The other day a tech CEO, whom I admire and keep in touch with occasionally, mentioned something that really resonated with me. The guy is a fantastic entrepreneur, one of the best I know, as well as an excellent visionary in his marketspace. Like most CEO’s in a fast-growing technology venture, this one finds himself on the road often, striking business development deals and generally evangelizing his company all over the world.
Following one particular stretch in which this guy was traveling for an extended period, some members of his staff remarked how refreshing it was to have him back in the office to re-energize their motivation levels for their relentlessly demanding jobs.
I find this totally unsurprising. It isn’t that his employees are not self-starters lacking the ability to work without daily guidance. On the contrary, employees in a startup are by definition talented and ambitious, and this group was no exception. They simply experienced withdrawal symptons from going too long without being reminded in person of how they fit into this radically innovative company in a way that only a founder can convey.
Indeed, only candidates of a certain profile are attracted to work in a startup. Stability, predictability, and a comfortable salary are certainly not the lures. Rather, it is the opportunity to achieve fulfillment. People need to feel a part of something bigger.
This is human nature. It’s the top chunk of Maslow’s pyramid. Without this feeling, we lose our souls. We become zombies in mindless corporate careers where the sky has been blotted out, so hopelessly dependent on the “system” that we later fight to protect it.
If your motivation level at work is chronically sub-optimal, or you feel that your career is drifting sideways, think about the underlying issue. Look around your work environment. Do you have autonomy ? Do you work for an inspiring leader ? Are you surrounded by colleagues with infectious enthusiasm ? Do you have the chance to succeed or fail on a daily basis ? Are you made to feel like you are a key component of a larger vision ?
Feeling a part of something bigger can be the most fulfilling reason to work in a startup.