In my first I.T. job I worked for Ray Stride at Microknowlogy. He once asked me “what does Microknowlogy owe you?”

I responded with a laundry list that included career guidance and opportunities… and he gently cut me off with “We owe you a regular check and a safe working environment.”, continuing with “It’s in our interests to help you with all these things, but you owe that to yourself”.

Over the years I have worked for a number of really good companies. Partly because of Ray’s advice I have tried to focus on empowering myself (and motivating others ) on the basis of mutual enlightened self-interest. I have been thinking though about what I need how this would translate into a framework for identifying my mix of needs, and the needs of others.

Hearts, Gold, Stars, and Wings

HEARTS represent feelings of belonging and doing good in the world, emotional connection with my team, the company vision, and our clients.
GOLD represent cold hard cash.
STARS represent recognition, reward, and accolades.
WINGS represent freedom.


I believe that we each have a maintenance as well as a desired level of each of these factors, and that:

  1. There is no right and wrong. Each person’s levels are unique and valid.
  2. They may also change over time. Perhaps I have a financial burden that requires me to place a higher value on compensation at this time.
  3. If I can’t reach a minimum threshold on a measure, no amount of oversupply on another will make me fulfilled (and at my most productive). For example, if I am helping a company with a product that violates my values, paying me stupid-money won’t make me fulfilled at work.
  4. As a manager of an unhappy employee, work out which of these is is in deficit. Try and address the right issue, because fixing another may not help either of you.
  5. This is all experiential. How my company, my management, and my colleagues see themselves, and their relationship with me is almost irrelevant.

Here’s is how I think I map.

In 1998 I had a colleague in South Africa who said to me “we never get any recognition around here”. I replied with something tender like “Well you get a paycheck don’t you?” Not my finest hour. Clearly, some stars were in deficit. Just because I don’t need stars, doesn’t mean that this person wasn’t feeling unappreciated.

I realize that there are more motivators (such as the work itself, responsibility, advancement, personal growth), and demotivators/hygiene factors (such as company structure, supervision, subordinates, work-life balance, status), but it seems to me that when I look at myself and others, the simplicity of the four categories makes sense.

I’d love some feedback on this, in particular:

  • What am I missing?
  • Is this overly simplistic? What is missing?
  • Is there a value in exploring disconnects between people and their employers?

Feel free to personally/publically contact me with ideas or criticisms.