Two Critical Issues that Impact High-Performing Business Cultures

We are often asked, “how do you create a business culture where self-management and motivation take care of themselves?”

The answer might surprise you.

It starts with some basic clarity as to what most companies want:

They want more profit. A healthier “bottom-line”

More than ever, managers are focusing directly on how self-management and motivation generate more profit and a healthier bottom line for their company.

Here’s the thinking…

More profit and a healthier bottom line result from increased productivity (based on the way your company measures this).

Increased productivity is generated by higher performance (based on the way your company measures this).

And, higher performance is generated to a large extent by sustained individual motivation which is the “people” side of the business.

That’s why managers are so interested in impacting and/or influencing the ongoing motivation of each employee.

Because it leads to more profit.

That’s why they often ask themselves, “what do I actually control when it comes to influencing an individual’s motivation?”

If this question interests you, there is compelling research that helps answer the question.

The research shows that motivators can be divided into what are sometimes called “hygiene” and “non-hygiene” factors.

“Hygiene” factors are the basics that a person needs to maintain fundamental safety and security. In a way, these basics keep them “safe”.

These factors includes salary, benefits, a safe comfortable working environment etc.

“Non-hygiene” factors are everything else – including clarity of job function, goal setting, achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and the nature of the work itself.

When it comes to motivation, if the “hygiene” factors aren’t in place, you – as the manager – have motivational leverage.

By providing them, you have more influence over the things that employees can individually use to motivate themselves.

In other words, as a manager, you help “take care of” fundamental factors that make people feel safe and therefore influences their motivation.

But, this influence stops once these factors are in place for an employee.

At that point, your ability to directly influence the employee’s motivation drops dramatically –  to a point that it almost doesn’t count.

However, there’s some good news from the research about how you can increase your influence so that your employees “take care of” their own motivation.

The research found that in all high performing, self-managed cultures (regardless of industry and/or sector), there were two critical issues that were important to everyone. They are…

  1. Satisfaction
  2. Communication

The research said that if you want to create an environment where people motivate themselves, focus on:

  1. How Satisfied they are and
  2. Communicate often and effectively, specifically around the things that influence Satisfaction.

When it comes to Satisfaction, research said that each person needed to be satisfied with:

  1. Themselves.
  2. Their Job.
  3. Themselves on the Job.
  4. Their Peers.
  5. Their Manager and, where relevant, their Manager’s Manager.

When all these things were consistently in place, it was easier for them to motivate themselves and appropriately manage themselves.

When it comes to Communication, the research showed that 3 aspects of communication had a positive impact on the individual’s ability to motivate and manage themselves.

They are the quality, quantity, and frequency of communication.

When there is lots of this kind of communication, it has a positive impact on the person.

If there is too little communication or none at all, it has a negative impact on the individual’s ability to motivate and manage themselves.

And, this is good news.

Because it shows what you can do as a manager on a daily basis (if relevant), to support your people regarding Satisfaction and Communication – to help create a “self managed” culture where motivation takes care of itself.

Research also showed that in high performing cultures, every person in the company – from the top to the bottom – could answer five simple questions.

  1. Why am I here?
  2. Where am I going?
  3. How am I doing?
  4. Where do I go for help?
  5. What’s in it for Me? (W.I.I.F.M)

For a Manager, these questions are important because they translate into 5 critical things you can focus on – represented by CAPITAL letters as answers to their questions. Specifically…

  1. Why am I here? (MISSION)
  2. Where am I going? (GOALS)
  3. How am I doing? (FEEDBACK)
  4. Where do I go for help? (SUPPORT)
  5. What’s in it for Me? (REWARDS).

The study also showed that most Managers are pretty good at answering the first two questions…

  1. Why am I here? (MISSION) and
  2. Where am I going? (GOALS)

But it showed that they were not as good at answering…

3. How am I doing? (FEEDBACK). 4. Where do I go for help? (SUPPORT), and 5. What’s in it for Me? (W.I.I.F.M) (REWARDS).

And, among the 3 they were not good at, the research showed that managers were the poorest at Feedback, slightly better at Support than Feedback, and slightly better again at Rewards.

It also clarified that…

“How am I doing?” didn’t just mean letting the individual know they have done a good job after they have completed the job.

Rather, it meant giving them continuous, appropriate Feedback on the way to completing the job with the emphasis on “continuous” and “appropriate”.


“Where do I go for help?”  was about a very specific type of Support.

It meant letting them know “where can I go for psychologically safe, unconditionally accepting, non-judgmental and, where relevant, confidential support?”.

The third insight was that…

“What’s in it for Me?”  had nothing to do with money as a Reward (because money is a “hygiene” factor). Rather, it had everything to do with the way they felt after dealing with their Manager.

This desired outcome was that they consistently walked away from interaction with their manager with the aftertaste and feeling that they had been listened to, heard, valued, supported, cared for, that they were growing, and were being grown.

This was their “reward”.

And, this is good news.

Because, as a manager, you can answer these critical questions on an ongoing basis for individuals reporting to you- which will help foster and maintain a high-performance culture.