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Contribution Motivated

What is Contribution Motivated?

When you are contribution motivated, you seek to discover, develop and utilize your abilities to succeed by helping others improve their lives.  You are energized by creatively getting results which enables you to live a life of meaning.

Motivations and Behaviors for Individual and Organizational Success is a key resource that contrasts contribution motivated with deficiency motivated. 

Contribution Motivated is highlighted in the Vision, Virtue and Talents, and Motivation Dimensions

Why is this important?

To be successful, we need employees who are motivated to maximize their contribution to Koch’s long-term success, exemplify Our Values and have abilities that are additive to the team.

We strive to hire and retain people who are contribution motivated first and foremost – and reinforce that motivation through individualized roles and responsibilities, coaching, development and rewards.


Below is a tool that clearly articulates differences in thinking, behaviors, and attitudes between people who are primarily contribution motivated and the alternative - what we call being primarily deficiency motivated. We use this tool to help us provide feedback, select contribution motivated people, and advance our culture.


Motivations and Behaviors

For Individual and Organizational Success 

To be successful long term, we need employees who are motivated to maximize their contribution to the long-term success of Koch Industries consistent with Principle Based Management and have the ability to help the team succeed. Rather than perfection, we expect employees to be predominantly contribution motivated rather than deficiency motivated.

 People Who Are Contribution Motivated...People Who Are Deficency Motivated...
Being Self-Aware

Recognize what they are and are not good at (reality-based view). Prefer meaningful work.

Have personal values of integrity and humility.

Know when they need help and ask for it, especially with compliance.

Don’t believe they can contribute. 

Are overconfident in their abilities.

Are extremely sensitive to feedback and criticism.

Striving to Realize Potential

Are lifelong learners – are curious, seek feedback and demonstrate courage in learning their talents and what they are passionate about.

Define success as making a positive difference for others.

Seek responsibilities that align with how they can contribute the most.

Are passive (want to be told what to do, don’t think for themselves).

Are comfortable with the status quo; find excuses for not changing or improving.

Measure success in comparison to others (money, status, pedigree, titles, etc.). 

Seeking Mutually Beneficial Results

Are intentionally inclusive, treat everyone with respect, and collaborate and work well with others. 

Proactively share knowledge and ideas, provide and solicit challenge, develop knowledge networks, and build trusted relationships.

Work in a mutually beneficial way to drive results for the company and key constituents to create the greatest long-term value. 

Believe everything is a competition and have a win-lose or silo mentality.

Game the system, take shortcuts, don’t share information. Try to succeed at the expense of others.

Blame others for failures and mistakes. (When it doesn’t work out, “It wasn’t my fault.”)

Contributing Creatively

Demonstrate courage in dealing with the unknown and challenging situations (problems, change, new opportunities).

Have grit, resilience, and can-do attitude.

Always push to find new and better ways to do things. Focus on results and outcomes. 

Go through the motions, have weak work ethic, avoid responsibility and accountability.

Are protectionist, resist change, and have a “not-invented-here” mentality.

Quick to complain rather than finding, recommending, and implementing solutions. 


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Principle in Brief

Personal success and fulfillment – in any field or endeavor – come from helping others in ways that are mutually beneficial. Alexis de Tocqueville called this acting out of an “enlightened regard for [oneself],” which “constantly prompts [people] to assist one another.” This principle of being contribution motivated has been vital to Koch’s success.

From Abraham Maslow it has become generally accepted that most individuals must first satisfy their basic physical needs and then their communal needs, as well as achieve a sense of self-worth. Individuals for whom any of these needs are seriously unfulfilled tend to be driven by them, which he called being deficiency motivated. In this state, people often act in unhelpful or even counterproductive ways, such as being defensive, resisting feedback, hoarding knowledge, undermining colleagues and complaining without offering solutions. 

Being contribution motivated enables people to discover, develop and utilize their abilities to succeed by helping others. They are energized by continuously trying to improve, innovate, transform and creatively get results – which enables them to live lives of meaning. The more people contribute, the better they feel about themselves and the more they tend to be rewarded, so the more they want to contribute.

As difficult as it is for individuals to contribute when deficiency motivated, it is almost impossible when negatively or destructively motivated. They can be driven by tribalism; narcissism; the will to power; jealousy; a lack of integrity, humility, or respect for others; or the desire for vengeance for real or imaginary injustices. Organizations with a culture of negative motivation typically have no purpose other than advancing their own power or profiting by any means.

This is why we prioritize a contribution-motivated culture – one based on Our Values. It involves hiring and retaining people who are first and foremost contribution motivated, and reinforcing that motivation through individualized roles and responsibilities, coaching, development and rewards.

Understand it Better


These contrasting examples can help you better understand what it looks like when someone is contribution motivated.

Give it a Try

The power of these principles happens through application. There’s no substitute for learning as you apply.