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How to Motivate

How to Motivate

Business Leader Magazine (February 2008)

June 16, 2008

“They just don’t get it! They won’t do what I know works. Heck, when I was young I took initiative, had drive, and worked my butt off to succeed. The young ones just aren’t built that way today.”

You have heard or may have even latched on to this gross generalization. Instead of looking at our own leadership behavior we hold on to the past, shirk responsibility, and blame the follower or another generation. The creative leadership act is to work beyond ego and old habit reactions and look for what can be done to solve the motivational problem — whether it is with a subordinate, peer, boss, friend or family member.

Three Principles of Motivation are:

  • Individuals provide their own motivation, not the leader.
  • People motivate themselves to satisfy needs.
  • Followers must understand what’s expected (goals) to succeed on the leader’s behalf.

If any one of these is not followed in a leadership communication, motivation and performance will be sub-optimal.

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Individuals Provide the Motivation

Two laborers, one working to exhaustion and the other sleeping on the shovel — which one is more motivated? Answer: They both are equally motivated, one to sleep, the other to work. You the leader can’t motivate anyone because they are already 100 percent motivated to do whatever they are doing. In short, human beings are volitional (always making choices), and all that you can do to motivate others is to create conditions whereby the motivational energy of the follower will be directed by the follower to what you want done. This is not just a play on words, but a fundamental and powerful shift in perspective that will result in greater motivation and improved leadership of people.

People Motivate Themselves

I believe that Mother Teresa working with the sick and needy in India was getting some satisfaction (reward) from the work she did. In other words even her motivation was ‘self serving.’ Some psychological, social or spiritual need was being met as she worked long hours in the stench and misery with some of the neediest people on earth. You are no different.


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