Leader + Ship = Full Steam Ahead! Or?

But what about that crew. Is it full steam ahead for them too? How is leadership doing on the motivation front?

There’s a saying that goes: there’s an ass in every assumption. And I mean every assumption. And in particular, when it comes to assuming what motivates others. We tend to assume that what moves me, moves you too.

When it comes to leadership, I spend a substantial amount of my time on the assumptions front. Shining the light on expectations. Not that I’m perfect myself. But I’m aware of the pitfalls. And it certainly helps.

I worked with a client who was twelve months into their latest position. Captaining a well-established team. Both had proven track records. So proficiency was programmed. Or was it?

It was my client’s first 360° feedback report that uncovered discrepancies. And with my client’s high need for recognition, the feedback from his direct reports had hit a nerve. The word “demotivating“ surfaced frequently in the comments. My client was confused. Irritated. Even angry. How could this be?

So, I was called in to explore the issue. Motivation was put on the agenda. It was time to go fishing. Together.

I asked my client, how motivation was lived on board? With self-assurance a close companion, my client did not need to think twice. There were excellent instruments in place,“ they replied. “Tangible. Transparent. For all to see. The bonus system was one of the best in the industry.“

We reviewed the comments in the 360° feedback report in more detail. And very quickly a pattern emerged. “Feeling dissatisfied.“ “Missing a sense of challenge.“ “Feeling misunderstood.“ Such statements were not infrequent. Intrinsic motivation factors were apparently not on the radar. Anywhere.

Demotivation had arrived on deck. Unintended. And completely out of the blue. One key player had already abandoned ship.

So, when I asked my client “what’s one and one?“ The answer “two“ arrived. Like a shot out of a cannon ball. While I waited for the dust to fall, my client repeated the answer again. This time more forcefully. More explicitly. As if I had not heard their response the first time.

“One plus one equals two!“ they repeated

“Right! I responded. “But. Could you imagine“ I continued.

“Could you imagine that for some people: one and one is perceived as eleven?“ A pause.

And stretching my client’s imagination one step further, I shared that in certain situations “one plus one is even perceived as a friendly merger. Which then again for others – in the exact same situation – is perceived as a hostile takeover!“

Wisdom dawned on the horizon. My client left the session with plenty of fish for thought. And in our following session, they arrived with a new equation.

Extrinsic motivation + intrinsic motivation = everyone on board + full steam ahead.

And today? My client now has a picture of an Irish donkey on their desk. The domestic ass. A simple reminder. Assumptions have disappeared. Not only on the motivation front. But indeed on a number of fronts.

If both the captain and the crew share a common understanding. If they are on the same page. Motivation is a piece of cake. It’s confirmation. It’s reassuring. It’s the spur to move on.

If, however, they find themselves on different pages. Demotivation is unavoidable. Dressed at first as disorientation. Then confusion. Then frustration. At times even as resignation.

So, how are you doing on the motivation front? Have you got the equation right?

 photograph:  © sashkin / Fotolia.

By |2017-05-10T09:42:18-04:00March 16th, 2017|Motivation|0 Comments

About the Author:

Honor Cooper-Kovács, the owner of tackt, has over 30 years experience working with business executives in international companies across Europe. Honor’s focus lies in supporting leaders to build on strengths, capitalise on differences and foster collaboration. If this is your first visit to the Triggering Excellence in Leadership blog, make sure to get a free copy of my Core Article on the 5 Best Practices to Trigger Excellence in Leadership.