I am often asked to come and speak or give seminars on Motivation at companies and Leadership Conferences, and the HR departments calling me are always a little bit stunned when I say “No!”
After a moment’s silence, they say, “But you’re a leadership expert: you consult, coach and speak on leadership and success; surely you must understand the importance of motivation.”
I say “yes I do understand the role of motivation. But I also understand that aspiration and inspiration are more powerful than motivation. And that if you focus on those first, and then add in motivation, then you will create highly engaged teams that will be practically guaranteed to achieve success.”
Motivation is a great tool to keep people on track, but the hard part for any initiative is not to keep them on track but to get people to start, to get them engaged, to get them excited to be involved, and this is where aspiration and motivation come into play.
Aspiration is about our dreams, our ambitions and our hopes of achieving something great. When we can link our goals to people’s aspirations then it creates the desire for them to be involved, and they want to achieve the goal.
To align people’s aspirations to our goals, we have to use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which tells us that people have physical needs such as safety, shelter and food, and emotional needs such as love, self-esteem, a feeling of belonging and achievement.
To build engagement, we have to link the goals to the emotional needs of the team. Now while this might not sound easy, with a bit of creativity, it can be done.
I worked for a major parcel delivery company, and they had a project that was looking to boost on-time delivery. I wasn’t the most exciting of projects, and the interest and engagement levels of the team were low, to say the least.
This all changed when the business project manager explained to us why this project was important.
It’s wasn’t because it would improve profitability, increase market share, or improve customer retention.
No, he said this project was important because “there is no Santa Clause, and hundreds of thousands of people every year send Christmas presents to their sons, daughters, nephews, nieces and grandchildren using our services, and it’s ou job to make sure they arrive on time.
Thousands and thousands of people receive medication using our services, and they need it to arrive on the day need it, not two days or two weeks later. This is why this project is important.”
When the project manager said this you could feel the desire for the team to be involved in this project, it wasn’t about profit and loss; it was much more important than that. Not only was this project delivered ahead of schedule and under budget, but people also worked evening and weekends to ensure it was successful. All because it had been linked to our aspiration of achieving something great, something important, which then boosted our self-esteem.
Now that we have built the desire in people to be successful, now we have to inspire them, because when we can do that, not only are they engaged, but they are excited and become energized.
People become inspired when they believe that they will be successful.
In my experience, people are not afraid of hard work, they are afraid of failure, and when you can show them how they can be successful and they believe it, then they become unstoppable.
To create belief we need to do three things:
Keep it simple. Complexity hinders executions which then kills belief.
Find examples of others who have achieved success to show what s possible. For example when I ran my first marathon, knowing a 100-year-old Indian had completed the London marathon in 7 1/2 hours made me feel it was achievable, even for me.
Create a believable plan that shows, step by step, how success will be achieved. For most initiatives start small, achieve some early success and keep going is always a workable plan. But too often we plan to achieve too much too soon, which people just don’t believe it and then it kills their inspiration.
When we can create belief that we will be successful it becomes a habit, look at Flavorus, for example. When I spoke with James Reichardt, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer with Flavorus and now See Tickets US. He said that “they had worked hard to create at innovating for its clients and bringing firsts to the market, such as the first mobile box office, the first mobile scanning, the first integrated RFID systems, the first to allow fans to buy tickets directly on Facebook and that now this had become the teams exception, it was what they believed they were capable of”
Great leaders focus on aspiration and inspiration first because they know that when you have engaged and excited teams, they will be committed to achieving the goal, that the team will be ready and willing to start right now and that with engaged, excited teams it’s much easier to keep them motivated.
So if you want highly motivated teams that achieve success, then you need to start with aspiration and inspiration.
At this point, they ask me “would you like to come and speak on aspiration, inspiration, and motivation.”
They do that because their desire is to have an engaged, excited teams and they now believe I am the person to help them achieve that.
Article first appeared in Inc in November. You can find the link here.