Lead, Don’t Push: Flicking the Self-Motivation Switch

[3-Minute Read + Video] Discover how to stoke the fire within your team by understanding what drives them, rather than just pushing them towards a target.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

Lead, Don’t Push: Flicking the Self-Motivation Switch

Discover how to stoke the fire within your team by understanding what drives them, rather than just pushing them towards a target.

This week, I’ve had a series of conversations about team engagement, targets, and sagging motivation.

“I’m constantly pushing people to get work done. I’m exhausted already, and it’s only April, ” one weary business owner said.

I’m sure you can empathise with how they are feeling. It can happen with your work team, community group or kids. You feel like you’re herding cats or pushing so hard that your energy reserves drain away.

Your job is to entice, not push.

The business owner asked me for my opinion on their situation. Here’s my response.

As a leader, it’s not your job to “push” people into doing something or do it for them. You need to get out in front and entice them toward an outcome by building the honey pot—they will swarm to it. Your job as a leader is to generate psychological pull.

If you have to push people to get work done, their motivation will go through peaks and troughs.

Support to be self-motivated rather than relying on you.

While numbers, dates, and clear expectations serve as the skeleton of your desired outcomes, the lifeblood that drives people towards achieving these goals is intrinsic motivation.

[More on this principle in Beyond SMART: Set Goals That Sustain Your Motivation]

People work passionately and often obsessively when an outcome aligns with their interests and values. Their inner desires will outperform any other form of motivation you can offer.

For example, consider the upcoming project deadline. You mentioned that it has taken longer than expected due to complications induced by the client, and everyone is feeling drained. A few key people have gone missing in action.

How did you set the project plan? As an outstanding organiser, I imagine you had a spreadsheet or something similar with dates, tasks, and accountabilities.

Structure is important so everyone knows what to do and where they’re going, but more is needed to motivate people to get work done.

The motivation to achieve over a long-haul project has to come from within the individual. This is especially true when your situation demands adaptability, creativity and a calm mind.

It can be tempting to think that a couple of days away from the project will help recharge their batteries and get them back on track. You’ll see a temporary uplift in engagement, but it won’t stop the energy drain. The status quo will soon return.

Intrinsic motivation is the answer to your problem.

Here are your next steps.

Get the team together and have an honest conversation about the status quo.

Begin by recapping the project’s objectives, planned outcomes, key points of progress and success to date, and threats that could derail its completion.

Use that to lead into what success means on a human level.

Here’s what you might say.

We’re excited to hand this project to the client next month, but success means more than simply ticking boxes. From the beginning, we’ve seen this project as a growth opportunity. It allowed everyone to use skills they had wanted to develop for some time.

Jan, you have done an incredible job managing the project and keeping everyone in the loop. You took on more responsibility than ever before and rose to the occasion.

Bill, your design work has been next-level. When the client made all those changes at the last minute, you faced the challenge and found a solution.

[Keep going around the team]

We have four weeks remaining to complete this project. What would you personally like to get out of those four weeks?

Think about when we are at the after party on the 30th of next month. We will all be enjoying the celebration. Imagine also feeling the fulfilment and satisfaction of your personal achievements. What will those achievements be?

If the team seems hesitant to share, you should go first. Say what you personally would like to achieve—not for the company or client but for your own satisfaction and fulfilment.

[More on this technique in Praise Alone Won’t Fix Their Fear of Failure]

Remember to create memorable moments.

Intrinsic motivation is the driving force behind our desire to achieve. It taps into a deep-seated need for self-expression and recognition, which external rewards can’t satisfy alone.

So, the next time you’re setting targets, remember that numbers and dates, while necessary, are just a part of the story. The true motivation lies in the sensations we associate with achieving them.

Instead of focusing on tasks, let’s strive for the emotions that await us at the finish line. With this simple change in perspective, we can unlock a reservoir of motivation that ensures success with many memorable experiences along the way.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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