Reminding Clients...

Memory maze

I was reflecting recently on an experience I had some years ago with a client, and I realise that this experience is one that many of the coaches, consultants and trainers I know who work with their clients may also have had.

I had been working for eighteen months within this company, for a minimum of two days a month (with extra training sessions), essentially motivationally mapping each team in turn and then working as a coach with the team leader and then the team members themselves. It all seemed to me to be going swimmingly well, but one day, eighteen months into the programme – the CEO came in, was a little brusque with me, and when I asked why, replied that she was fed-up and things didn’t seem to be working out. A bad day in paradise, then? We all get them.  I realised, of course, it was not as simple as that. For one thing, whenever you have the ear and the confidence of a leader, politics kicks in and some subordinates don’t like it – and start briefing against you. Subtly, perhaps, but there it is; and so I knew I had to do something radical, immediate, if I were going to keep this contract.

What did I do? Well, for a start I also realised that even without being briefed against, there was a substantive danger anyway from what I call the Kanter Effect. Rosabeth Moss Kanter was a Harvard University business professor and author and she said: 'Everything looks like failure in the middle. In nearly every change project doubt is cast on the original vision because problems are mounting and the end is nowhere in sight'. ‘Everything looks like failure in the middle’ – whatever we are doing; in the middle we haven’t achieved our goal and will we ever? There is a tendency to give up and seek easier goals. Hence the need, as Dr Johnson observed over two centuries ago, for perseverance: ‘Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.’ And perseverance comes from determination, which as Abraham Lincoln noted: ‘Always bear in mind that your own determination to succeed is more important than any other one thing.’

Immediately I got home from my day at the company, I started work on the counter-offensive. Clearly, what I had achieved (with them) in eighteen months had been completely lost sight of by the CEO. Thus, I began to compile what I called the ‘Outstanding Outcomes’ list for her inspection. I identified 23 specific outcomes that were highly significant for the company, listed them, and sent them off in an email to the CEO. The heading was: 23 Outstanding Outcomes of Maps for ABC in 18 Months. The effect? Let me tell you after I list what the first 12 of the 23 outcomes were.

  1. CEO’s position and reputation at board level enhanced; pay substantially increased
  2. CEO’s recruitment skills enhanced through using Motivational Map technology – two senior positions filled, including successful appointment of her deputy
  3. CEO’s more effective time management, particularly more effective use of PA
  4. Work with PA to help her extend her range of capabilities for CEO
  5. CEO led to partake of an Institute of Directors’ Finance for non-specialists’ course, and so strengthen her understanding in this area, which she felt a weakness
  6. Introduce ‘Thinking Hats’ methodology to CEO and use with senior team to create a raft of new and positive ideas for company
  7. Help CEO and senior team refine and develop a new Vision and Mission Statements, especially including the role, importance and motivation of staff
  8. Overall motivational improvement for company; using Motivational Maps, score up across the whole company by 5.3% alongside a shift from ‘Defender’ to Searcher orientation – in other words, a more change pro-active staff, so less resistance to changes
  9. Work with deputy CEO (via her induction) on training programme for sales/customer care and introduce 3 new trainers to support developments
  10. Significant improvement in sales figures after coaching of head of sales
  11. Early warning system of staff problems or need to resolve staff problems: by querying a key senior manager’s 22% drop in Motivational Maps’ score which led to resolving a problem he had that would otherwise have been undetectable, and so led to his staying and not leaving the company; problems with one support team also identified and corrected
  12. Develop managers and team leaders use of various communication skills – ‘5 stage positive feedback process’ – to staff producing much improved relationship between managers and staff

I have avoided listing all 23 items because a. that might be tedious and b. because the last 11 items are very specific to members of staff rather than just the senior leadership and the bigger picture; but they are important – and they include, on the one hand, empowering and enabling one member of staff specifically with public speaking skills and, on the other, enabling the CEO to be sure that another member of staff needs to be relinquished because they simply will never fit.

The CEO didn’t reply to my email but I was in later that week anyway. So I walked into her office and said – her head was down and locked into a computer screen – ‘Did you get my email?’ She looked up – a kind of glazed expression came over her face.

‘What was I thinking?’ she said, and then grinned. I remained in the company working in exactly the same way for another 30 months (so 4 years in total), and left when the company was successfully bought out and new people – ‘who knew not me’ – took over. Pointing out what one has done – or helped them do – in a very direct and unequivocal fashion, certainly paid dividends for me. I really enjoyed my time there, and here’s the final kicker.

I myself was as surprised as the CEO was when push came to shove and the achievements were all listed there. When I’d gone home that night I’d felt short-changed, felt that my achievements and support had not been properly acknowledged, but it wasn’t until I actually came to go through my notes and files that I began to realise the extent of what I had helped the company do. I suspect that this is true of many coaches and consultant: we are so busy getting on with the next project that it is easy to lose sight of the chain of ones we have already accomplished. And, of course, this is so true of most coaches and consultants when we consider that their Motivational Maps’ profile tends to be Growth orientated: in other words, their motivators have a future orientation, certainly not a past one! Sometimes we go too far in the future and forget all about that fabulous past work that we really must let our clients know about. Does this apply to you?

James Sale’s latest book from Routledge is Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams

Expectation and Motivation


In this series of 4 articles, we’ve studied what the three elements of motivation are. In Part 2, we reviewed the element of personality. We established that it was relatively fixed, but since it only contributed somewhere between 20-30% of the motivational mix, then motivation itself was more fluid, more changeable than personality alone could account for. Also, we said that because personality was more or less innate, it had a ‘past’ perspective: it was a component of our motivation which came from our origins as a person as it were.

Then we looked at the second element of motivation, the self-concept, and we established that it was quite unlike our personality in that the latter tended to be fixed and stable over time, whereas our self-concept was more fluid and variable; indeed, we observed that our view of our Self depended on our beliefs, and these could change. Which meant our self-concept changed over time. The self-concept acted in the present tense, and was essentially determined by our beliefs about our Self.

Finally, then, we reach the third and final element of the motivation mix. And this is what we call our expectations. What are these? Our expectations are our beliefs about future outcomes – what we ‘expect’ to happen in fact. We base much of our life on expectations, though we don’t always think about it. But, for example, if we take a job we expect – our expectation is – to be paid in a timely and pre-agreed way. And if we think about it, if were not paid, we would find that extremely de-motivating. Equally, then, we are motivated to do things – more motivated to do things – when our expectation is that good outcomes will occur, for these are pleasing and satisfying to us. And it should be obvious that if personality has a ‘past’ dimension, the self-concept a ‘present’ orientation, then expectations most definitely relate to the future tense.

Before exploring this further, let us contrast our two variable elements of self-concept and expectations to get a sense of the difference and the similarity. If the expectations are our beliefs about future outcomes, then the self-concept, especially the self-image combined with the self-esteem, is our belief about our Self. Expectations, then, are beliefs mainly about results in the external world, whereas the self-image/esteem is a belief about our internal world, our Self. In essence, respectively, expectations and the self-image/esteem are beliefs directed outwardly and inwardly; beliefs affect our ‘given’ personality, and the beliefs determine all the outcomes of our life.

I think it is probably true that more people are inclined to develop (or not) their motivation via expectations rather than through developing their self-concept, although neither is a water-tight compartment. The reason for this is obvious: once our attention is drawn to it our beliefs about future outcomes seem much more clearly linked to our energy than what we may believe about our 'self', which might be considered wishy-washy or somewhat nebulous. (Of course nothing could actually be further from the truth).

So, for example, if we had the opportunity to apply for a very prestigious and well paid job, or to go on a date with an extremely attractive person, or to embark upon training for a major qualification, and we believed that the outcome of the job application, the date request, the likelihood of gaining the qualification was zero, how motivated would we be to start moving towards those desirable end results? Hardly at all for most people, and there would be every probability that we wouldn't even try.

At its extreme this opposite of positive expectation is called 'learned helplessness’ whereby the person expects nothing to turn out well, has no inclination to take control of their own life or to initiate action, and finally becomes co-dependent on others and/or entities (e.g. the State) in order to 'get by'. For these reasons even marketing clichés now advise: 'just do it', or 'can do', as a corrective to the lack of 'success' expectations.

As we have said, by its very nature expectation has a future orientation: in essence expectations are beliefs about the future. So, the dynamics of motivation in the psyche are past-present-future orientated. The native root or base is our personality, but how we see our Self, or what we believe about our Self interacts with the first root, as does our belief about future happenings and events. This, then, is a very dynamic model – any tool that could describe and measure motivation could only do so for an instant in time, because beliefs and so motivations will change over time. That said, of course, our core beliefs can be deeply entrenched and it is also possible for our motivational profile to stay stable over long periods.

To make this practical, consider this: We all have expectations for the future, negative or positive. What are your expectations for your future? Do you expect things to turn out well or badly for you? Consider your expectations in the three main areas of




Over the next three months or three years or thirty years ask yourself –

How will my relationships (R) turn out? Think family and friends and others

How will my career (A or Achievement) turn out? Think work and income and success

How will my personal development (G for Growth) progress? Think learning and qualifications and expertise

How do you think things will turn out for you? What beliefs do you think might cause you problems? What are you going to do about them?

Thus, the importance of expectations should be clear from this brief examination of what it really means. For more on unblocking false beliefs I strongly recommend you read chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Mapping Motivation for Coaching (James Sale and Bevis Moynan).

And also Mapping Motivation, chapter 2 (Mapping Motivation: Routledge 2016) provides much more on all three elements of motivation.

Finally, for more on success with teams, also see the latest booking the series, Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams.

Can how we see ourselves have an influence on what motivates us?

Frog reflection

We’ve been looking at what the three elements of motivation are. In Part 2 of this series, we considered the element of personality. We established that it was relatively fixed, but since it only contributed somewhere between 20-30% of the motivational mix, then motivation itself was more fluid, more changeable than personality alone could account for. Also, we said that because personality was more or less innate, it had a ‘past’ perspective: it was a component of our motivation which came from our origins as a person as it were.

Now we need to go forward to the present time, and here we find the element of the self-concept. Essentially, how we see ourselves has an inordinate influence on what motivates us. The self-concept is how we see and feel about ourselves; ultimately, what we believe about ourselves and who we are. The importance of beliefs cannot be overstated, for in its watered down version, as Henry Ford commented: ‘if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right’! In other words, thoughts and beliefs are often self-fulfilling prophecies: our own beliefs determine what will happen to us. Furthermore, they profoundly affect our motivations. The mere fact of believing one is an effective and efficacious human being means that one is far more likely to be energised at waking – that is, motivated – than if one thinks, ‘What’s the point? I never succeed’.

The famous psychologist Carl Rogers suggested that the self-concept had itself three distinct and distinctive components. They are the self-image, the self-esteem and the ideal self. You will notice that the three components also tend to have a primary tense within which they operate: the ideal self (who we want to be) is future orientated, the self-image (how we see our self now) is present tense, and the self-esteem (how much you like yourself) is past because it builds on all the feelings we have about our self. This does not detract from the central point I am making, for as I said about all three elements, they interact; and so within the self-concept there is a constant intermingling of the three components, and so change is possible. But what is critical here is understanding our self-image, or our view of ourselves at the critical moment we call ‘now’!

In my book, Mapping Motivation, chapter 2 (Mapping Motivation: Routledge 2016) I provide a number of examples of poor self-images which demotivate and drain us.

Figure 1: Poor Self-Images

Poor Self-Image

If we look at this cross-section of poor self-images we may notice two things. The first is that we probably know somebody, or knew somebody in the past, for whom the descriptor is particularly apt. Second, that when we think about it, such self-images must be de-motivating, not only on others, but on ourselves, because they require so much energy to maintain. Putting on a mask, albeit one we desire, necessitates we hold it up and wear it at all times; we are no longer operating from our natural or true self and this depletes us. Indeed, it hardens us – we ossify in some curious way that ultimately blocks our vital impulses, and these of course are responsible for our joie de vivre; for the satisfaction of deep motivators leads to joy, but if we have a false self-image we must, by definition, be attempting to satisfy motivators we don’t actually have! What could be more pointless? And yet, sadly, which is common practice.

Perhaps, looking at the list, we see some of the traits are more social – for example, ‘first to the bar’ – and others are highly prevalent in organisational contexts – for example, perfectionism. Keep in mind that every false self-image has a ‘pay-off’, that is, a purpose or gratification that the individual seeks to obtain. Perfectionism may have several: the false self-image that ‘I don’t or mustn’t make mistakes’, or ‘I have absolute standards’, or even ‘I work harder than anybody else’. These clearly are beliefs which are forming – or skewing - part of the core self-image and so affecting their motivational profile.

If we think about it, ‘dilute’ would perhaps be the best word for the effect of these false beliefs: for what is the motivator for desiring not to make a mistake? Expert – knowledge? Searcher – making a difference through unremitting accuracy? It certainly cannot be Creator, for all creativity involves mistakes along the way. Defender, then – double-checking that everything is ‘right’? Clearly, the belief in the false self-image isn’t a real motivator at all, and neither does it feed a motivator. It is like a parasite feeding off the central nervous system; and will certainly lead the perfectionist to burn-out, exhaustion, and possible collapse as the weight of the impossible gradually increases to breaking point.

For more on success with teams, also see my book, Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams (Routledge).