"Pull a string & it'll follow wherever you wish. Push it & it'll go nowhere at all." – Dwight D. Eisenhower  

"You get the best efforts from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within." ~Bob Nelson

Motivation can be defined in two ways that while similar, can yield two completely different results in team behavior:

  1. The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
  2. The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

The first definition is the somewhat typical viewpoint many of us share, but when compared to the second definition seems a bit superficial. The second definition focuses on the “heart” of the matter and how to find a source that can be tapped automatically in any situation. My question is whether your motivation of your team has focused on getting the second definition right?

You want your people to be acting out of a sense of excitement at fulfilling their purpose, not out of obligation or the pressure put on them by you, your boss, the customer, deadlines, etc.

The power of getting this right was brought to my attention like a slap to the face recently when my team and I were faced with an unfortunate situation. As any of you know who have followed my writing for a while, I’m not a perfect leader by any stretch of the imagination and this situation highlighted that perfectly. For whatever reason I went into negative mode with this situation and was focused on the problem, the extra work that would be necessary, the negative fallout, and began trying to pump up the team with the whole “in tough times we pull together” speech. My team, bless their hearts, cut me off and simply said “This is why we’re here. We take care of the customer whether things go right or wrong.” And off they went without a further word from me. In two short sentences they rendered me useless. I didn’t need to push them to do something, they just did it because it was “what they do.” It was GLORIOUS! J

So what did I do right from a motivation standpoint that saved me from myself in this instance?

Make sure you have your mission right: In my organization, like many, it is all about the customer. “Do right by the customer” is our mantra and mission. You have to define the reason and purpose for the existence of your department or company if you want to get at the heart of motivation. For some it may be, “bring in new customers”, “create a great experience”, “perfection in processing”, “Lightning fast resolution” or many others.

Make it special: The second step is to add some “oomph” to the mission. What would happen if your department didn’t exist? What do you do particularly well or extraordinarily? How does what you do help other departments or the customer? This step highlights why you are important. People want to do things that matter, and this step focuses on this.

Tie your processes to the mission: Once you have the above two down it is about reinforcing the message. Take a look at your main policies and procedures and answer “Why it this important to the mission.” Do this for your main processes and share it with the team. Then start practicing by doing the same thing with everything surrounding situations as they come up. If you do this constantly and publicly you drive the mission home.

If you do this right, you’ll find it easier and easier to motivate your team until one day you find yourself in that special situation that I did where my team basically said “Shut up, we got this!” Now THAT was what I call motivation.

I would love to know your thoughts on this post so please leave your likes and comments below. Also, if you haven't checked out any of my three books yet, give them a look here, I am absolutely positive they will be a great help in your career!