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August 2008

July 2008


When Play Becomes Work

A fascinating article by Shankar Vedantam in the Washington Post (28/7/08) -

- makes the point that rewards and punishments have replaced people’s intrinsic motivations; correspondingly, the effect has been counterproductive: namely, people become less motivated as a result of these rewards and punishments.

The article concludes that people (employers, parents, and just about everybody else) employ rewards and punishments liberally because … "People like it because it is easy, Deci said. It is easy to offer a reward, but it is not easy to help people find their own motivation."

This seems to me a profound observation and one that is at the root of so much management malaise: one size fits all. So we have cultures that major on rewarding by money or by status, or alternatively gain acquiescence through fear of punishment. The basic and possibly unexamined assumption must be that anyone joining such an organisation or culture seeks precisely that carrot or stick option to maintain their motivation. The reality of course – in terms of outcomes – is very different.

The truth is: motivation is like a language – if you go to


the best way of getting on with the French is to speak their language. And they are not alone – the Spanish like Spanish, the Welsh like Welsh, and every culture prefers its own dialect. Alas, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ English speakers are notorious for expecting every tribe on Earth to speak English, and perhaps this attitude infects their management styles too.

Therefore, the real question is: how do we discover what motivates each individual? One way would be to listen to the flatulent harpings on of managers who’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and will tell you unequivocally: they know their people. Interestingly, over 90% of these same managers fail to actually predict their own top three motivators! Equally, parents claim the same about their kids – we know what motivates our children! But you wouldn’t think so, would you, when you speak to those same employees and kids once they have left the influence zone?

Just as we have a language(s) to measure personality, we need a language and a metric to measure motivation, so that managers and parents need no longer guess. Such a language has been created – Motivational Maps® - and a short, condensed, inexpensive version of it is available as the Personal Motivational Profile:

This will tell you or anybody else what your top 3 motivators are (the full Map will list 9 in order of priority, and give a percentage motivational score). But here’s the thing that’s really interesting in the light of Deci’s comments: motivation isn’t easy. For one thing, it changes over time, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. This means that unlike personality profiles, which tend to be constant, motivation needs to be monitored.

If before we said it was like a language, now we claim it is like a muscle: you exercise it and it can grow and change. Of course, exercise can be hard work – and we all want to avoid that. It is enough for most of us that we are focused on organisational goals; the idea that we have to discover and speak the appropriate motivational ‘language’ for all our colleagues is too exhausting to contemplate. We pay them enough, don’t we?

However, for those who wish to be really effective, as well as gifted communicators, this is the route to go down – the new route – the route that a new language of motivation opens up.

James Sale


I have recently become involved in an educational debate within the RSA. Education is a pretty important subject one might think, although one could be excused for agreeing with GK Chesterton’s observation: "The chief thing about the subject of education is that it is not a subject at all. There is no such thing as education. The thing is merely a loose phrase for the passing on to others of whatever truth or virtue we happen to have ourselves". One could be excused, perhaps, precisely because education has become just such a football that is passed on – the inanities that governments, authorities and, yes, schools get away with in the name of education (education, education… blah, blah) are truly mind-numbing.

Chesterton went on to observe: "It is typical of our time that the more doubtful we are about the value of philosophy, the more certain we are about the value of education. That is to say, the more doubtful we are about whether we have any truth, the more certain we are (apparently) that we can teach it to children."

As appalling as exam boards are in their failure to deliver results on time, the bigger issue is: what exactly is the purpose of education? If we go back to the etymology of the word, it means to lead. Leading implies guidance and motivation, two powerful ideas.

For me the purpose of education is to enable the learner to discover (through guidance and motivation) who they were born to be in order that in knowing who they are they can do what they were born to do.

Objectives that follow from this include:

          To enable the learner to be able to manage their self successfully (so they can enjoy life)

                   - physically

                   - emotionally

                   - intellectually - including, to be self-aware

                   - artistically and creatively - to be able to express their self

                   - spiritually

          To enable the learner to be able to operate interpersonal relationships successfully


          To enable the learner to be able to handle, understand, use and save money

In short I want an education which goes to the root of being and in doing so becomes entirely practical. To go to the root of being is a process of discovery that no National Curriculum is ever going to get remotely near.

And, if we are going to be prescriptive and limiting, at least make the prescriptions useful: e.g. every child should be taught to meditate for 15 minutes a day and should experience diaphragmatic breathing as core! This would be far more useful than most of the atomistic and fragmented information parading as essential knowledge.

What do you think the purpose of education is?



I have just come back from


with a typical motivational problem that always seems to occur. Perhaps other motivational experts can help me with it.

The situation was that I was prosecuting a case before a Sports Tribunal. An incident occurred a year ago in a sporting competition. My son, Joe, encountered some abuse, as did I, and it had taken a full year and a lot of pressure to get the case to be held. A first rate barrister was questioning me about my motives for so relentlessly pursuing the case. Naturally, I gave my reasons, and then it happened: he smiled and said something like, ‘I see Mr Sale – but doesn’t it seem a little ironic when I look down and see all your emails emanating from an email address with the word ‘motivational’ in it?’ Hmm.

Some years back I remember being at a network meeting and being asked what company I represented, and I said, ‘Motivational Maps Ltd’. To which the response was: ‘Oh, Ra-Ra’. Some of you may remember the very first episode of Black Adder when Peter Cook (as King Richard) looks down the table and waves at Rowan Atkinson in a friendly fashion, hissing the while, ‘The little turd’. I get that feeling sometimes!

There seems to be two implications about anybody who publically states they are in the motivation business: one, is that therefore you are not allowed to prosecute bad behaviour or challenge anybody because that is inconsistent with your motivational value. Two, anyone engaged in motivational matters is some sort of fairy who winds people up only to disappoint – sort of selling beer which ultimately proves to be 100% froth.

The truth is – which I am sure is true for anybody seriously engaged with motivational development – motivation has its own language and its own science. Although it may appear ‘soft’, once understood it’s as hard as any other ‘number’. It may be easier to read the Profit and Loss account to discover whether your business is making progress, but sure as eggs is eggs, reading the motivational quotient of your staff is going to reveal whether you are in business for the long haul.

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me to mentor their son who was having problems being successful in his new job: cold calling in an insurance call centre. He informed me that of the 25 staff that joined 6 weeks ago, he was one of only six left. Now there’s a company thinking it’s being clever; OK when times when any fool can make money – but in this economic environment, I predict they will go to the wall. All the metrics in the world are not going to save them from one hard fact: staff are totally de-motivated and they don’t care.

So, advice please: best reply to, “Aren’t you supposed to be motivating?” and “Oh, Ra-Ra”.



Help - I have just had a fantastic week BUT ... I now need motivation to write this blog. Why is this? I should be able to do it: I am a published author - and my friend, the Great Neil Moodley, tells me I should do it. The Great Mooders has even pointed me to a wonderful blog that tells me how to do it - - read that, very good. And yet ...
This technology in this modern world - how do I get motivated? I am the Creative Director of two companies, Motivational Maps Ltd and Motivational Mentoring Ltd, so motivation should not be that difficult. Perhaps I need to go back to the basics of what we believe motivation is, and ask you whether you agree.
My take is this: motivation comes from three major sources within us. First, there is a sort of historical or genetic component of motivation that we understand or classify as our personality. Different personalities are motivated differently - no revelation there; and when we break the personality down to the four major types that underpin most systems we find there is a specific motivation at the heart of each one.
One take on this would be: four motivations - control, recognition, belonging, and accuracy. Not much to change since personality tends to stay the constant, but then again if I focus on my profile and consider 'recognition' is what my type wants, then may be if this blog could achieve that I would feel more motivated to do it.
Second, in driving motivation, is our self-concept. This has three components including self esteem, self image and the ideal self. Fundamentally, how we think and feel about ourselves either produces or stifles our energy and desire to do anything. What am I thinking and feeling about blogging? Fear - new technology - what fear? That I cannot handle it in the way I handle a book? Is that it?
Finally, third, is expectations: what I believe about future outcomes. of course, if I believe that blogging is going to create a wonderful result for me, then my motivation increases. So, my best bet might be to do my searches on line, and find excellent examples of those people who have blogged and got results. This would encourage me to blog - to write this blog now. Are there such examples?
Who then has achieved recognition and other good outcomes from blogging and gone on to be even more motivated to blog? Let me have your stories please, so that I can continue - motivated!
May the One be with you. Speak next time.