How Not To Motivate People!

deomtivatedI attended a conference on Leadership in Morocco recently and one of the talks was around Leadership and the impact of Culture, and whilst the talk had excellent content I think a lot of the power and benefit of that talk was lost.

Why was that?

Well it’s because of how the material was presented. Whilst the information was valuable and should have led to an insightful and informative debate, what actually happened was that it alienated some of the audience.

The topic related to Power Distance, which is the extent to which power is distributed unequally between the highest and the lowest in the hierarchy. In this area Morocco scored the highest and it is something that needs to be addressed.

But when you are looking to motivate people, you have to create an inspiring vision, we have to motivate towards something.

It’s much more difficult to motivate people when we to try to motivate people away from a situation.

For example, I could tell you that you are fat and that with a little bit of exercise you could have the body of an athlete. 

When I tell you that, I am telling you how bad you are, and that we need to move you away from that position. By telling you things are bad I am hoping to motivate you.

But when you take this approach people become defensive, and often start to defend their position, giving excuses or maybe explaining that they are not that bad and that in fact there is someone much fatter than them.

Now we have lost focus on the thing we were hoping to address.

This is pretty much what happened in the presentation, people began to challenge the study, and any fruitful discussion was lost because people were disillusioned and demotivated by their alleged current position regarding Power Distance.

A better approach would have been to say that we have an opportunity to significantly improve Power Distance in Morocco, and with a bit of work we could look to become one of the top countries in this area.

By saying that, and not mentioning the current position although it’s implied it’s not great, will actually motivate people significantly more.

This is because you are motivating people towards a goal, towards a vision and people respond much better when we look to motive them towards something rather than away from it.

Remember the first example where the comment was your fat, imagine if that had been said differently.

For example, how do you think you would feel if I’d said, you look like you have lost a some weight and you know with a little bit of extra effort I think you could look like an athlete.

The messages are similar but the impact on the recipient is significantly different. If we want to motivate people then we need to focus on motion towards a goal.

If we look to focus on motivation away then we will demotivate them and make them defensive.

How you ever had someone look to motivate you by telling you how bad you were at something?

Gordon Tredgold

#Leadership Principles


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