This post is by Jim Sniechowski, Executive Coach at JudithandJim.com
As a manager you’ve no doubt had what seemed to be a very productive conversation with someone who reports to you. Your report was all fired up and excited to get back to work. And so were you. You’d done your job. You were motivational. You report even said so. You could plainly see that your report had been enlightened with a new understanding of what to do and a new and vital spirit to follow through. And even more, that person’s work effort appeared to increase and the future looked bright.
However, as time passed his work effort decreased because his excitement waned and things were back to where they were before your inspiring 1 on 1. And worse the person experienced a sense of loss and even depression because the pleasure and power he’d felt when things were going well was now gone and the comparison was painful. And the burden fell back to you to figure out what to do.
This situation is not only not unusual: it’s more common than we’d all like to believe. What happened?
Motivation can be understood as that which causes motion—which is the same as action or doing. If someone has to be motivated the presupposition is that they are not able to generate the energy and drive on their own. They are hooked on the other’s energy. In a very real way they need to draw energy and belief from someone else in order to keep going. They need to keep being re-motivated and that leaves them co-dependent—unable to proceed on their own.
When most people think of motivating someone, they think of providing a reason to move or act. The problem here is that “reasons” are mental. They are usually more like explanations. How often have you heard an explanation the result of which caused you to feel emotionally energized? This is not to say that it can’t happen, but generally we require something emotional to be truly moved. So what can you do?
What’s In It for Me?
Your task is to find and articulate the benefit to the person you want to motivate. A benefit is that which answers the question—What’s in it for me? A benefit sets the context from which the person can derive an advantage, an advantage they can see as being especially favorable to their own success.
The critical phrase in the last sentence is— “they can see as especially favorable to their own success.” In other words it’s about them. The benefit/advantage is personally meaningful to them—it’s about them for them. Otherwise you’re asking them to do something that is nothing more than a job. Yes they may do it, but surely if they have any initial interest it will fade over time.
The benefit provides a reason to satisfy their intellect but more important it’s the emotional prompt that vitalizes them into action: action not as an obedience but as an ambition; not in deference to you but from their own empowerment; a vision of results that will improve both of your lives and the company you both work for.
Is This An Easy Task?
Not necessarily. But an essential one. You have to know your reports not as cogs in a machine but as individual contributors each with as much inner life and desire as you have. You are not motivating mere “workers” but people: people whose hopes and dreams, fears and vulnerabilities, passions and promise get them up in the morning to do what they do. When your motivation hits that inner sweet spot—-that which has intellectual and emotional meaning for them—then motivating them won’t be a free pass but it also won’t be the headache so many managers experience when motivation fades. AND your efforts will stick because you will have animated a colleague and partner who is working with you toward the objectives you both agree are worth achieving.
What do you think?
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