What makes managers tick

Apr 15 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Interesting and challenging work is what drives most managers to go the extra mile, not performance-related pay, cash bonuses or a stake in the business.

A new study by the UK's Ashridge Business School has found that, while seven out of 10 managers think there is a positive leadership environment within their organisation, more than half think their bosses just haven't got it when it comes to understanding what motivates them and their colleagues.

This year's Ashridge Management Index has highlighted a clear discrepancy between the motivating factors cited by organisations against those cited by individual managers.

While managers rated challenging and interesting work as their highest motivator, organisations said they believed it was performance-related pay and incentive schemes.

And a high basic salary (ranked third by managers) did not even appear in the top five motivators for organisations.

Fiona Dent, director of executive education at Ashridge and author of the survey report, said: "A strong theme from managers' responses is the desire to move beyond a 'sheep dip' way of motivating.

"Managers want to be treated as individuals and for there to be a clear understanding of what types of motivation work best to gain results from different individuals and teams," she added.

Despite the awareness about the importance of talent management and leadership development, these topics also seemed to be neglected by a number of organisations.

Only around half of the managers believed their organisations were doing enough to develop the next generation of leaders through succession planning and talent management initiatives.

The survey also looked at managers' personal challenges, with two main issues emerging: information overload and work/life balance.

Nearly three quarters of managers said the increasing use of IT meant they were often snowed under with voice and emails.

The ideal of the European Union 48-hour working week was also distant for the majority.

Half said they frequently worked 60 hours or more per week and nearly two thirds admitted to taking work home with them.

Older Comments



“The emotional forces, wants, needs, urges or drive within us that influence our behaviour” or… ‘a willingness to exert varying levels of effort based on our perception that the level of effort will satisfy some individual craving’.


Needs, wants, urges (cravings), are feelings that make particular outcomes appear attractive. When a craving is not satisfied tension is created within, which in turn stimulates an urge or drive causing us to seek a solution to satisfy the craving and thus reduce our tension. This is similar to the craving a smoker experiences, particularly when trying to quit. Have you ever been enticed by the aroma of a chicken roasting, or a meat sizzling on a BBQ, only to have your spouse say something like, ‘lets eat fish fingers and salad for dinner’? You might yield to the request but your tension level will have increased due to the unsatisfied craving for the chicken or BBQ’d meat.


Successful leaders understand that their followers are influenced by various states of tension and they are able to utilise the fact that when tension is increased the followers will exert higher levels of effort as they attempt to reduce their tension levels. Obviously in a work situation managers (as leaders) ideally need to ensure that the individuals’ cravings (needs & wants)… and efforts, are in harmony with organisational goals.


Different perceptions of what motivates ‘subordinates’, according to the manager/leader versus those that are being managed/following have been proven in survey after survey over the decades. Still mangers seem to miss the point that time and a ‘subordinates’ personal and work situation is central to everything. Example: Young single employees in a an expanding job market may respond to a stimulus of interesting work and public recognition today, become engaged to the guy or girl next door and tomorrow their looking for a pay increase and a career path. Then they are pregnant… job security and a salary increase may for many then become a “craving”


Ric www.orglearn.org

Richard Townsend Beijing

There is a distinction between motivation and inspiration which appears to be missing. Motivation is external. Inspiration is internal. Jim Collins in From Good To Great described it as passion purpose a sound economic model=rock and roll performance~ And Yes Maslow's definition of self-actualization applies to people and the businesses they work in. Ohhh Yeahhh!

Dawna Vancouver, B.C.