts and no give-aways."

From my understanding, Pink is advocating to give employees and leaders the ability to find a deeper purpose in their work and they will produce.

Mark is advocating for hiring competent help, paying them well, and using specific goals with monetary rewards to ensure the leadership's team creativity is focused on specific measurable goals that align with the organizations strategy.

Which is a better approach? Borderline chaos theory or a more rigid structure payment system aligned behind a strategic plan? Or can these two ideas be used in complimentary ways?

We are looking forward to hearing your experiences and ideas in-person in March. Registration and early-bird pricing are still available here: http://www.missiondrivensummit.com/#3

Or by clicking here: <a href="http://www.missiondrivensummit.com/#3">Click" target="_blank">http://www.missiondrivensummit.com/#3">Cli... to Register for the 4th Annual Mission-Driven Management Summit</a>
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