• October 2011

Scared of the Sputtering Economy? Don't Be

By Laura Berger
Executive Coach and Principal,
The Berdéo Group

No matter when you started your business—five, 10, or only two years ago—you surely have experienced the up-and-down trends in the economy.

While some of you may be masterful at weathering economic downturns, others end up in a panic, switching strategies weekly or monthly for survival.

Before you go into survival mode, ask yourself: What is the most powerful, sustainable structure for your business or job?

Answering this question often involves identifying your intrinsic motivations—your drive to do something because it is entrancing, challenging, and interesting.

Here’s why:

When you have the joy of discovery, and the challenge of creation, the reward is the activity itself. Thus, intrinsic motivation is often the pillar to your success, whether or not you are aware of it.

Economic uncertainty is no match for what inspires and jazzes you. It is in your core and cannot be easily quantified or shaken.

Extrinsic motivations such as money come and go, are not sustainable in the long run, and inevitably do not provide the same amount of satisfaction as intrinsic motivators. This is not to say that money is not important.

One has to earn a living, and many entrepreneurs are battling flame-out; as a result of having to lay off staff due to the challenged economy, they are burning the candle at both ends.

Daniel Pink’s bestseller, Drive, references a long-term study conducted in the 1960s of sophomores and juniors at The Art Institute of Chicago.

The focus was the students’ attitudes toward work and whether they were more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. In the early 1980s, they revisited these students to see how their careers had progressed.

Those intrinsically motivated were distinctly more successful in the short term and nearly 20 years later than those who were extrinsically motivated. Pink also asserts that, “It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.”

My clients who feel stuck or unmotivated enjoy working through the Developmental Pipeline.

Created by authors Hicks & Peterson, the Developmental Pipeline describes five categories of change enablers. Walking clients through each category allows them to assess their relative strength in each area and can challenge disabling assumptions in categories of weakness.

After learning about each of the five categories, an action plan emerges capitalizing on fortes in strong categories and conquering hindrances in the others. High insight and low motivation is common. “I know that I should be out there networking, but I just never find the time.”

Yet, working with that high insight to find and focus on intrinsic motivators provides a natural springboard for breaking through the weak areas to achieve goals.

Those who are able to tap into their intrinsic motivators have the fortitude to push through sabotaging fears and tough times in business. And being organic, success achieved through intrinsic motivation contributes much more to the bottom line.

Remember, that which is intrinsic comes from our natural talent set, eliminating the need to procure external tools and resources to be successful. What could be more useful in an economic downturn than capitalizing on your own intrinsic talents and ambitions?

Since intrinsic motivation is the pillar to true success, here are some steps my clients go through to identify their intrinsic motivations.

It is often much more useful to work through these questions with a coach or friend.

1. Reconnect With Your Internal Purpose: What excites you? What types of work and activities are others engaged in that you envy or get chills when they talk about? What do you do gladly for free that others get paid for? How can you bring whatever you identify into the mix of your current business?

2. Reconnect to Your Company’s Mission: Think back to when you started in your job or founded your business. What excited you about it? Have your fears and external influences pointed you in a different direction? How can you reclaim those exciting aspects of your work?

3. Know Your Flexibility: Many of us operate in the frame of life events. We think, “I’ll keep doing what I’m doing until I muster the energy to transform myself.” This thinking is the epitome of stale “stuckness.” Do you really need to embark on an entirely new project to reinvent yourself? Would it be easier and more effective to infuse your passions into what you currently do? Challenge your assumptions that keep you and your business in the status quo. Adopt a mindset of constant reinvention.

The Bottom Line

Identifying your intrinsic motivators, engaging in a personal plan that challenges your own assumptions about what is possible, and adopting a daily mental frame of openness to change will create an environment where you gravitate toward your inner mission. Be productive, thrive, and enjoy!


About Laura Berger

An executive advisor and founder of The Berdéo Group, Laura Berger has 15 years of experience as a consultant advising leadership in the areas of global operations management and strategy, project and change management, and solution development and implementation. She is a confidant of CEOs and senior executives who consistently realize their potential as leaders by seeing their companies flourish.

Having worked with many Fortune 500 companies, she counts among her clients leaders at JPMorgan Chase, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, General Motors, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, McDonald’s Corporation, American Hospital Association, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Starcom MediaVest Group, and Walt Disney World.

Her ease and zeal for building lasting relationships, acquaintances, and productive introductions between people is her personal trademark. She has stretched her own spirit and will to combine her passions with her professional pursuits, and she shows others how to live true to their core.

Berger exemplifies this commitment to the life path in a book she is co-writing with her husband, Glen Tibaldeo. The book chronicles the humorous side of the successes and challenges they experienced living in the remote jungles of Costa Rica.

For more information, visit www.berdeogroup.com.