What motivates stars?

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It seems appropriate to talk about stars as the Olympics are in full swing in Britain, and we have just won our first gold medal  in rowing.

Identifying star performers is part of common management theory in many businesses. However, while identifying them may be a challenge in itself, doing it consistently and often across many functional disciplines is even more complicated. 

But there is no benefit in identifying stars unless you understand what drives them, so that they will keep giving you their best performance.  Research shows that when incentives, financial and otherwise, don’t support the motivation of employees, they are likely to stop when there are no additional benefits for them.  For example, taxi drivers stopped taking additional fairs when they reached their maximum quota, although customers were waving them down by the side of the road.

The key is to understand what motivates stars and how you can keep them motivated. For example, sales people can be divided into three groups (Harvard Business Review, July-August 2012): Laggards, Core performers and Stars.  According to the article, the incentives for the three groups vary widely.


1. Laggards are motivated by:

  • Quarterly bonuses
  • Social pressure


2. Core performers are motivated by:

  • Multi-tier targets
  • Sales contests with prizes that vary in nature and value


3. Stars are motivated by:

  • No caps on pay
  • Overachievement commission rates


Do you know what your star performers are driven by? And how to get them to give you their best performance?

Knowing your staff is important during change. Employees are often under increasingly high pressure, and keeping them focused and motivated can be essential for the success of your change programme. It is probably fair to say that companies don’t tap into that information enough, although many also provide various financial rewards.  However, as the example of Sales people from the Harvard Business Review shows, stars often need extra incentives but will in return make you shine.

Something to think about when you embark on your next change programme.

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One Response

  1. Carmelo Welchman

    Love your website. Here’s my quote:”Relationships are not a commodity, they are a gift to be savored.”

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