WORKING ON ENCOURAGEMENT (AND THE DEVIL OF DISCOURAGEMENT)

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Increasingly, organisations are beginning to wise up to the idea that change management is one thing. Let’s improve the structure, the strategy or the system, or all these things in tandem. But unless the people can ‘perform’ all their labour is in vain.

 

And frankly, people performing begins at the top. As the great Quality Guru, Crosby, once put it: ‘Good ideas and solid concepts have a great deal of difficulty being understood by those who earn their living by doing it some other way’. Those at the top can be the most averse to realistically appraising themselves. But if they don’t, as sure as night follows day, neither will their staff!

 

Furthermore, given the importance of people to our long-term success, it really does pay off to consider recruitment, retention, and reward in depth, and go on considering it. If we think about it, these three Rs are at the core of a HR department’s role. Recruit the best staff. Make sure we retain those excellent staff members via incentives and an alignment of values and expectations. And reward good performance. Most HR departments focus solely on the first and last of these – recruiting new staff (normally due to such a high staff turnover rate in the company) and dishing out arbitrary bonuses. However, in terms of added value to the company, retention is by far the most important. Retaining good staff has an effect on morale, it negates the extensive costs of paying recruitment agencies and taking on new people (setting them up on the system and all the other paraphernalia which accompanies a new hire), and it allows employees to establish long-term working relationships with each other.

 

Paraphrasing Sun Tzu, Krause observes: ‘Leaders who complain about morale of their employees evidently do not realise that employee’s morale is a mirror of confidence in their leadership’. This is a pretty heavy-going statement, but it’s eminently true. Alexander the Great, one of my favourite examples when it comes to leadership, was often outnumbered and exhausted. His army was famous for crossing vast distances, including the Gedrosian desert, only to arrive and immediately engage the enemy without a moment’s rest. Yet, such was his leadership that his army was able (and more importantly willing) to perform at superhuman levels. His confidence infected his men (and women) so that they, too, felt like Achilles reborn.

 

I am sometimes asked what is the single most important quality in an employee. That’s difficult to answer with total certainty, but I like this story:

 

The Devil realised he was never going to win in his battle against God, so he decided to throw in the towel. To this end he held a car boot sale in order to flog off all his tools and assets.

 

The day came - it had been well advertised - and various colleagues and peers turned up looking for bargains. And, boy were there some bargains!

 

There was this sharp, shiny, pointy spear - Pride - that could shatter anyone’s armour. Very expensive, but a tasty piece of equipment.

 

Alongside this there was a multi-pronged mace - very menacing - that had a curious magnetic property, drawing things to it and destroying them at the same time. This was Envy - really cool. Very expensive.

 

All in all, the Devil had some fantastic, high-tech equipment - stuff that could really get in you and mess you up. All very expensive. His colleagues were standing there drooling over it, wondering which pieces they could afford to buy.

 

But in the centre of the collection was a large, nondescript, blunt, lustreless piece of metallic tubing – its only possible use was as leverage.

 

Beelzebub said, ‘How much is that old piece of junk?’

 

The Devil smiled and quoted a price. There was a gasp all round - the price he asked was worth more than all the other pieces put together.

 

That’s outrageous!’ said Beelzebub. ‘That’s just a piece of junk’.

 

That,’ said the Devil. ‘Is Discouragement. Without it, none of the other tools work. When I want to tempt someone I always start with Discouragement. Buy it and you’ll see.’

 

Ever seen the effects of discouragement on members of staff? It’s far worse than lack of skill. Do we imagine that Alexander the Great discouraged his men when he asked them to cross the desert? You already know the answer. Another example comes to mind when I consider the value of encouragement. There is a scene in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom, where the Knight Balian must hold the city against the vastly superior and numerous forces of Saladin. There are hardly any true warriors among them, most of the knights having departed or been killed. So, Balian (Bloom) goes into the streets of the city, finding any men or women who wish to fight alongside him. Those who offer their services, he asks to kneel. He knights them, then and there, without any training, and tells them to ‘arise’. One of Balian’s fellow knights is outraged. He upbraids him: ‘Do you really think making them a knight will make them a better fighter?’ Balian turns and answers: ‘Yes.’ The psychological insight of this is profound. In believing they are knights, and having gone through the ritual ceremony of the sword touched to their shoulders, they arise with a complete psychological shift that will 100% make them more loyal, more steadfast, and better warriors.

 

So I guess as managers we must work on encouragement – in the structure, strategy, and systems and in everything we do. May be then we can sustain that enthusiasm that is oh-so vital.


Maslow and Motivational Maps


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Recently, on a Maps training session, my friend asked me about the strange anomaly of the eight levels of the Maslow Hierarchy, according to the version that we refer to, and the way we fit the nine motivators into it. How does that work? he asked. It’s a good question, and important to get to grips with.

To refresh , the eight Maslow levels of need are, from the bottom up: biological and physiological, safety, belonging and love, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualisation, and transcendence. These are eight levels of need; and to make things more complex, from the Maps point of view we discount the lowest need. We do this because it is a basic need and not a want. It is not a ‘motivator’ per se, because it lies like a survival instinct at the root of us. Without shelter, food, water, we all enter a state of survivalism in which we lose sight of planning for the future or getting things we want and instead seek the swiftest possible ways to meet our basic needs. There are people who operate at this level of existence: those in extreme poverty, or those in war-torn countries, ghettos, born into crime, prisoners, addicts (who may have food, shelter and water but have created another basic need within themselves which eventually takes over and must be met at all costs). This type of need is so powerful it overrides any other motivator.

Usually, it is not found in business or most organisations; when it is, you have a person who is a game player. The Map may be accurate about their higher motivators, but their survival instinct at level one will render their other wants obsolete or irrelevant – they are in the grip of a more primitive need or emotion. This, bizarrely, creates a complex duplicity, where their survival urge becomes a kind of smokescreen. One would think that a survival instinct would simplify things, and in the case of people genuinely in need it does, of course. But for someone living in the modern world with a job and all their needs met, but yet who is operating at a survival level, the story is very different.

Thus, we now have seven levels in which nine motivators fit! You will know from our diagram that each of the motivators correlates especially with one level of Maslow’s hierarchy. We start, then, with safety needs and this correlates with the Defender motivator. Belonging and love corresponds with the Friend motivator. How we solve the problem is at the esteem need level; for here we suggest that three motivators are involved: the Star motivator, wanting recognition, the Director motivator, wanting control, and the Builder motivator, wanting material possessions. Why should that be?

Two powerful reasons. The first is that if we consider our own wellbeing and our own effectiveness, then self-esteem is invariably considered to be the single important factor. Indeed, Dr Nathaniel Brandon, a foremost authority in this area, said self-esteem is the single most powerful force in our existence: on it everything depends. And he goes on to say: “Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves.” Thus, esteem is core to motivation and wide-ranging; therefore, should it surprise us if more than one motivator fell within its orbit?

But the second reason explores terminology. I am of the view that what is meant here by self-esteem is actually the self-concept, which of course incorporates self-esteem, but also more beside. The self-concept has three components: the self-esteem (or how we feel about ourselves), the self-image (or how we see ourselves) and the ideal self (how we want to be in the future).

These three elements or components, then, each have their own motivator as it were. The self-esteem is very much connected to our internal locus of control, and this is related in a sort of inverted way to the Director motivator where we project the control outwards. Similarly, our self-image is about how we see our self and this finds a correlation in the Star motivator where we – projecting outwards – want others to see us in a certain way, to recognise us if you will. Finally, we have the ideal-self that wants to grow, to become, to be successful in the future, and so needs nutrients to do that – in other words, the soil of material possessions that enable this to happen even if one finally becomes a St Francis or a Buddha or a St Thomas Aquinas. I mention these three in particular because they all started from wealthy backgrounds which enabled them finally to eschew material things and transcend; but they started there.

So we see that the fourth level, half way up the hierarchy, is quite pivotal in terms of moving towards self-actualisation and beyond, but also pivotal in motivational terms. The correlation between Motivational Maps and the Maslow model is profound. Understanding both systems can lead to a fuller picture, and deeper insight when interpreting a Maps profile. Both systems recognise that our needs, and motivations, are not fixed points in time. Whilst some might be more dominant than others, circumstance and time change us in significant ways, leading us on a journey – ultimately, I believe, towards the ‘transcendence’ that Maslow spoke of.



The Importance of Mentoring in the Modern World

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The importance of mentoring, especially in today’s world of “do it yourself” YouTube tutorials and “how-to” blog content, cannot be overstated. Whilst I’m all for autodidactism (self-teaching) and indeed many of the world’s greatest scientists, writers, musicians and artists are self-taught, we cannot all assume that we are in that category. And, even the greatest of us still have a mentor, someone contributing to their personal development. Even if that mentor is not specifically there to advise on the technical skills of writing, boxing, biology, or whatever, they are there to support and develop their ward emotionally and spiritually. How many great people reveal that they could never have done what they did without their partner, friends, parents, or an early role-model who believed in them? So, we can see that mentoring is essential, even, bizarrely, for those who self-teach.

 

There are three major ways to improve oneself: first, trial and error – a necessary but largely expensive way of doing so. The expense comes in the wasted time, money and emotion that trial and error predicates; it may be described as the 'evolutionary' approach – one may be dead before achieving the right solution! Second is modelling; this is a methodology much in vogue in the West since the advent of Neuro Linguistic Programming whose whole rationale was based on observing and imitating excellence. Often coaching uses NLP techniques. We must take a moment to distinguish coaching from mentoring here. They are not the same thing. To quote an extract from my recent book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co written with Bevis Moynan: “The distinction between a coach and a mentor or between the two processes is subtle and sometimes blurred, but generally it is thought that the mentor tends to be more directive towards, more experienced and knowledgeable than, more senior than, the client; whereas the coach tends to be more exploratory, more outside the immediate domain of the client, and ‘more’ equal in terms of status.” So, to continue our exploration of ‘modelling’ as a personal development technique, another word for this would be the old fashioned concept of imitation. Writers, for example, often do not initially attempt to write original poems, but begin by imitating the classics which have been created before, working their way up to discovering their own style. By imitating, they learn what works and what doesn’t work and get inside the head of a successful, or great, writer that has gone before. This is powerful. But third, and finally, we come to mentoring, arguably the most powerful method of all, and certainly the one with the longest pedigree.

 

Mentoring goes back at least as far as the Odyssey of Homer, about 700 BC, and is named after the character, Mentor, an old man and friend of Odysseus, who is asked to look after and educate Odysseus' son, Telemachus as the father goes off to fight in the Trojan War. Clearly, the activity of mentoring pre-dates this particular example, but its point is clear: the mentor is a substitute father figure whose role is to develop the young man, the son. Intriguingly, however, the character Mentor dies before the end of the story, but Telemachus is unaware of this because the goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene takes his place and simulates the dead man, continuing Telemachus’ training. Thus, mentoring is both a male and female process, and there are benefits from both.

 

How is mentoring such a powerful process? I think it works because it does five things especially well. First, it intensifies experience and the implications of the current situation. Many people who need help come to see a coach, a counsellor, a consultant – a mentor – with a problem; they know it is a problem but often they have not fully grasped the implications. Like some small stone in the shoe, they think they have a minor irritant that they want removed; but the mentor gets them to see that the stone in the shoe is more like a razor blade and if decisive action is not taken soon then they are likely to be crippled.

 

Second, the mentor is somebody – hence the age of Mentor – who typifies experience. The initial reaction we all have – particularly as young people – to a problem is that it is unique. Nobody, for example, has ever fallen in love the way we have, or suffered as we have now that we have been rejected. Effective mentoring cuts through this and enables the client to see that whatever the problem they have, this problem has been encountered before, and therefore there is a solution.

 

Third, and this follows from the second point, the mentor emphasises that you are not alone. Gaining reassurance from the mentor's grasp of the problem, and expression of support, is crucial in building the confidence of the client to tackle the issue.

 

Fourth, the mentor paints a picture, helps you paint a picture, of the desired end state that resolves all the tension. The client confirms what they really want – they visualise and can see it – now as strongly as the problem they had not fully grasped in the first place. From this, fifth and finally, the mentor can help suggest ways forward – drawing on knowledge, experience, like situations, and all that appertains to the case. In short, the mentor becomes this invaluable ally who is truly allied to our needs; just like the substitute father/mother that Mentor originally was.

 

And perhaps that's hardest thing: creating just that level of relationship which is professional and yet presses beyond that – for what true father or mother is satisfied with merely a 'professional' relationship with their child? It is the dimension of commitment that makes all the difference; hence the power of real mentoring.

 

Many people, I believe, feel cut off in this world, hence why they turn to online tutorials and faceless methods of learning. This is not, in any way, a criticism. After all, it seems the world has genuinely become a more dangerous place, more full of conmen, and with more chances for trust to be breached. Taking personal development in your own hands is a commendable and adaptive response to this, but be wary, there are few substitutes for a truly powerful mentor. It should come as no surprise that all of the greatest Greek heroes were taught and led by great mentors. By trusting someone else to expand our self, we can grow infinitely more than pushing on our own. We can become our true self, whole and unimpaired. But only, of course, if the mentor is truly sincere and right for us.

 


Finding Diamonds Before You Go a-Marketing

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Thanks once again for tuning in to Motivational Memos! In our last installment, we talked about the importance of recruitment and how motivation can play a part in good recruitment practice. Today, we’ll be talking about an issue slightly tangential to motivation: marketing, and how doing it right can seriously boost your business.

 

Marketing, as Peter Drucker observed, was one of the two functions that alone made money for a business – all else was a cost. Thus it is PDI – Pretty Damned Important! It’s a shame, therefore, that it only does – usually – half the job. True, that half it may do spectacularly well, but polished fake diamonds with all the branding collateral imaginable are still … only fake.

 

One of the most important things a business needs to do to sustain profits and ensure longevity is to create a compelling narrative about itself. The ‘story’ – or narrative – is the diamond (or diamonds) that the organisation owns and which reflects on its own being. Stories can clearly convey the value proposition more effectively than any other mechanism; they differentiate your product or service from the competition; they can justify premium pricing; and finally stories heal organisations (and individuals) where damage has been done.

 

But generally speaking what marketing companies and internal marketing functions do is polish, present and beautifully brand a ‘false’ diamond. A fake diamond sounds like this: ‘committed to excellence’ or ‘quality first’ or ‘being the best’ or ‘we care for …’ You get the idea: cliché piled on cliché, based on a cliché-d mission statement that sounds just about like everybody else’s mission statement. All false. Think of the Facebook ads being shown in the cinemas right now, claiming they want to “bring us together” and that they don’t stand for the exploitation of persona data. It’s as if they think we can forget overnight the comments made by Zuckerberg and co, and how our data was sold off to third parties. The sad truth is, we just might.

 

Real diamonds are found deep underground; for ‘ground’ here read ‘subconscious’. And when they are found they don’t look like diamonds – more like raw lumps of coal. Knowing where the diamonds are and how to dig for them is what most marketing companies don’t do. Why? Because this is to enter the deep world of ambiguity and uncertainty – it’s not part of the MBA course and it can’t be done by ticking boxes or by having too systematic a process in place. And it can take time. Another word might be ‘inspiration’.

 

On the other hand, get a compelling story and the world – the customers – love you. Take Apple: their story demonstrated in many ways that they are a philosophy company. They study the philosophy of aesthetics and more particularly the beauty of technology. Making profits is a by-product of their obsession with this beauty. A Shaolin Kung Fu practitioner I once knew, hailing from Kunyu, said that: ‘Fighting should only ever be the by-product of Kung Fu.’ Pursuit of physical, mental and spiritual development – in the form of enlightenment was the true calling of any master. As soon as fighting or hurting others becomes the sole aim of Kung Fu, it is lost. It might as well be boxing. “Martial” minus the “art”.

 

In this vein, imagining that making a profit is the primary purpose of a business is part of the cliché-d thinking that also militates against digging for real diamonds, and which leads to superficial, short-lived businesses that add little value.

 

Thus, finding and extracting diamonds – stories/narratives – should be a primary function of marketing, since if it isn’t they polish and present their client well, but alas with an artificial lustre.

 

Remember, narrative may be regarded as a primary act of mind – which means it involves thinking and feeling and knowing – it will come from the whole being and will be self-validating. This is a tall order. But I think such a narrative will pass five tests which – in a mad world – I call SANER. So ask yourself these five questions about your own stories.

 

First, is your story Sincere? Does it come from the heart or is it merely manufactured in the head? Put negatively, are you trying to be a clever-clogs? Stories that speak from the heart are the ones that convince, persuade and ultimately lead people to buy into your product or your proposition.

 

Second, is your story Authentic? By which I mean, is it genuine, or is it, like the diamonds we discussed earlier, fake? An authentic story has what JB Phillips in another context called the ‘ring of truth’ about it and one surprising aspect of this is that it often seems incredible; but the very incredibleness of it testifies to its validity. As GK Chesterton put it: “The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to be credible”.

 

Third, is your story Noteworthy? And this means the opposite of trivial; but one point of clarification here might be: do not confuse ‘small’ with ‘trivial’ – sometimes the smallest incidents or effects can be hugely revealing in a story and add significantly to it.

 

Fourth, is your story Experiential? Another way of saying this might be: is it real, is it based on experience? The experiential quality of a story means more and more people can identify with it and identify with the mission. To my mind it is no accident that the greatest and most popular of all the Greek myths that have come down to is the one of Odysseus: he may not have been as great a hero as Herakles and Theseus, who were all demi-gods in fact, but that means his story is more human, more available to us, and so we identify with him. It is no accident that everyone’s journey is now termed an ‘odyssey’ after that great and experiential (if in places legendary!) story.

 

Finally, is your story Relevant? This is a key criterion for storytelling and it depends on our understanding the audience for whom we are telling the story. We may tell two very different stories, one for a business audience and one for our family and friends; each may be perfect for that audience, but completely inappropriate if told to the other audience. For this we need to develop empathy with people and with the ‘tribes’ we wish to persuade.

 

In business, then, or in life, how good are your stories and what do you need to do to find the real diamonds? Rest assured: we all have diamonds, but very few get to polish them to their true outstanding brightness.