Motivation: Why Do People Leave?

Oct 13, 2015

By Joe Olson, Director, Technology Practice
OCT 13, 2015

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I’ve always found motivation to be a fascinating topic. At the end of the day, I am constantly pitching the thrill of the unknown – the ability to take an executive’s learnings and apply that in a green field environment. The chance to maybe step out from a company that no longer stretches him/her (real or perceived) is always exciting, but why are they so receptive?

I think the most common factor that we run into is uncertainty. Whether that’s confusion about a CEO transition (there’s nothing worse for morale and company direction than an extremely prolonged CEO search) or just a clouded perspective around their own role in the company. Great talent doesn’t worry about job security, they don’t worry about where the next paycheck comes from – they worry about having the biggest impact.

Impact is an overused term; but, it’s crucial in determining an individual’s ego-strength. When so many people are chasing this “mythical startup dream,” it’s even more imperative to create an ethos that is more than increasing Revenue, Margins, Engagement or *insert metric here*. I was listening to a very interesting podcast where Jason Calacanis interviewed Daniel Ek, CEO at Spotify ( and what struck me about Daniel’s story was not the growth of the business and the huge operational challenges breaking into the stale music distribution industry. What I found jarring was the retrospective emotional vulnerability when his biggest regret was completely shielding the team from the potential bad news. You had hundreds of people basically committing their life and deferring income for the overall “mission” and that platform was actually very unstable while they were working toward licensing agreements. Thankfully it worked out in this instance, but there’s a natural weight on any executive (especially a CEO) when they realize that hundreds (if not thousands) of people are making life decisions based on their direction.

While it may seem safe to completely shield your VPs and Directors from information, there is a certain shared ownership of burden that can actually further reinforce that mission or impact that we discussed earlier. The appropriate level of vulnerability and openness to input and ideas can both reinforce your own direction while also allowing the team to stretch their wings and motivate their team to double down for the next quarter or drive an organizational shift that always needs the appropriate ground level buy in. That’s not to say that the CEO is ever able to completely cede that burden, but it does speak to the reason that you foster talent within your organization.

One of the biggest things that my Dad ever taught me about work is that my job is to simply make my boss’ job easier. The longer that I play in this little rat race, the more real this seems. As a recruiter, my job is to establish a level of hustle and credibility that allows the CEO, BOD or VP of HR to sleep at night. As simple as this sounds, it’s scalable to both internal and external clients in almost any situation. On the flip side, if you don’t allow for that flexing and potential failure, you are going to constantly lose your most talented individuals.

Motivation is not about a locker room speech and passionate monologue on the state of the business – motivation comes from a shared ownership of both joy and failure; of triumphs and burdens. Share that vulnerability and your team will thrive.

As a millennial, I have a certain amount of information-flow bias. I respond best when I can see the horizon and the reason for chasing that target; but, I also realize that not everyone falls into this category. There are many people that are completely comfortable with a consistent paycheck and stability – that’s not the audience that I am targeting. I am targeting the CFO who has a great VP of FP&A just about ready to take a CFO slot. The CEO with the great President/CRO, etc. Sometimes there’s just a natural timeline; and, in that case, feel free to call me and we can talk about how to find that new CRO!


First Published on: Linked In Pulse.

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