I am often asked, “How can I motivate my team members to (fill in the blank).” The simple answer is, “You can’t.” Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Wait a minute, I have motivated people in the past and I have been motivated by someone else in the past. Why can’t I motivate people?” Well, there are two things at play here: inspiration and motivation. Some of you may think this is a matter of semantics, but it’s not. Inspiration can come both from outside and within someone but motivation is only driven from within.
In general, there are four ingredients for being really successful at anything. One must:
If we were to select one word to describe motivation, it would be “effort”. Simply put, if you do not show the effort, one cannot say that you are motivated. More specifically, you might also consider that it is “sustained effort” that really describes what motivation is. There’s a world of difference between temporary effort and sustained effort. If we were to write a formula for motivation (one that is very familiar to many of you), it would be:
Inspiration + Perspiration (“sustained effort”) = Motivation
Let’s also consider what motivation is not.
The truth is that we cannot actually observe motivation in others. We can only observe their behavior and infer motivation from what we see them do. We cannot see, touch, taste, or feel motivation. We can only see the consequences of motivation. It is invisible. The interesting truth is that motivation is simply a hypothetical construct or at best, a convenient label that we have invented to explain certain patterns (or the absence of those patterns) of behavior we see in others. What is the pattern we see in others when we infer that they are motivated? We see them exhibiting sustained, goal-directed effort.
To summarize, motivation is an internal state of the individual. It is the source of energy within that provides fuel to get something done. The energy produces sustained effort, and it is that behavior, not motivation itself, which is observed by us and by others. Only when we see sustained effort can we assume that one is, in fact, motivated. Motivation is the fire within.
Were we to visualize motivation as though it were real, we could think of it as a roaring fire or furnace. All of us have a furnace within and it is that furnace that provides the energy to achieve our goals. When the fire is burning brightly, the furnace puts out a lot of energy and provides warmth and heat.
When the fire is not burning brightly, and there is barely a flickering flame, there is not much energy available for use, and there is certainly not warmth and heat.
When one is motivated, the flame burns brightly and they are full of energy. When one is not motivated, the flame is barely flickering and they show no energy and thus, no desire to put forth effort. Everyone has a potential furnace.
Our challenge as leaders is to learn how to light that fire within ourselves and others.
About MCG Partners
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