Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

What motivates us?

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

This is a fabulous video which explains the importance of purpose and meaning in getting people to apply themselves.  Compare and contrast these messages with what Microsoft do – read this article for the full story – which is meant to ensure that they only hire the best brains and that they work well but in fact seems to do quite the reverse.  You’d think they would notice wouldn’t you?  Look at the harvest the banks reaped from their big bonus culture…

Thousands of volunteers turned out to help make the London Olympics work, they did it because they were helping making something special happen.  None of us feels ordinary, and we want the chance to be and become and manifest the extraordinary. 

Motivational Leadership

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Knowing where you want (or need) to lead your business is vital, but it is only half of the story. Knowing how to get people to support your plan and follow you is also crucial. It is no use being the most visionary leader in the world if no one pays any attention

It tends to be accepted wisdom these days that a business (or a team) need a vision, but all too often it doesn’t deliver. Why? Because having a vision is only half of the solution, it has to be a compelling vision. That means compelling to those you are asking to adopt and embrace it.

In order to achieve this, we have to step back and consider what takes to make something compelling. As humans, we are programmed to automatically seek out the answer to WIFM? (What Is in it For Me?) To be an effective leader you must also consider What Is in it for Them. After all why should they do it?

The dictionary defines motivation thus:


  • Giving of a reason to act: the act of giving somebody a reason or incentive to do something
  • Enthusiasm: a feeling of interest or enthusiasm that makes somebody want to do something, or something that causes such a feeling
  • Reason: a reason for doing something or behaving in some way
  • Psychology forces determining behaviour: the biological, emotional, cognitive, or social forces that activate and direct behaviour

A effective leader tends to know, almost instinctively, what will motivate the ‘troops’. However, this is a complex area, and worth considering in a little more detail.

For example did you know that it is possible to divide your team into two groups; those who move towards something, and those who move away from something. This means that only some of your team will respond to a rosy vision of some improved tomorrow. Think about it, do you move away from trouble (“I don’t want to fail”) or towards success (“I want to be a winner!”)? Both are fine but this kind of programming tends to be a deep component of our natures and whilst we instinctively understand our own programme, we need to recognise others’ are almost certainly are different.

Money may be a motivation for some of your workforce, but others may well crawl over a bed of hot coals for some heartfelt recognition. This can take the form of simple feedback, awards, new opportunities or promotion. For someone with a relatively low threshold for the ‘humdrum’ a new project would be an exciting reward. For someone who finds change challenging this would be just another problem!

“If people are coming to work excited . . . if they’re making mistakes freely and fearlessly . . . if they’re having fun . . . if they’re concentrating doing things, rather than preparing reports and going to meetings – then somewhere you have leaders.” Robert Townsend

Furthermore, we all have our preferred ways of receiving communication. Some people need to see it, other like to hear it, and yet others to get a sense of it all. Some need to understand the ‘Big Picture’, and not be bogged down by details (after all, ‘if I don’t agree with where you are going why should I care about how we are going to get there?’) On the other hand, others need to know the details (‘If don’t know that it is practical, the goal is irrelevant’).

There are, of course, many other different elements that make up this complex subject, but it is useful to think about what it takes to get people to ‘get-onboard’. Also remember, you are unlikely to convince everyone, but the good news is, that you don’t have to! You just need to get enough people onboard to create momentum in the right direction. Others will enrol once they begin to get it.

So once you have taken the time to establish where you are heading, the next step is enrolling key supporters. Don’t spoil the ship for a ‘ha’p’orth of tar’, take the time to plan and execute this step carefully. Understand what is truly important to them, and communicate with them in a way that really means something, and you are much more likely to be successful.

“Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.” H Friedman

The oldest English words (and what they teach us…)

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Scientists at Reading University in southern England have used a supercomputer called ThamesBlue to model the evolution of words in English and the wider family of Indo-European languages over the last 30,000 years.  Not surprisingly they found that I is one of the oldest words.  This is little surprise but it does illustrate one key point that is at the heart of all Change initiatives and leadership challenges.  You have to deal explicitly with with people’s need to know how your plans will affect/impact them.  This is otherwise known as the W.I.F.M factor (What is in It For Me.)  Fail to address this at your peril!

“Language forces us to perceive the world as man presents it to us.”  Julia Penelope

“We learn what we have said from those who listen to our speaking.”  Kenneth Patton


Internet radio

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

I bought a nifty little gadget which looks like and performs the function of a radio, but uses the functionality of the Internet to collect the ‘signal’, so you can pick up over 10,000 stations.  It is a bit like a DAB radio in as much as you have additional functionality, so that you can access services like the BBC’s listen again service.You can search for stations by location or by genre, so for example you can listen to a Cuban station or an Australian one or a Blues one or a Talk one.  I have found stations dedicated to solely the Beatles or Queen.  I can listen to the control tower at JFK or the Miami police radio.  It is an intriguing window into so many strange worlds.

One of the the things I have been listening to is series of stations that broadcast non-stop stand-up comedians, mainly American.  The interesting thing is the insight that one gains into how others see and experience the world.  These people talk in the most uninhibited way about all sorts of things that are normally regarded as deeply private.  It is extraordinary to have this ‘window’ into others brains / lives.

The thing is that people, who though superficially similar to us, are much more complex than they appear.  They can be motivated and interested in very different things. If we explore, if we listen, ask questions, we can gain insights into what motivates and inhibits those people we work with or live with. Realising that others have hidden depths that we need to explore if we want to understand them is half the battle.  After all, you can’t motivate people you don’t understand.   So take the time to tune into the people around you and see what you can pick up… I guarantee it will be fascinating! 

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”  William Morris

“It’s not true I had nothing on, I had the radio on.”   Marilyn Monroe

Carrots or Sticks?

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, is suggesting that the conservatives may adopt a successful American ploy of rewarding people for recycling. Apparently a number of US cities have introduced this measure with great success. Rewarding people for recycling changes behaviour and the poorest citizens suddenly become green, instead of it being the preserve of the middle classes. The reward is paid for in the savings in landfill charges so everyone wins; the environment, the poor, and the city! It feels a much more palatable proposal than fining us for throwing away too much or putting chips in our bins.

I think it provides an interesting insight into the human psyche; give us a positive motivation for doing something and we will probably comply; threaten and punish us if we are ‘bad’ and we seek to avoid and evade. Successful change, whether it is at a corporate or personal level requires a positive incentive to make that step. If you are trying to bring about a change in your own life, like perhaps shed the odd pound or two, or get fitter, then find something besides the end goal that makes you feel good about it. Notice how much better you are looking now, how much more comfy those trousers are etc.

What motivates you to do something different?

“Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Mark Twain


Motivation… the short version

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

I was reading the synopsis of a best selling book on motivation this morning and I was frankly unimpressed, so at the risk of setting myself an impossible challenge, here is what I believe is the essence of motivating people. 

They fall broadly into two camps; those who pursue ‘good’ things and those who seek to avoid ‘bad’ things.  Of course they decide what constitutes good and bad.  People do things because they choose to. 

They choose to do things that:-

  • Interest them
  • Reward them, either sooner or later
  • Remove them from risk or other nasty things
  • Make them feel good 

I think that is about it.  Obviously different people are motivated by different things and your job is to find out what motivates whom.  It is a subtle and complex art and requires insight and sensitivity.  Crude attempts to motivate tend to turn people off as they are not only irrelevant, they basically show that they are not seen and appreciated as individuals.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.”    Edmund Hillary