Sometimes you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” It’s a fundamental question for virtually every leader. I’m Rick Williams. I sit on the Board of Directors of technology companies and advise company leaders as they make key decisions on the path to growth and success.
More Than Money
When I’m asked to make an investment in a company, I will ask the founder why she founded the company. If I am not convinced that she has a desire to make money for herself and for me, I will not invest. At the same time, if the same founder is telling customers that her motivation for selling a product is to make money for herself, they will not buy the product. The company’s employees will do what is needed to get a paycheck, and nothing more.
What Motivates You?
As a leader of your organization, your motivation for coming to work every day is a mixture of your personal goals and the values expressed by your company. Your understanding of both sets of values and how they relate to each other is essential for the success of your organization. Each of us has a complex set of motives for doing our job. In the context of founding a company, leading a large organization, or heading a department, examples of why we do what we could be: satisfaction when the team does well, enjoyment from being in charge, belief that company’s product improves lives, etc.
The Founder’s Dilemma
Knowing ourselves and what motivates us is essential for getting ourselves in jobs where we will excel and feel rewarded. For example, a the founder of a successful startup discovered he did not like running a larger company; directly working with customers to solve their problems was what gave him energy. When he did not have time to work with customers, the fun went out of his job. In the founder’s dilemma, some company founders want to be king while others want to be rich.
The dilemma is whether the founder is willing to give up control in order for the company to grow and to become rich. Or, the founder could demand that he maintains control, the company stays small, but he remains king. If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Dynamic leaders must make this core motivational choice.
Get clear about your values and your motivation for showing up for work. A good match between your motivations and the rewards from your role greatly improves your chance of success and satisfaction. Most people are more tuned to why your company exists than what it does. Your customers, employees, and some investors want to know why your team shows up for work every day. The “why I am doing this” must center around the organization — “why we are doing this.”
Five Steps to Define Your Values and Motivations
Here are steps you can take to develop and clarify the values and motivations of your company. First, start with being clear about what business you’re in: what do your customers believe they’re buying? When develop a message to communicate the values of your organization, be creative and keep it simple. Finally, develop a strategy for communicating to your community. You will have somewhat different messages to depending on your audience, but be consistent and be disciplined.
‘Why’ is More Important Than ‘What’
Here the key takeaways: your customers, employees, and often your investors will care more about why you’re doing this than what you’re doing. As the leader, get clear about your own values and your motivation for being in that role. Make sure you’re in a role that matches your personal values and goals. Then develop a clear understanding of what business your company is in.
Learn why customers are buying your products; build on that understanding to develop a profile of the values expressed by the work of your organization. An important part of your role as leader is to consistently articulate the “why we do this” message to your customers, employees, investors, and broader community
About Rick Williams
Corporate leader and advisor at the CEO & board level with broad experience as an executive, board member and management consultant. Industry experience includes med tech, financial services, real estate and high tech. From executive and board positions, has successfully lead strategic repositioning work in response to the evolving technology, financial and political/regulatory environment. Effective team builder and communicator with a record of bringing boards and senior leaders together.
Founding Partner of Newport Board Group – New England. National CEO & Board advisory firm. CEO/Founder of The Equity Company – award winning real estate development company. Spent ten years with Arthur D. Little, Inc., global management consulting firm, helping companies deal with the strategic impact of government regulation in the areas of chemicals, oil and gas, innovation, and process industries. Began career as a Senior Physicist with an expertise in photo/electro optical systems for space & defense applications.
Former Chairman of the Board of the Community Development Finance Corporation. CDFC (now Growth Capital Corp) is a quasi-public corporation that gives businesses access to capital in markets under served by traditional lenders. Chairman of the Board of Point Care Technology, Inc., leading provider of medical instruments for HIV-AIDS measurements in the developing world. President and Member of the Board of Governors of the Harvard Business School Association of Boston until 2013. Board Member of Amorphex Therapeutics – innovative drug delivery company. Board Member of Fairway Financial US – on line auction platform for 1st issue bonds & other commodities. Chair of Executive Committee for Directors Roundtable.
Harvard Business School and University of Pennsylvania (BA, Physics).