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The CWM Motivation Model: What Motivates You?

CWM Motivation Model - ALL

Face it–people are different. They have different needs, wants, and desires. I believe that a better understanding of what motivates you will not only help you clarify your career goals and path, but can help you better understand what motivates your team. Those of you who follow my posts know that I like taking (potentially) complex concepts and making them very simple. As such, I want to share with you what I call the Corporate Wise Man Motivation Model (or CWM Model for short). Basically, I think there are three main motivators: Money, Power, and Fame. You can use these three motivators on a simple radar/spider web chart to understand what combination of these motivators apply to you and how you can manage your career, finances, and activities in life to maximize your fulfillment.  The model is simple: you rate yourself on a 0-5 point scale for each attribute where 0 is low and 5 is high. You can then simply create a web chart in excel to chart where you fall. A quick breakdown for each attribute:

  1. Money. This is the extent to which you are motivated by money where 0 is “I’m not in it for the money” and 5 is “money is a major motivation for me.”
  2. Power. This is the extent to which you like to be in control, calling the shots, and responsible for large teams.
  3. Fame. This is the extent to which you like recognition and high profile jobs and assignments.

CWM motivation model

Clearly, these attributes are not mutually exclusive and many people can rate highly on each attribute. Other people (myself included) are more one-dimensional and are really looking to maximize only one of the three attributes.

A couple of questions you are probably thinking:

  1. Doesn’t everybody want all of these things?

Surprisingly, the answer is no. If I am being honest, I personally,am only interested in the money aspect of the corporate world. I have had large teams and small teams, and am happy with either. Also, I have had high-profile assignments and more “blend into the background” assignments and am indifferent between the two. My main motivator is money so I manage my career to maximize my pay.

Motivation Model - Money


By contrast, one of my best friends is a very senior executive at a Fortune 50 company. His wife is a physician who is very well compensated. My friend puts in very long hours but for him it’s not about the money, it’s about the fame. He likes working with C-suite executives at his current company and aspires to a bigger job because of the prestige it brings. My friend is managing his career to find positions where he can interact with C-suite executives of customer and partner companies.

CWM Motivation Model - Fame

Another example: One of my direct reports is very sensitive to the number of direct reports he has. He works very hard, puts in long hours, and I have confronted him about burnout and proposed solutions that would reduce the size of his team. His response is very telling–he gets his motivation from being in control of a large team and having a meaningful impact on the business. His motivation stems from power and he is managing his career to lead to more powerful positions.

CWM Motivation Model - Power

  1. Money, power, fame… this all sounds so negative!

Not so fast. Many people (myself included) want money because it leads to increased freedom to do the things I want to do in order to live a fulfilling life (travel, charity, spend time with family, etc.). The money to me is just an enabler for me to live the life I want to live. I like to think of people who are high money low “everything else” as the quiet “millionaire” next door, the down to earth person who quietly saves but drives an old Honda and lives in a modest house.

Power sounds negative, but the people who seek power tend to be change agents–they have a vision and are willing to work tirelessly to achieve it. Many of my friends who are high on the power spectrum invest their time coaching their kids sports teams or on boards of charitable organizations. They want their life to have meaning which, for them, means leaving a legacy. The archetypical high power, low everything else would be a politician. Politicians spend a lot of time and energy to get a job that doesn’t pay well but allows them to be involved in weighty, important decisions (this is not meant to be a negative example…)

Fame is similar. You know the type, the consummate extrovert who likes to be in the middle of the action and feeds off the attention. There is nothing wrong with this! These people can’t sit still and quickly get bored when hidden away. When you think of high fame, low everything else people, think of reality TV stars. You know, the people who may not make a lot of money but are really excited to be on TV (again, not meant to be a negative example).

Finally, to round out the discussion, people can be high or low on any or all of the attributes. One key point is that to become a C level leader within a very large (especially public) corporation, you probably need to be very high on all three attributes as C-level executives need to be able to successfully manage large amounts of money, power and fame.

CWM Motivation Model - ALL

Common CEO Profile… Surprised?

I know that I will never be the CEO of a fortune 100 company. How do I know this? Well, because I don’t want to be. I am not geeked out enough by power and fame to want the job to begin with.

I hope you find this frame-work useful for thinking about what motivates you and how knowing this can shape your career goals and aspirations. Also, try to use this model to understand the motivations of your peers, direct reports and management. The insights can help you communicate more effectively in language and terms that will resonate.


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