Know What Motivates You at Work

Do What You Love? Or, Love What You Do? An interesting dilemma that sounds pretty simple, but we don’t usually get this one right away. Curious about my own experiences in the workplace, I asked myself what are the main drivers to get up for work every day?

I started thinking about motivation and inspiration at work, and what I feel is working for me a few months ago, when I joined Stanfy. Before that, fair compensation, a friendly team and challenging projects seemed like quite enough to feel motivated and satisfied with my job. Later on it turned out to be not enough. From my first days at Stanfy I realized that I could (and want to!) get so much more from my work.

1. Growth and learning. Learning and growth.

For me this is really crucial. Being very unhappy with the education and skills I received in the university and about where I am now, it’s high time to focus on self-improvement and constant growth.

Being happy to have that growth mindset, I feel that the more I learn, the more I want to learn. If the company encourages learning and growth, we are on the same path. Looking for the best ways to learn, I would say that learning from people is always ideal, so it’s especially lucky to have more experienced, professional and extremely smart people around you on the team.

I remember very well the story of the amazing PayPal team (the so-called PayPal Mafia), who not only managed to build, iterate and scale a really innovative product to a $1.5 billion acquisition, but also defined many startup practices and helped to shape the next generations of startups (those practices may seem very common today, but were unknown 15 years ago). PayPal’s early story was unique in many ways, but especially with respect to the people behind it. The talent level on the team was incredibly high. Later, one of the key factors of their success in my opinion was formulated by Keith Rabois (now a well-known investor, and then a VP of Business Development, Public Affairs, and Policy at PayPal):

“The most important piece of advice is to choose an opportunity based upon people you’ll learn the most from.”

2. Passion.

I believe you can’t achieve success in anything without real passion. I also truly believe that a passionate team united by true vision can change the world.

3. Vision.

Vision is one of the main factors for me when it comes to choosing the company you want to work for, as I’m focused on having a career which is meaningful. It’s great to see the impact we as a company are making, to feel fulfilled when I know I can contribute.

4. Flexibility.

I call it “Work free or die.” I can’t stand “9-to-5” schedules and strict routines, which simply kill my energy and motivation. Instead, I appreciate having the opportunity to work from different places and countries, cafes, or simply to stay at home when I feel I need to. I don’t feel like I should be constantly controlled, but rather should be responsible for my own schedule and my own results.

At Stanfy we practice remote work all the time, and it’s not a simple “perk” for us, but more a style of life that we enjoy (with one simple rule of reading a well-known book as a must).

5. Openness.

The time of “bosses” is over. Today we choose trust and friendship.

At Stanfy I was amazed by the openness of everyone on the team, and that I can ask ANY question and be sure of being heard, and my opinion is always valued. Be honest. Be open and know how to listen.

Being very shy by nature, it is invaluable for me to feel comfortable asking for feedback, help, support or direction.

I would call it a work–life blur, when lines between social interaction and work life no longer exist, and building team relationships becomes essential. A lifestyle-friendly environment at work is something we are really crazy about at Stanfy.

6. Culture.

Culture is one of the hardest things to define, despite the endless articles and books you may have read on that topic. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that a strong culture is the main ingredient of success for any startup or company, if it is built on the right values and is focused on people and communication.

The right workplace culture creates the right environment that sparks passion within the team, as Brad Feld described that:

“You can’t motivate people; you can only create a context in which people are motivated.”

I would say that culture is first of all about a company’s values, as well as the actions that reflect those values. Values shared by the team create that “cultural fit” which makes working together with such diverse people very comfortable and enjoyable.

Peter Thiel said one of the best things about culture:

“ I’m personally very skeptical of the ping-pong tables and all these corporate perks. I think the company culture is always best organized around the mission of what the company does.”

7. Clear career path and promotional opportunities.

Millennials today are moving up the career ladder more quickly than anyone before. We do not want to take the same position for more than one year as we simply get bored of the same tasks. We enjoy setting and achieving career goals more than anything else.

And clear career paths help us to stay motivated with tangible goals to work toward.

For me personally, understanding where I’m going and how I can get there is crucial. I should be able to see a clear progression route, what the criteria are for promotion, and how I can obtain the skills required for it. That helps me to stay motivated and more focused, though focused more on results and growth, and not just on current tasks.

8. Mentorship

At Stanfy I opened for myself the practice of mentorship at work, which can provide a bunch of amazing benefits. Having a mentor is like having a trusted friend who is ready to help and support you whenever you need. A mentor is someone who is ready to share knowledge and experience with you to help you on your career path, with a good advice, assistance in solving a problem, or simply an outside perspective on the matter. If you manage to develop a strong mentorship relationship, I think you both benefit from it, and the benefits can be truly endless.

9. Challenges.

I’m sure you know more than enough about the importance of getting out of your comfort zone. As there is no growth without challenges, every time you start doing something well enough, it is high time to start choosing the next challenge. It’s really cool when you have an opportunity to pick a challenge that is interesting for you, both within your area of expertise or outside it. Even more important is that your company supports and encourages your desire to learn and to grow individually and professionally.

At Stanfy, we pick our individual challenges through the process of setting personal OKRs every six months, and it works pretty well!

10. Job loading, work-life balance.

I’m not a workaholic, be it for good or for bad. I love to have challenging tasks, but working days and nights and on weekends is not for me, no matter how mindblowing the job would be. I know success is not possible without putting in a great deal of effort, but I always choose work-life balance.

I’m pretty sure a lot depends on your type of personality and level of energy, as quite a lot of people enjoy a fast-paced life and follow a “work hard, play hard” principle, but I also know that a high-intensity environment does not fit me. I know what burning out is and the cost is too high.

11. Travelling

When you do not have family obligations yet, it would be good to use that time for travelling and learning about new cultures, including business cultures. Business trips are great opportunities to meet new people and not get stuck in a routine. Such an opportunity would be a great motivation for me.

12. Money

Yes, this comes last. And not because I don’t care for money, but more because the company that has all the values mentioned above would rather have a fair compensation policy.

That’s something I recommend thinking about and even writing down, as knowing what drives you can not only enhance your performance and make you more satisfied with what you do, but can also help you to find a job that truly aligns with your passions and goals.

I would be happy to hear your thoughts on it.

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