People are finding more satisfaction in their work,1 but it doesn’t seem to slow or stop them from making meaningful changes in their jobs or careers. A 2021 survey showed that over a third of millennials and over half of Gen Zs see themselves pursuing new opportunities in the next two years.2 Younger generations are keen to advance their careers, but the drivers of their ambition don’t quite line up with traditional expectations most organizations still have. It’s challenging to retain such an agile workforce. Maintaining an organizational knowledge base becomes costly in the face of increasing attrition, so new strategies are necessary to maintain access to relevant expertise.
Young professionals are discovering a path Maurice Audinet has understood for a while. Maurice is the Head of Digital Transformation at Jurlique, an iconic Australian organic and biodynamic skincare and cosmetics brand with a presence in 20 countries.3 I had a chat with him and he shared his mentorship philosophy and experience developing driven individuals in his roles across the global luxury, retail and finance industries. We talked about his unconventional career path in the pursuit of personal fulfillment and how encouraging people to pursue purpose can also be beneficial to mentors, and the organizations they work for. It helps keep people engaged and invested in the business, sometimes even after they move on to new opportunities.
Some of the frameworks currently used by organizations suggest that ambition entails pursuing professional targets relentlessly, putting career goals ahead of personal ones, prioritizing oneself over the team and seeking promotions rather than job satisfaction. This take on ambition has fallen out of step with the values of today’s workforce. Work-life integration and personal ethics for example are factors heavily influencing career choices nowadays.
This is one of the lessons that Maurice learned from two of his friends, some of the smartest people he knows. Both decided to teach and pursue what made them happy - music and art. They broke convention and pursued their own fulfillment. Maurice made some big decisions along the same lines. A decade ago, his passion for Hong Kong films, old gangster movies, prompted him to visit. He fell in love and immediately decided it was where he wanted to live. Four years later, the right job opportunity opened up and he dropped everything to relocate to Hong Kong.
To help those around us tap into their motivations and interests, Maurice suggests that we first reserve judgment. It’s a refreshing reminder that everyone’s path through life is unique. Fulfilment takes many shapes for different people. This theme is central to Maurice’s philosophy of developing drive. Acknowledging this, we all can spend less time measuring ourselves against others, and more time free to discover and pursue our own happiness. Work is a tool of exploration, not the defining feature of our lives.
People imagine that drive is easy to muster. Maurice begs to differ, but he helps us find where to start. He talks about incremental goal setting. We might not immediately understand what drives us, but that shouldn’t stop us from setting goals. Objectives may change, but committing to the journey allows us to discover what drives us.
Maurice went through this process himself. He recalls the goals he set earlier on. Make more money than his father. Work on the internet. Become a manager. Live abroad. The journey demonstrated his drive and ambition, even when his pursuits were not defined primarily by money or status. Rising up the ranks and honing domain knowledge seem to be pleasant fringe benefits to chasing down his passions. When the people we guide are feeling a bit lost or overwhelmed by the prospect of charting out their careers, we can put them past their anxiety by encouraging them to start small with clearly defined goals. Progress is measurable and a recurring feeling of achievement is likely to empower them to set more ambitious goals over time.
Revealing the Path to Fulfilment
Pressure from society, family and peers moves many of us. These external expectations can be poor motivators leading us down a path of frustration and dissatisfaction. Maurice suggests nudging others to work towards fulfilment.
Those around us need to help themselves by figuring out what they want. This is a matter unique and deeply personal to each individual so we can’t unpack it for others. Uncovering personal motivations might begin with identifying personal objections. When deciding the next move, prune options by avoiding what the person considers unacceptable. We can help our direct reports make plans by asking what they would rather avoid. The process of elimination will narrow options and begin to highlight their personal values and ethics. As this becomes clearer with the choices they make, it becomes easier for us to present opportunities that line up with their inner motivation and ignite drive.
Maurice remembers how he once received an incredible offer but turned it down because he was unwilling to join the tobacco industry for personal reasons. He continues to make career decisions based on what he values. Most recently, he joined Jurlique even though it involved a pay cut. The opportunity to drive the vision of a company and personally propel transformation was worth more to him.
There will be times when the people we mentor might not feel confident but we can encourage them to commit to a plan. “Your next shot isn’t your last shot”, Maurice says. There is time to learn and course-correct. He points to examples of self-made people and talks about how these people ‘go with the flow,’ following where their interests take them. Their stories aren’t just twists and turns, but also the lessons and experiences that guide their journeys.
Another mentorship tactic Maurice employs to deal with uncertainty is to look back. As we help our people take stock of their accomplishments and growth, their previous success may strengthen their resolve to face new challenges. He frames new situations as stepping stones to finding our best selves.
Leveraging Personal Ambition
Not all people will work as hard as we do, or have the same aspirations but managers can find ways to bring organizational goals in alignment with their employees’ personal development plans. Pursuing shared goals becomes rewarding for everyone. When an employee’s progress in their organization yields observable personal growth, we cultivate their drive, and motivate them to pursue our organizations’ interests, as their own.
This strategy comes with a caveat: driven people are likely to outgrow their roles, and even their organizations. While most people treat this as a problem of retention, Maurice embraces this. Having a personal interest in his people, he encourages his team to pursue growth and experience. When it takes them to other teams or companies, he is happy to offer support and professional recommendations whenever necessary.
“Upskilling and reskilling is part of life, and changing direction a few times over the course of their career is what success looks like,” says LinkedIn Learning’s Senior Director about Gen Zs. Perhaps employee retention is a futile exercise moving forward, especially for high-growth employees. But the issue with retention isn’t really about keeping seats filled. Rather, it has to do with maintaining access to expertise. Maurice understands this and has a trick up his sleeve.
The benefits of a circular economy are clear to Maurice. When I jokingly refer to his network as the Maurice Mafia, he’s more than happy to tell me about what he’s built. He has a secret team of loyal, and competent advisors, ready to share their knowledge with him whenever he asks. Whatever challenge he may need to face, Maurice reserves a dedicated pool of talent: former teammates, eager to rejoin him at the earliest opportunity. Paying it forward works.
Cultivating drive is the key to developing motivated talent and loyal teams. Commit to developing your people and they will commit to you, in this job and even in the next.
- Motivation comes from the honest pursuit of individual meaning and personal happiness.
- Setting objectives and setting goals will help our teams understand where their fulfilment lies.
- We create motivated and loyal environments by aligning corporate objectives with personal goals