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March 2012

Motivating our People

Aside from using my product, Motivational Maps, people ask me: how best do you motivate staff? In
short, what tips can you offer? This is great because in a way it’s an acknowledgement that motivation is really critically important even when leaders don’t always want to pay attention to it, or invest in it.

What, then, are the best management tips for motivating others? Here are a few pointers – but first
bear in mind that you want everybody in your organisation to be motivated because if they are, then a process of osmosis sets in, and everyone around feels it, wants it, and then credibility sets in and high energy is the order of the day.

Ten top tips then to use on a minute by minute basis.

Number 1: always be motivated yourself, and give the lead – it’s infectious. Do that corny but effective ritual first thing in the morning: look in the mirror and say, I feel great, I am full of energy, I am the conqueror. Tell yourself with conviction, then go out and live the dream.

Two: look for and find members of your team doing things right – catch them – praise them

Three: treat everybody with respect, which means – difficult lesson coming up – listen a lot. Yes, listen a lot, and stop the cackle.

Four: help your people learn – you know why you should be boss, but their view may be much more
limited – limited to: if he’s in charge then I get this job – widen their horizons! Increases in learning produce increases in self-esteem and performance.

Five: make them feel they belong – they are part of your exclusive club – avoid the sense of cabals and inner circles.

Six: stop micro-managing with central directives, give them more control, allow them to
do things their way.

Seven: acknowledge their ideas, publicly where possible, and reward achievement. Remember,
‘strokes’ are rewards too – see Nine.

Eight: give them a challenge – it’s challenging enough winning a contract – add to that in some way, and talk as if you know they can do it.

Nine: say thank you, and make strong eye contact when you do.

Ten: try to understand their motivations and feed them – review the above suggestions and work out which suit which individuals. Treat them personally.

Now with the above suggestions in your armoury – if you have time – go out and win that business.
Remember: feed the motivations of yourself, and your team.

Motivation and Hercule Poirot

Laughter, they say, is the best medicine; and I find in the last few months my tastes have changed considerably in terms of the kind of films I want to watch: much less action and more gentle humour and thoughtfulness.

I have discovered, to my surprise, the wonderful TV series of Hercule Poirot, starring David Suchet, fits the bill perfectly. Suchet is marvellous in the lead, the sets are great, the plots are usually convoluted and one has to try to exercise ‘the little grey cells’ to work out who is guilty, and there is
this overarching humour running through it all – the interaction between Poirot, Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon and Chief Inspector Japp. It’s easy viewing, certainly, but nonetheless enjoyable for that. I have not read the books yet, but I suspect I now may.

One element of the humour that regularly pops up in the film – a thread or element – is the mistaken belief, usually by the English, that the man they are dealing with is French; and this has always to be corrected by Poirot himself: he is of course Belgian. But why is this funny?#

In motivational theory Hertzburg came up with the idea of what he called hygiene factors in motivation. These were elements of work which whilst not necessarily motivating to anyone were necessary because their absence would de-motivate. For example, scarcely anybody would be motivated by a clean toilet at work, or would be motivated by good air-conditioning at work; however, take away these elements and one could be become seriously demotivated. Imagine going to work every day and the toilets were filthy, or going to work in offices where there is no air-conditioning and it is summer and 30 degrees outside!

This led me to reflect on the importance of the smallest detail in the creation of anything, if that something is to be successful. As Marcus Aurelius said, “the secret of all success lies in the organisation of the non-obvious”. Effectively, small details can act as hygiene factors which block success.

So back to Poirot, what is the hygiene factor? The brilliance of Agatha Christie’s creation is the fact that he is Belgian because it would never work – never work in England – if he were French! You could keep all the rest the same – the plots, the settings, the characters, the dialogue, the dress and so on - but the English could never accept or regard even as remotely credible a French detective advising – and outstripping, outperforming – our own Metropolitan Police Force. The idea is inconceivable. (As a sidebar on this matter in the real world: just recently David Cameron, our Prime Minister, faced insuperable obstacles in considering the American, Bill Bratton, for the post of Head of the
Metropolitan Police.)

This all goes back a thousand years to our love-hate (mostly hate) relationship withthe French – they are a ‘power’ (like the Americans now) and we do not wish to feel inferior to them. Curiously, Agatha Christie’s own creation was based on AEW Mason’s fictional detective, Inspector Hanaud of the Surete; but who remembers him now? No, he was French.

Belgium, on the other hand, doesn’t threaten our sense of self-esteem and self-importance at all. A small little country most English people now and then would be hard pressed to know much about. We did know back then – in the Twenties and Thirties – that the ‘awful’ Germans – another power - had invaded them and that we had saved them. We had gone to war to save the Belgians. What, then, if it produced one remarkable human being to whom we could express admiration and our thanks – for making England a safer place from murderers? Frankly, we like to patronise – we feel safe.

So hats off to Hercule Poirot – because he’s Belgian, and could be no other: that motivates us to love and accept, and to warmly invite him into our homes! It is just such a strange element of the story that makes this a multi-million pound success story. How motivating is that?

Being a Champion

It’s strange to say this; it is counter-intuitive. But I often now get asked: how did you cope with your illness? The assumption is always, how did you cope because it must have been awful? And in one and very true sense, this is correct: having had two major operations for bowel cancer and just survived them is awful. Yet, I have to correct people too: bizarrely, in another sense, it has been wonderful!

Of course, I am not wishing for my illness to return – far from it – and keep me as far from a hospital and doctors and nurses as it’s humanly possible to be. But I begin to see – to experience – the truth of that cliché about what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Or that we thrive in adversity. Or even more particularly, that somehow pain and suffering are at the root of becoming a great person – if we respond appropriately.

It comes back to the simple idea that when everything is going well it is easy to be a marvellous person. Why wouldn’t one? If one won every game one played, achieved every goal one set oneself, succeeded in every task and accomplishment that one encountered along life’s way, then why wouldn’t one have a perfect character and smile and be charming all the time? Yes, one might.

To be, however, a great champion in any field, then one must face giants of opposition, titans of antagonism, and real perils and risks.

One talks, for example, of Muhammed Ali being the greatest boxing champion of all time. Why, because he won the World title three times? Hardly, another may do that. No, because he beat other, real champions; because he faced men like Joe Frazier and George Foreman who were awesome opponents, and who, arguably, in any other age would have completely dominated that sport, but for the presence of Ali. The greatness of Ali was demonstrated in the size and power of the obstacles in front of him.

And to switch sports: Lance Armstrong did something similar in cycling, only here his most lethal opponent was cancer itself, which his brilliant book, It’s Not about the Bike, chronicles. We see side by side here the pain of the cancer and the pain of the training, and the overarching objective of one human being not to become a victim of circumstances.

Thus, the strangest thing emerges when we think about it: no-one likes pain and suffering, and many people want to blame God for it. But at some deep level pain and suffering do provide some sort of character-therapy for people that enables them to endure with triumph dreadful circumstances, and in some cases achieve remarkable victories against the odds, and against the conventional wisdom of what should prevail.

For myself, as I said before, I certainly do not want cancer back, and I am working to prevent that happening so far as that lies within my power. At the same time, I can see that the suffering I went through had some tremendous benefits: how I value every minute now, how I treasure my family and friends at an even deeper level now, and how I see the whole universe shot through with the spirit
of love that is not attenuated or diminished merely by pain – but through that pain can draw one ever closer to the Source – and that is to be a Champion.