Leaders do nothing more important than get results. But
you can't get results by yourself. You need others to help you
do it. And the best way to have other people get results is not
by ordering them but motivating them. Yet many leaders fail to
motivate people to achieve results because those leaders
misconstrue the concept and applications of motivation. To
understand motivation and apply it daily, let's understand its
three critical factors. Know these factors and put them into
action to greatly enhance your abilities to lead for results.
1. MOTIVATION IS PHYSICAL ACTION.
"Motivation" has common roots with "motor," "momentum,"
"motion," "mobile," etc. all words that denote movement,
physical action. An essential feature of motivation is physical
action. Motivation isn't about what people think or feel but
what they physically do. When motivating people to get results,
challenge them to take those actions that will realize those
I counsel leaders who must motivate individuals and teams to
get results not to deliver presentations but "leadership talks."
Presentations communicate information. But when you want to
motivate people, you must do more than simply communicate
information. You must have them believe in you and take action
to follow you. A key outcome of every leadership talk must be
physical action, physical action that leads to results.
For instance, I worked with the newly appointed director of
a large marketing department who wanted the department to achieve
sizable increases in the results. However, the employees were a
demoralized bunch who had been clocking tons of overtime under
her predecessor and were feeling angry that their efforts were
not being recognized by senior management.
She could have tried to order them to get the increased
results. Many leaders do that. But order leadership founders
in today's highly competitive, rapidly changing markets.
Organizations are far more competitive when their employees
instead of being ordered to go from point A to point B want to
go from point A to point B. So I suggested that she take a
first step in getting the employees to increase results by
motivating those employees to want to increase results. They
would "want to" when they began to believe in her leadership.
And the first step in enlisting that belief was for her to
give a number of leadership talks to the employees.
One of her first talks that she planned was to the
department employees in the company's auditorium.
She told me, "I want them to know that I appreciate the
work they are doing and that I believe that they can get the
results I'm asking of them. I want them to feel good about
"Believing is not enough," I said. "Feeling good is not
enough. Motivation must take place. Physical action must take
place. Don't give the talk until you know what precise action
you are going to have happen."
She got the idea of having the CEO come into the room after
the talk, shake each employee's hand, and tell each how much he
appreciated their hard work physical action. She didn't stop
there. After the CEO left, she challenged each employee to write
down on a piece of paper three specific things that they needed
from her to help them get the increases in results and then hand
those pieces of paper to her personally physical action.
Mind you, that leadership talk wasn't magic dust sprinkled
on the employees to instantly motivate them. (To turn the
department around so that it began achieving sizable increases
in results, she had to give many leadership talks in the weeks
and months ahead.) But it was a beginning. Most importantly,
it was the right beginning.
2. MOTIVATION IS DRIVEN BY EMOTION.
Emotion and motion come from the same Latin root meaning
"to move". When you want to move people to take action, engage
their emotions. An act of motivation is an act of emotion. In
any strategic management endeavor, you must make sure that the
people have a strong emotional commitment to realizing it.
When I explained this to the chief marketing officer of a
worldwide services company, he said, "Now I know why we're not
growing! We senior leaders developed our marketing strategy in
a bunker! He showed me his "strategy" document. It was some
40 pages long, single spaced. The points it made were logical,
consistent, and comprehensive. It made perfect sense. That was
the trouble. It made perfect, intellectual sense to the senior
leaders. But it did not make experiential sense to middle
management who had to carry it out. They had about as much
input into the strategy as the window washers at corporate
headquarters. So they sabotaged it in many innovative ways.
Only when the middle managers were motivated were emotionally
committed to carrying out the strategy did that strategy have
a real chance to succeed.
3. MOTIVATION IS NOT WHAT WE DO TO OTHERS.
IT'S WHAT OTHERS DO TO THEMSELVES.
The English language does not accurately depict the
psychological truth of motivation. The truth is that we cannot
motivate anybody to do anything. The people we want to motivate
can only motivate themselves. The motivator and the "motivatee"
are always the same person. We as leaders communicate, they
motivate. So our "motivating" others to get results really
entails our creating an environment in which they motivate
themselves to get those results.
For example: a commercial division leader almost faced a
mutiny on his staff when in a planning session, he put next
year's goals, numbers much higher than the previous year's, on
the overhead. The staff all but had to be scrapped off the
ceiling after they went ballistic. "We busted our tails to get
these numbers last year. Now you want us to get much higher
numbers? No way!"
He told me. "We can hit those numbers. I just have to
get people motivated!"
I gave him my person!" pitch. I suggested that he create
an environment in which they could motivate themselves. So he
had them assess what activities got results and what didn't.
They discovered that they spent more than 60 percent of their
time on work that had nothing to do with getting results. He
then had them develop a plan to eliminate the unnecessary work.
Put in charge of their own destiny, they got motivated! They
developed a great plan and started to get great results.
Over the long run, your career success does not depend
on what schools you went to and what degrees you have. That
success depends instead on your ability to motivate individuals
and teams to get results. Motivation is like a high voltage
cable lying at your feet. Use it the wrong way, and you'll
get a serious shock. But apply motivation the right way by
understanding and using the three factors, plug the cable in,
as it were, and it will serve you well in many powerful ways
throughout your career.
© 2004 The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.