“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
~ Zig Ziglar
As a manager and leader, your role is to motivate self and other – and to do it regularly. I can see you thinking: ‘well yes, of course. But, what does this mean and how do I do it?’
The root of the word ‘motivation’ is ‘to move’. And the key focus of motivation is to move or influence another or yourself towards a goal or objective. It is the same root as the word e-mot-ion; which refers to the movement of energy (feeling) within that often acts to create movement without. For example if I feel strongly enough about something, I will take action…
So how do you motivate yourself and/or others to feel strongly enough about something to take action towards it?
The answer might surprise you: You praise them and then… you take it away!
The key to all motivation is a balance of e-mot-ion. When you ensure that you or your team are balanced in terms of what they are focussing on and how they are doing it, you will find that they move forward in a centered, purposeful way. And this is the definition of motivation.
Let me explain a little further!
Paul was working to complete a project in record time and was achieving well against his targets. Steve, his manager, (who had just been on a motivation course) stopped by and noticed that Paul was doing well. Remembering that he was supposed to praise him for what he was doing, in order to motivate him to do more, he made a point of praising Paul several times. And he noted to a few other people in the team that he thought Paul was doing exceptionally well too. ‘That be enough motivation for Paul now, to ensure he finishes his task’, thought Steve, walking away satisfied with his new leadership skills.
Paul was left feeling a little surprised. He had never had much motivation from Steve before, so this level of praise was strange. And a little unsettling. Still, it felt good. In fact, maybe it meant he was good; really good at what he did. And so Paul began the process of getting excited by the praise and developing a sense of what we in the coaching business might term complacency. It was not a conscious thought, but Paul began to consider that perhaps he was well on track and could now possibly relax a little on this project. It was clear that he was well on track.
Does this sound unlikely to you? Not a bit. Too much praise, and we unconsciously begin to reign back on our attention and focus. Too little praise and we begin to feel resentful at not being recognised. This means that the greatest challenge for any manager – or for any self-manager – is to maintain a balance between praise and withdrawing praise.
If Steve had known this, he might have approached Paul in the following way: “Paul, I noticed that you have been doing a really good job on completing that project this week I have particularly noticed that you have been very careful to include a project time line that all participants can follow. This has the impact of encouraging participation through communication.
“I am also aware that the project does not yet have an action plan and responsibilities for each contributor. This will have a serious impact on its success. What can you do about this?”
And if we broke Steve’s motivation of his team member down into its component parts, we might get a template for you to use any time you want to motivate your team to further success:
Step 1: “I saw, noticed…” The value of starting with this statement is that the praise is specific and owned by you. It is crucial to avoid giving 3rd party praise or criticism as this can have the opposite impact.
Step 2: “The impact…” Starting the next sentence by acknowledging the impact of the work keeps the praise very specific and pragmatic, and keeps your team member’s focus on the actions and their consequences.
Step 3: “I have also noticed…” This is the point at which you balance the praise by withdrawing it. You draw your team member’s attention to the other side of the situation to ensure that they do not get sidetracked on what is so good, but are rather continuously focused on what is still needed. This keeps the momentum forward and is the true meaning of motivation.
And how could you use this on yourself? Well you would use the same template in the same way. Only this time you would focus on what you have noticed that you personally did well, before asking yourself the crucial question: “what else is there?”
Remember – if your e-motion is balanced and centered, you will be in-motion.