What It Really Takes to Motivate a CEO

It keeps coming up. How do you motivate and recognize the CEO or senior leaders?

Today I was asked two questions about recognizing senior leaders and executives. Should you use money? And if not, what do you recommend?

The quick answer is “no” to using money as a recognition method. Monetary recognition is a misnomer. Money is strictly a reward and falls under compensation. Enough said.

While CEO compensation often dominates the news, little attention is given to the other hot issue of employee retention and how to motivate the leadership abilities of CEO’s in keeping their staff happy and productive. Employee engagement is highest when your senior executives lead the way in recognizing employee contributions.

So what does it take to meaningfully reward or recognize your CEO’s and encourage a “trickle-down” effect from CEO motivation down to the rank and file?

Boards should seriously consider options like entrepreneur CEO, Yanik Silver’s Maverick 1000 for CEO’s and business entrepreneurs, or at least work hard on applying the principles gleaned from his philosophy and approach.

CEOs and their C-suite counterparts usually have all the money they need, so money itself is likely not a motivator. What corporate leaders don’t always do is take time out to broaden their horizons on business thinking or even having fun.

Using an exclusive membership based business approach Silver provides unique experiences combined with adventure, business building opportunities, exclusive connections, and an important piece of giving back to future entrepreneurs.

His planned Adventures have ranged from Baja Race Car driving in Northern Mexico, white water rafting in Colorado, bungee jumping, experiencing zero gravity, and even bobsledding at the Lake Placid Olympic site.

Silver’s approach provides great insights into what motivates CEO’s and suggests important ideas Boards should adopt for rewarding their CEO’s for making the businesses profitable.

Five Powerful Ways to Recognize Senior Leaders

  1. Creating Connections: CEO’s need to get out of their isolated and lonely world. Silver makes it possible for CEO’s to connect with other business leaders as well with interesting people such as Frank McKinney, “the Real Estate Rock Czar” and Jesse James of Monster Garage. Silver states how CEO’s end up sharing their accomplishments and business ideas with like-minded people, which they’re unable to do back at their company. By connecting with fellow CEO’s from diverse industries the cross-pollination of business practices is a great benefit.
  1. Leaving a Legacy: CEO’s want to be remembered for what they have done. CEO’s writing books and doing public speaking is often a reflection of trying to create a bigger picture and in giving back in some small way, which brings its own internal rewards. Boards can assist their leaders with support by enlisting a ghostwriter to work with their CEO to get their book written and out there sooner than later, and even hiring a speech coach for making their keynote presentations more memorable.
  1. Same Motivations: CEO’s all have a similar motivation. It can often be boiled down to the power of generating ideas and creating solutions to problems. From there, it is a matter of turning these ideas into products or services that are successful in the marketplace and make the enterprise more profitable. Boards can encourage further funneling of new ideas by enlisting creativity experts to teach innovative thinking techniques, or how to disrupt current practices, as well facilitating the harvesting of ideas for the future.
  1. Novel Rewards: As shared earlier, CEO’s are not necessarily motivated by money. Silver is picking up on this through Maverick 1000 by creating a unique experience that money cannot buy. The key here is finding out what is meaningful that somehow a CEO won’t justify on purchasing, even if they do have the money. Hence the varied adventure locations and activities and then applying what they learn to their businesses. Boards should remember all work and no play makes a CEO start to lose focus and move out of the zone for business success.
  1. Giving Back: CEO’s never forget where they came from. CEO’s choose to sit on foundation boards or make sure their company is involved philanthropically or in some social responsible area, as a chance to make a difference by giving back. Maverick 1000 has a mandate to give back 5 percent of their profits to charity and provides opportunities for all CEO participants to share their knowledge with aspiring entrepreneurial students in telling them how they got started and providing specific advice based on their experiences.

Boards and corporate executives must learn to capitalize on these deeper motivations and rewards to create competitive CEO’s for tomorrow’s growth and profitability. In reality, Boards can probably do a better job of tapping into their leaders’ core purpose in life. By doing so they will discover a unique way to motivate their CEO’s and engage their most powerful asset – their employees.

Question: What great examples do you have of outstanding recognition for CEO’s and senior leaders?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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