Why Pride Matters More Than Money: The Power of the World's Greatest Motivational Force

Why Pride Matters More Than Money: The Power of the World's Greatest Motivational Force

by Jon R. Katzenbach

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The book that turns our understanding of motivation on its head . . . and shows why most companies get it wrong.

There are few people with more experience and accumulated wisdom about the inner workings of business and how people can work together more effectively than Jon Katzenbach. His groundbreaking research has resulted in several important books, including The Wisdom of Teams and Real Change Leaders. Over the past several years he has turned his attention to one of the perennial questions of leaders everywhere: How do I motivate my employees?

Most everyone frets about how to devise schemes that will keep the troops revved up. Conventional wisdom—or at least the practice at most companies—often centers on money as the primary motivating force. Many also rely on intimidation, which like money generally has a short-term impact. But what Katzenbach has found in his research at many organizations is that both of these practices do little to build the long-term sustainability of an organization. For that you need a powerful force that has been—until this point—understood by few managers and implemented by fewer still: pride.

From the front lines to the executive suite, most people are motivated by feelings of accomplishment, approval, and camaraderie. It’s why the best employees strive well beyond performance levels that will yield them higher pay and why most true professionals relentlessly avoid retirement.

Why does Southwest Airlines consistently turn in the highest levels of performance and profitability of any company in the airline business? What can the U.S. Marines teach us about individual commitment that can be used in the for-profit world? How is General Motors overcoming its history of labor-management enmity through the efforts of “pride-builders” from both the union and the management side? By drawing on what he has learned from these and many other organizations, Jon Katzenbach provides a practical program for understanding the role of pride:

• Money is not the motivator most people think it is: Katzenbach shows why pay-for-performance programs by themselves result in employees who focus on self-serving behavior and skin-deep organizational commitment.
• Money tends to be a short-term motivational device and works best during times of growth, but pride works in bad times as well as good.
• Cultivating pride is an investment that yields high returns on workforce performance over time and is not nearly as costly as relying solely on monetary compensation and the turnover risks that accompany a “show me the money” culture.

Katzenbach shares unique insights and specifics about how the best mid-level pride-builders take advantage of the world’s greatest motivational force even in environments as challenging as General Motors and Aetna. He shows how managers at every level are missing a powerful lever if they are not instilling pride as a primary force for building their organization.

Also available as an eBook.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400049851
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/11/2003
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
File size: 284 KB

About the Author

Jon R. Katzenbach has been helping companies get extraordinary results from their employees for nearly fifty years. He was senior partner and director of McKinsey and Co.; he now directs his own firm, Katzenbach Partners LLC, a New York–based consulting firm that specializes in leadership, team building, and workforce performance. He is the author of Peak Performance and Teams at the Top and coauthor of The Wisdom of Teams and Real Change Leaders.

Read an Excerpt



Pride is the emotional high that follows performance and success. The more interesting proposition, however, is that simple recollections of past "wins" and an empathy for the pride we sense in others (e.g., watching a sibling receive a special award) produce an anticipation of future "successes" that motivates performance. Moreover, success is in the eye of the beholder; people view and calibrate success in different ways. Those who recognize these different connections often develop the ability to motivate people to higher levels of performance, both by the way they define "success" and by how they instill pride along the way. Unfortunately, instilling pride in others is easier to do in some environments than in others.

I first uncovered the power of the "closed loop of emotional energy" in an obvious place: high-performing workforces at Southwest Airlines, Marriott, the U.S. Marine Corps, and Microsoft. Pride is a natural by-product of the successes of those organizations. It is fairly common for their managers and leaders to draw upon pride as an ongoing source of motivation; those feelings are easy to come by. Yet what about companies that have historically not been remarkably successful? Can pride precipitate higher performance in those environments as well?

Certainly, the answer is yes--but it happens less frequently and is more difficult than in the perennial achievers. Not surprisingly, therefore, prospective "pride-builders" can usually learn more about how to instill the pride that leads to higher performance from the proven pride-builders in more traditional environments than from those in peak-performing environments. The difference, of course, is that in companies that experience perennial successes, pride follows naturally; in other organizations, pride-builders have to apply their ingenuity to instill pride during periods of low or sporadic business success.


We know that pride is a primary source of energy and emotional commitment in enterprises that consistently outperform their competition.1 While it is less obvious perhaps, we find clear evidence in traditional large companies that those managers who excel at instilling pride in their workers also deliver higher levels of both economic and market performance over time than their peers. For example, we asked the Manufacturing Managers Council at General Motors to identify twenty of the best "pride-builders" in GM's North American Manufacturing organization. Our case studies of these plant managers confirmed their reliance on pride as a primary source of motivation (described in more detail in chapter 6).

General Motors regularly measures its plants on five basic elements of performance: safety, people satisfaction, product quality, responsiveness to customers, and cost. When we compared the performance of the twenty plants of those managers along each of these important metrics, their results consistently exceeded that of their peers. Specifically, the pride-builders outscored other plants on an index comparison by 83 to 65 on safety, 79 to 69 on people satisfaction, 53 to 47 on quality, and 69 to 65 on cost. Only on responsiveness did the pride-builder index fall short, and that was caused by a model changeover at one plant plus the start-up of another during this period.

While it is always difficult to separate the "chicken and egg" aspects of performance results and feelings of pride, the best motivators believe that instilling pride is what enables them to get higher levels of performance from their people. Of the over fifty pride-builders we have studied during the last two years, all deliver superior performance results for their enterprise--and all attribute their success to an ability to instill pride among their people before the fact, i.e., before business success is assured and final results can be determined.


Human motivation is a moving target. Since everyone's personal circumstances change over time, we are motivated by different things at different stages in our life. We each define success in different ways and take pride in doing different things well. As a result, the sources of pride that motivate us cover a fairly broad spectrum, some of which produce "good" results for the enterprises we work for and some of which produce "bad" results. In describing this spectrum, it is useful to categorize the sources of pride into two basic groups: self-serving and institution-building. Clearly, neither category is completely good or bad in terms of results for the enterprise. For example, self-serving pride can motivate a person to work hard to keep her job, earn more money, and influence more people to help her. These motivations are typically good for the enterprise. However, self-serving pride can also motivate people to pursue money and material possessions as well as power and position above all else. When these motives lead to the exploitation of others for personal gain, the enterprise suffers.

Similarly, institution-building pride can motivate people behaviors that are bad for the enterprise. For example, an overemphasis on individual skill development and "teaming" can cause people to take pride in goals that supersede company priorities, create "marketable resume" profiles, and pursue undisciplined teaming efforts in ways that are costly and confusing. Good results accrue to the enterprise only when the emphasis is on individual and group efforts that fit with organizational priorities and enhance long-term business success. The best leaders and managers will influence people to take pride in achieving personal goals that align with company goals, building skills that match company needs, and creating teams that achieve important business results. Institution-building pride typically favors the long-term success of an enterprise more than self-serving pride. Nonetheless, the challenge for any leadership system is to integrate sources of pride that will optimize the "good" motivational results and minimize "bad" motivational results--simply stated, to make sure that institution-building pride counterbalances self-serving pride.

Moreover, the forces that motivate us tend to shift depending on our personal needs as well as where we stand in the organizational hierarchy. Abraham Maslow's classic hierarchy of needs remains hard to dispute; the basic need for food and physical protection comes first. If you are stranded on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe or Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway, you are motivated by the need to survive until you can be rescued.

Beyond the survival imperative, however, we are motivated to provide safety and comfort for ourselves and our family. Only then, as Maslow clarified, do we seek fulfillment as individuals and as members of societal groups. Ultimately, we want to both "stand out as an individual" as well as "be part of groups we respect"--but these are secondary motivators as long as survival, safety, and comfort are at issue. While seldom finite, our creature comfort needs can usually be defined in monetary terms, although everyone seeks a different level of comfort. And when comfort is replaced by luxury on the need scale, wealth creation becomes a primary motivator.

After all, accumulating wealth "beyond basic need" is perhaps one of the great entrepreneurial pastimes. The Horatio Alger dream is alive and well. Every person is assumed to be free to earn whatever he or she can. Since promotions are invariably calibrated in monetary terms, the more your job pays, the more important you feel. The harder you work, the more money you expect to earn, and the more material possessions you can accumulate. The more you accumulate, the more attention you can expect to attract from friends, neighbors, and colleagues. This kind of expectation is motivating for many people. As a result, it is hardly surprising that Americans are working longer than ever before and probably put in more on-the-job hours than people in any other industrial society.

Money is the way to accumulate possessions that enable us to rise on the scoreboard of comparative achievement. "Keeping up with the Joneses" motivates many people. A more sensible motivation is that of working hard now to avoid having to work later in life. Moving up Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a natural human proposition--and money is the basic enabler. Thus, focusing on earning more money is a natural incentive that is widely employed by organizations that can afford it. However, it is seldom as powerful or lasting a motivator as intrinsic or institution-building pride. Those feelings generated by earnings can have a hollow ring if people do not admire us for other reasons.

These other reasons reflect other human needs that are simply not well defined by monetary wealth. They are the intrinsic or humanistic needs that spur people to try for their "personal best" or to seek their full potential, to be associated with colleagues they admire and respect, and to contribute to the well-being of others. Striving to meet these needs produces feelings of pride that are motivating--and usually completely independent of whatever monetary value society might establish. Whatever makes people feel proud of their efforts invariably explains their motivation to excel. Most of us work hardest at those tasks that make us feel proud based upon our personal values or beliefs. For some people, the amount of money they earn is the best way to evaluate how they are doing relative to others. For others, their recognized role in business and society is the best way. Many people, however, labor in ways that are not particularly lucrative or easily recognizable by title or position. They must rely on whatever reinforces feelings of intrinsic pride in what they do, how they do it, with and for whom they do it, and what it means to others whom they respect. For motivational purposes, it is useful to differentiate between self-serving and institution-building pride.


This kind of pride encompasses both power and materialism, and the latter is primarily a game of "show me the money"--and the more you can earn, accumulate, and visibly deploy, the better. People who play this game well focus their attention on whatever will reward them the most monetarily, and whatever will position them to control the most resources (human and economic). Hence, they are likely to shift their allegiances to whatever organizations or occupational pursuits offer the highest monetary compensation, promise the greatest wealth-accumulation opportunities, and thereby provide the most personal recognition and influence. Not surprisingly, these people are usually the first to leave an organization or occupation when economic returns start to falter. Loyalty and commitment play secondary roles in their motivation.

The disturbing collapse of Enron in 2001 provided a glaring example of how the unrelenting pursuit of monetary gain and personal power can lead intelligent executives astray and quickly erode institutional balance. Fortune magazine called it a "debacle of arrogance and greed." The Enron story, of course, is much more complex than that phrase would suggest, and many factors were involved in the company's downfall. From a motivational point of view, however, two important lessons emerge from the Enron story: (1) the pursuit of financial gain as the primary motivator promotes arrogant behavior and unwarranted risk-taking, and (2) that pursuit leads to an overreliance on individual achievement and personal power that rarely sustains enterprise-wide performance over time.

But Enron is an extreme example of self-serving pride out of control. Let's consider the less extreme case of Anil Xavier (disguised name), who was employed by BMC, an early contender in the software business in Texas. When I interviewed Anil for research on my previous book, Peak Performance, he was a highly regarded software designer for BMC. The key to their early success could be found in two segments of their workforce: the senior account sales representatives (some of whom made more money than the CEO) and the "product authors" or software designers. These two groups were highly motivated examples of entrepreneurialism in action: employees engaged in high-risk, high-reward challenges that offered the promise of personal financial independence.

Anil was proud that he earned more than $1 million annually, owned a Jaguar convertible, and could easily afford to charter a private plane to take his family on annual ski vacations at Vail. During the interview, he focused his remarks strictly on the commercial results of his products, i.e., the economic return. Little mention was made of the quality of his design work, the caliber of his colleagues, or the reactions of his customers beyond their willingness to pay high prices. Anil is no longer with BMC, having left the company for a better-paying opportunity when his bonus was reduced shortly after BMC encountered an economic downturn. Like most people who thrive on materialistic pride, he was quick to move on to a higher bidder and showed little commitment to riding out the downturn with BMC.

There is little question that high levels of individual achievement are motivated by ego as well as self-serving pride. And in some situations, such as individual sports or artistic pursuits, such motivations are both powerful and appropriate. During 2001 and 2002, Jennifer Capriati was rated the top female tennis player in the world. She had to work hard to reach that level, coming back from her disappointing early years on the professional tennis tour. She was also highly motivated to stay at that level and takes great pride in getting to and being at the top of her chosen profession. An article in the June 2, 2002, issue of the New York Times describes this challenge:

At times, the strain on Capriati has been visible. She has yelled expletives at umpires and complained about fans. To some tennis officials, Capriati has appeared fragile in her desire to make her moment last as long as possible. Privately, those officials feel the pressure led to the profane tirade she directed at Billie Jean King last month. After King dismissed her from the Fed Cup team for her refusal to conform to team practice rules, Capriati lashed out at the captain and caretaker of the women's tour. With the French Open looming, Capriati felt her practice routine superseded team rules.

Structure and simplicity have been the foundation of Capriati's return. Even for Fed Cup, Capriati was not about to change her approach to tennis. It was an act of selfishness on Capriati's part, but so be it. With that backdrop, it was not surprising when Capriati agreed with a recent comment from John McEnroe concerning the self-centered nature and ego top [tennis] players need to drive them to the top and keep them there.

"I think ego is pride," Capriati said. "To get to the top, you have to have a lot of pride. That's not giving up. At the Australian Open for me this year, that was pride and ego and I didn't want to lose. If you don't have that, you're not a champion, you're not a fighter. . . . I would have to say you have to be a little bit selfish just because there's so much that requires being done."2

For the most part, professional tennis is an individual sport. Hence, self-serving pride is the primary motivational force. When a team aspect of the sport (e.g., the Fed Cup) comes into play, however, there is also a real need for institution-building pride to take over; otherwise the team will come apart. The same holds true for business enterprises. Unless self-serving pride is wisely counterbalanced by institution-building pride, the performance of the enterprise will suffer.

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tmr210 More than 1 year ago
This is the only thing that motivates people in the long run and in tough times. I was most fortunate to work for 2 men who embodied the examples discussed in this book, through tough times the sales force led their industry in percentage of sales increases year after year! If you are lucky to to work for such a company, stay-if not find one. Thank you.