High achievers are motivated by more than just financial compensation. Sure, a good sized paycheck is a motivator, but there are many people in this industry that are well paid and still miserable.

Author Daniel Pink wrote a great book on this very subject called “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” In it, he lays out a very persuasive argument that the most satisfied high performers in any business  crave something more than just money. That “something” is autonomy…. the freedom to perform without being micro-managed.

I can tell you from personal experience that this is true. I’ve personally experienced situations with lots of autonomy, and others with very little autonomy. For most of my time at WKQI in Detroit, I had a good amount of autonomy, and did some of my best work there because of it. I was able to assemble a creative team who moved quickly and seized opportunities  without lots of red tape. And I gave the talented team there lots of autonomy as well – and they all took advantage of it. A highly-driven staff with lots of autonomy can do amazing things – and WKQI was an amazing turnaround and ratings success story. In the latter years, when a micro-managing, blowhard EVP came along and started removing autonomy from both myself and my market manager, while bloviating about how “high performance teams do as they’re told,” I knew it was time to move on. There was no way that his circa-1980’s “management by threat and intimidation” style would work with that team. And I was right. This toxic manager would go on to ruin many great brands in many markets, before finally being let go from that company. They’re still digging out from the damage this man did.

Great managers know that high performance teams are made up of high-performance people… and high-performance people perform best when they have the freedom and flexibility to… perform.

I’m always fascinated when I see a Market Manager or corporate PD spend lots of money to hire a super-star Program Director or Talent, and then stand over their shoulder the entire time and micro-manage every step. And somehow everybody is “shocked” when it doesn’t work out. Duh! What did you THINK would happen? No great performer wants their boss up on stage in the middle of the show calling the scenes right in front of the audience! Get off the stage and let the talent perform! Let a high performer develop their own plan. Hold them accountable for the results.

When you give a high performer lots of autonomy, they will go out of their way to prove you RIGHT for having done so. You can’t beat that level of motivation.







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