Someone recently asked me “how can I motivate my team member when the market is down and the value of their stock options may not grow as quickly?” I initially tried to answer the question by focusing on the odds of startup valuation still growing faster than other asset classes, and other non-linear & intrinsic value of social capital accumulated at startups that may introduce new opportunities later in life. But I didn’t find my answers satisfying at all. I thought about why.
Over time, experience has taught me that more often than not, defining the right problem to solve is far more important than the solution itself. Perfect solution to a wrong problem is just plain wasteful.
So how can one motivate their team member when things are getting tough? What are the mechanics behind motivation that can give us insights into finding the right solution to the problem?
Over the first few days of the new year, I’ve took the course on the big five model of personality — “Discovering Personality.” It was a fascinating refresh of the big five model and had the opportunity to go deeper into the understanding of the two aspects for each of the five factors.
It was helpful to understand the amount of statistical rigor that went into building this model, although as noted in the lecture, the names of the factors I think is somewhat poorly done and feels more biased than neutral.
The key takeaways from the lecture were being able to better understand myself beyond what I had before, especially around the aspects of conscientiousness and how these aspects interact with other factors.
I was first recommended the book “Leadership and Self-Deception” from Stewart Butterfield during Y Combinator Growth program late last year. I finally got the chance to open the book recently and the story resonated so much that I recommended this book to our entire company.
A high-level summary might go like this: if you get into self-betrayal, you go “in the box” where your perspective of the world starts to distort in your favor. By self-justifying, you find ways to blame others, while inflating your own virtue.
The result is making your relationship worse and inviting others into the box along the way, starting a vicious cycle. Below diagram shows the inside of Bud’s mind, one of the characters in the book. Bud’s baby son David wakes up in the middle of night. The diagram shows what goes through Bud’s mind as he thinks about whether to get up and tend to David or not, while his wife Nancy is asleep besides him.
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