THIS BEING OUR ANNUAL incentive issue, I've been thinking about what really motivates people in the workplace. Sometimes it's the smallest thing: for me, a word of acknowledgement from my boss, a brief e-mail note from a reader about an article in ICP, the satisfaction of seeing the hundreds of details that go into producing a magazine come together as a cohesive whole.

All of these things, and more, bolster my sense of purpose and give me a feeling of achievement. They're like little reinforcements whispering into my ear: “It's worth it!” They remind me that I love my work.

Notice I've said nothing about the paycheck? That's because it didn't pop into my mind until now. Compensation is undeniably an important motivator, but it's not what makes you want to get up in the morning and tackle the workday.

One of the biggest motivators for me is finding a great story. Here's how it happened for the cover story in this issue. While attending the Insurance Conference Planners Association Annual Meeting last November in Seattle — already feeling energized from the face-to-face networking and learning that goes on at an industry conference — my ears pricked up when keynote speaker Mike McGavick, president and CEO of Safeco Corp., headquartered in Seattle, told the audience about the important role meetings play in his corporate strategic plan. Wow! Here was the head of a $7 billion-plus company crediting the value of meetings. Let's face it: this is not the typical attitude of most top execs. I watched the faces of planners around me light up with pleasure at the acknowledgment as they applauded enthusiastically — and made a mental note to talk to the planners at Safeco about potential story ideas. I figured that with an enlightened exec at the helm, there was bound to be an interesting angle for an article.

Nothing Like Being There

Ken Pickle, Safeco's manager of incentives and conferences and a longtime friend of ICP magazine, scored 100 percent when I asked him what was special about Safeco's meetings. “Why don't you come to our annual Conference of Champions in Banff and see for yourself?” he asked. Here was another terrific motivator: the rare chance to experience an incentive program on site and do first-hand reporting.

I was psyched, but the timing didn't mesh with my schedule, so I asked Executive Editor Sue Pelletier if she would like to tackle the story. “Are you kidding?” she answered. “This is a dream assignment.” It was her first time attending an incentive program, and her first visit to Banff, and she was blown away by both — need I say she was motivated? “Being there,” she says now, “really inspired me.”

What Sue discovered at Banff was that McGavick's attitude extends to all of Safeco's top brass, who motivate the company's producers less with bells and whistles than with their own hands-on involvement. Don't miss her story on page 28.

What did you think of this article? Please send your comments/suggestions to Regina Baraban, and include the article's headline in the subject line of your email.