Tag Archives: Motivation

In Praise of Motivation.

A lot of pretentious nonsense is talked and written about “motivation” and there are many  motivational speakers who travel the world, giving strung-out executives a quick fix of “feelgood” which then dissipates just in time for a subsequent seminar and the next fix….and so on. It has become a huge industry but related more to entertainment than to personal development.

Whenever I train executives, the motivational advice which I give them is disarmingly simple but devastatingly effective. So for a moment let’s forget Maslow, Hertzberg and the rest of the showbiz that is  “The Motivation Industry”.

I learned this many years ago from an American called Tom Haggai. We met during one of his many motivational gigs and I do believe that he is still travelling and motivating…….and he is very good at it.

The advice is PRAISE YOUR STAFF.

Even when they screw up.

Tom said that he learned that simple lesson when his son came home from school with the MOST appalling grades on his report. In common with the vast majority of parents, Tom berated his son and told him that he was very disappointed in  him.

Several months later, his son came back with even worse grades and of course, Tom went through the same routine and really expressed his displeasure at the boy’s continued under-performance.

One day, Tom was talking to a friend about the problems he was having with his son’s terrible grades and how there didn’t seem to be a way to make him work. His friend listened carefully and said: ” You fly around the world motivating top executives and yet you can’t motivate your son? You just criticise him? You can’t motivate your OWN son!?”

Tom thought about this and the next time his son produced his report rather nervously, Tom looked at the grades which by this time were really shocking.

He smiled and said “ Well done, son. You have obviously tried your best. Well done! I’m very pleased and so should you be!”

The boy smiled and hugged his father.

It was not that reaction which surprised the father, but what his son said next: “Thanks, Dad…but I think I can do better.”

From then on, the boy knuckled down and never looked back. It was a miraculous turnaround! He believed that he could do better and he did do better!

If you’re a parent and your young child brings you a piece of paper dripping with paint and there’s water, paint and mess on the kitchen floor, on the table and on the child’s clothes, what do you say?

You look at the coloured chaos on the paper, you smile and you say “Wow…that’s fantastic. Well done! What is it? “

The child tells you that it’s a picture of you…………..but it’s what happens next that is interesting.

In ten minutes, there’s another dripping piece of paper in your hand. This time it’s a car or the cat…… and so on….and so on…….

Soon, you have enough pictures to paper the entire room – and they’re all the result of the child enjoying your praise and attention…..and wanting more.

So, if you want “your people” to over-perform, tell them that they’re GREAT…..and they will be!

There’s yet another related phenomenon which, when used properly and sincerely, is very powerful. The humble COMPLIMENT!

I bet that everyone reading this remembers most if not ALL of the compliments they’ve ever received – even the ones from childhood and I bet that occasionally, you “replay” them in your mind. Why? For TWO reasons. Firstly, we don’t compliment each other enough, so there’s a certain rarity value and secondly, it is the MOST intense psychological experience!

THAT is why you still remember the person who told you that your dress was nice when you were six!

Never forget the power of saying positive things to people.

Praise is the Motivation.

I published the story below about a year ago but make no apologies for repeating it:

Three eminent gentlemen were on the 18th green -just about to complete an afternoon  of golf. There was an eminent architect, an eminent surgeon and their Member of Parliament. The men were accompanied by their dogs.

The architect said to the other two, ” Watch this!” as he called his dog. ” Sliderule! Here boy! Sliderule! Go boy!”

Sliderule was a solid Black Labrador and he spent a few minutes rummaging in the undergrowth picking up sticks and within five minutes he had built a perfectly-stressed cantilevered bridge across the stream adjacent to the green. The surgeon and the MP were impressed.

Then the surgeon called his dog – an elegant Saluki. He commanded his own dog ” Scalpel! Here boy! Scalpel! Go boy!”

Scalpel also ran around and foraged in the undergrowth – occasionally he did a bit of digging  and within four minutes, he’d laid out a perfect facsimile of a human skeleton on the 18th green.

The others were even more impressed.

The politician then said “That’s nothing  – watch this.” He summoned his dog. ” Bullshit! Here boy! Bullshit! Go boy!”

Bullshit was a clapped out old Bulldog but he still had a few moves left.  On his master’s command, Bullshit ran around aimlessly for a bit. Then he knocked down the bridge, ate all the bones, fucked the other two dogs, pissed up the surgeon’s leg, had a half-hearted attempt at humping the architect’s leg, claimed some expenses and took the rest of the day off.

There is a serious point to the story:

We tend to think that the tools of the trade for a politician are just words and an ability to communicate.  However, recent events have clearly shown that nowadays, management ability and leadership skills are as important – especially motivational skills.

Our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown developed a reputation as a shockingly bad leader – so bad that his underlings were motivated by nothing more than fear.  It seems that Brown did not possess any motivational skills The usual motivators such as wanting to do a good job in order to be given the occasional crumb of praise or  pat on the back were totally absent.

Management by Praise is a simple technique which is not in any textbook because it has never had any formal acknowledgement yet it is THE SINGLE MOST POWERFUL  management tool available to any leader, manager or anyone in a relationship.

The simple fact is that we do not praise one another enough. Most of you reading this have had so few compliments during your life that you probably remember something complimentary that someone said to you 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Why? Because it was a monumentally exceptional event in you life.

Children should be constantly praised – even when they are screwing up.

A few years ago, I was telling a friend of mine how my young son was making absolutely no effort with his schoolwork and that after the last set of grades, I had grounded him and told him that he had to study at least an hour per day – even during his holidays. However, in spite of the draconian regime, his academic performance continued to  slide.

My friend said, “Richard, you fly all over the place, training executives, motivating salespeople, yet you cannot motivate your own son. Think about it. Why do you think that he isn’t performing.”

I have to admit that I was not sure but I decided to try an approach which at the time seemed totally counter-intuitive.

The next time my son came home with an end of term report, the grades and teacher’s comments were still appallingly bad. I read through the school report and as he was watching me reading, I could sense his tension. He was preparing himself for another onslaught and was probably wondering how else I was going to damage his already broken social life.

I closed his report , looked at him and said: “Well done son. You’ve obviously worked hard to improve. Let’s forget the teachers’ remarks. Carry on the good work.”

What was interesting was my son’s reaction. He said, “Thanks dad, but I think that I can do better.”

He’s just finishing his first year at University.

So if you’re a manager, husband, wife, parent or Prime Minister, compliment, praise and appreciate. That is how to motivate those around you to perform to their full potential.

A five year-old child will show you a painting which looks like an explosion in a paint factory. Nevertheless, you say “That’s fantastic! Well done!” What happens, next? Ten minutes later, you are presented with another painting, probably even more horrific than the first one. Why? The child wants and needs  another “Well done”.

A wife spends two hours getting ready to go out. She comes down the stairs and presents herself to her husband. She shouldn’t even have to say,  “How do I look? Do you think these shoes go with this skirt.”

By the same token, if you’re a wife or girlfriend, when was the last time you told your partner that they looked really good.

Someone you know writes a book, builds a wall or cooks something that they’re proud of  and says to you, ” Have a look at this. I’d really appreciate your opinion.” What does that tell you? Maybe it tells you several things. Firstly, they may be lacking attention , they are lonely, they feel unfulfilled or they need some sort of affirmation. Whatever it is, they have a need. They need some sort of  esteem   – probably because their own self-esteem is down.

“Esteem in the eyes of others” is what drives the majority of us.  Your bank account is below zero, you know that your wife or husband is cheating and you think that you may be alcoholic and you are desperately unhappy. Yet when someone asks you “How are things?” without hesitation, you reply  ” Great, fantastic. Never better.”

Why do we exaggerate our level of responsibility at work? Why do our houses need “kerb appeal”, Why do we want to change our car every year? Why do we lie about how successful we are? Why do we lie about the level of our academic achievement?

It is our need and craving to be admired  so that we can feed our egos. But we tend to forget that we are not the only ones who possess those motivators.

Take an interest and be positive about those around you.

When an office junior presents you with those presentation handouts, appreciate that fact that they completed the task so quickly and say, ” Thanks. My word that was quick! Well done.” The next time, you’ll receive the handouts even faster!

It’s not the money that people earn which is their primary motivator – it is acknowledgement and voiced appreciation that is their “turn-on”. Women leave their husbands because someone else shows interest and voices appreciation. Career people move on because their boss is an inwardly-focused moron.

Ronald Reagan is widely regarded as one of the best-ever Presidents. Why? because he delegated but also appreciated what his staff did – but more importantly, he told them so. Gordon Brown is widely regarded as a leadership failure. Why? Because he berated, insulted and did not have the strength of character to voice his appreciation – even if he felt it. That is why he is yesterday’s man.

The new British Government feels and sounds positive and therefore appears competent because it is making positive noises and appears inclusive. The old Churchillian trick  “We are in this together” still works. A government can compliment a nation and the nation will believe .

THAT is why the British people stand shoulder-to-shoulder in adversity. The Dunkirk Spirit will bring us through this crisis. The Brits are at their best when their backs are to the wall. Together we will show the world.

Are any of the sentences in the previous paragraph true? We don’t really know – but by God, we want to believe them. Each one is a compliment!

The Conservative-Liberal coalition will be applying this simple principle to us by the bucket-load in the months and years ahead. Today , the new Chancellor is asking us for our help. Now THAT’S a compliment.

The Management by Praise principle is simple:  “Tell  anyone that they are good and they WILL become good.  Tell someone something positive and they will BE positive. Ask someone for their opinion and you have a friend for life.”