The Art of Motivating Others

So you want to lose weight, become a rock star or reach out for that job promotion. Possessing a desire to make a change or better oneself is truly a great thing and I admire people that wish to make a difference to their lives.

My friend Sophie said to me the other day, “I want to be fit and healthy by the end of the year, no more procrastination!” “That’s great” I told her, “It will take a lot of hard work, dedication and effort but I know you can achieve your goal”. I then offer some inspirational words of encouragement coupled with some good advice including the importance of an effective plan and how to remain focused without that dreaded ‘P’ word ever rearing its ugly head again. A few weeks later and nothing much has changed in Sophie’s life; those words that you don’t really want to hear, “haven’t had the time”, “too busy at work” or “I don’t feel like I have the energy”. No soon as I try and gently persuade her that it will take a lot of hard work and a change of attitude, I’m greeted with a certain amount of hostility. From my own experience of a dip in self-esteem yet managing to pull myself back out, I know that I can help her. I can see where she is going wrong and it almost frustrates me that I cannot do anything in my power to motivate her. One of the ‘golden’ rules is that if you try and force someone to do something, they won’t do it – it will have an adverse effect; human nature wins again, in this case Sophie. I want her to be a true winner though so there must a more effective way to change the situation in order to create a positive outcome. I don’t have a problem in motivating myself mostly due to a shift in attitude and self-belief but trying to motivate others is an entirely different ball game. Now that takes a fair amount of match play; forget the scores, it’s more of an art form.

You only have to look back in history to see that people can be motivated by others, look at great leaders such as Martin Luther King, the campaigner for civil rights who captured a nation with his ‘I have a dream’ public address or Sir Winston Churchill one of the greatest war time leaders whose famous quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep going” kept the British public on their toes and inspired a generation to carry on whilst in the face of the enemy. New paragraph Fast forward to more recent times and motivational speaking still prevails and continues to work its magic. American self-help author and speaker Tony Robbins can claim to have helped thousands if not millions of people all over the world change their lives for the better whilst Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People has motivated people both personally and in business (there has been a copy seen recently in my office). It can be said that a real leader has the ability and even duty to motivate others.

So what is a leader and what makes a great one? A leader is someone who is both respected and admired by all; they set high standards for themselves and have strong sense of their goals and moral values. They have a desire to achieve greatness and invest much of their time on improving themselves and growing as a person, eager to take on new experiences and learn as much as they can about the world around them. In doing so, they become a role model which serves as inspiration for other people to aspire too but not necessarily copy. A true leader must exude confidence, positivity and be a good communicator. They must be able to inspire and have the ability to see things from another person’s perspective, in the other words display empathy to an individual. They must look at the individual as unique and not just as an ‘average Joe’. There is no one on the planet like them and they have their own special personality and potential to be great in anything they do. Indeed, to quote Tony Robbins “a true leader is someone who inspires others to become more of who they truly are.”

So before trying to motivate others, there must be certainty that you are capable of motivating yourself and endeavouring to reach your full potential. Once this has been achieved, only then can one try to help out those in need. After all, you’ve have now lived through the experience and can proudly say how it helped. It makes the whole idea seem that more convincing and sincere; there is also the ability to empathise with the particular individual knowing you have been in those shoes at some point in your life. The fact is, the person you are trying to motivate will take more notice if they can see you‘ve suffered your own inner battles too; it makes them feel better about themselves and more at ease knowing they are not the only people who have had personal issues. One space after a full stop You have to genuinely care for that person’s needs; you want them to reach their goals and realise their own full potential but it is also important to be aware of their limitations and the fact their mind does not work in the same way as yours. This very fact can lead to frustration and disappointment; it can feel like you are not getting anywhere no matter how hard you are try; look at it as a labour of love.

The first thing to do which may seem obvious is to not to pressurise or show signs of impatience to an individual. This will only drive someone away as will shouting at them just like a sergeant major. As stated previously, everyone thinks differently and will make decisions and take relevant actions depending on their core values and past experiences. Every human being has basic needs which need to be met so a key ingredient in motivating someone is trying to understand an unmet need and knowing what he or she really craves for. If they have something already (such as a large house) of course they are not going to be motivated to buy another large property but if there is an incentive to own an island in paradise then perhaps the motivation will be slightly greater. It’s important to realise that this can apply to anything, not just material possessions; for example it could be love, to have more responsibility or do something wonderful for another person or charity. It’s also important to display strong leadership characteristics as stated previous, you need to show enthusiasm and be clear about what can be achieved, remember your own habits and personality can be infectious so make sure you utilise these in a positive way. You have to be concise in your intentions. Let them know what will happen to them if they follow your lead; ensure that they understand the outcomes and any drawbacks if they decide to take action, you’ll also need to visualise a positive outcome in their minds with a clear game plan of how to get there.

You were given two ears for a reason, so use them effectively. In order to motivate, you must be able to listen to other people’s viewpoints and be willing to hear a certain amount of negative feedback or other such self-defeating comments. It’s imperative that you try and counteract any such feedback by challenging their thought process in a positive way and make them realise that they are unique, talented and truly capable of achieving their dreams. Treat people kindly and with respect. Anyone who has read the classic American self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie will know that in order to get along with others, they must first be made to feel important and appreciated. This can be demonstrated when a delegation of responsibility is given. When a person has a certain amount of responsibility, it makes them feel valued. It can be a great confidence booster because it enables an unused skill or talent which may be lying dormant to be brought to the surface. This recognition can work wonders for self-image whilst instilling pride, enthusiasm and general wellbeing in a person. The individual undertaking of responsibility is important because amongst a larger group of people one may feel their input is not so critical and there is an internal battle to be heard; there is also the sense of being held accountable for success or indeed failure.

Lastly there is the importance of goal setting. This is one of the prime drivers for keeping people motivated. Another excellent self-help book entitled Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz suggests that human beings are by their very nature designed to have a life purpose and goals to strive for; he calls it the ‘art of living creatively’. We are creatures of habit however, prone to procrastination and putting up self-limiting barriers in our minds. Setting a goal for a person gives them a clear vision of where they want to be and what they would like to achieve, the path toward it suddenly becomes walkable whilst at the same time eradicating any of these bad habits. Try to imagine a missile flying along its trajectory. Without a goal or target to reach, it will just fly around aimlessly without any idea of heading. Once a target is set however, it will fly toward ‘the goal’. It will also need to be steered in the right direction in order to reach it and. this this where an effective plan is put in place of how it will reach the target. This concept can be applied in the human sense.

Motivating people is not easy, it was never meant to be. Human emotions are deep and complex. In order to succeed there must be a healthy balance of gentle persuasion, encouragement, patience and positive feedback. You have to really believe in people, recognise their abilities and able pick up on their capabilities. Accept they are not perfect and that they are also flawed just as you are. They may take some time to follow up on your advice and suggestions but allow them the space and time to do so; everyone grows at different times in life.

My friend Sophie is now firmly rooted on the path to her goal although it took a while for her to do so. Her mission – one she chose to accept, was to be fit and healthy by the end of the year. I have given her all the encouragement, advice and resources she needs to achieve that mission. I have listened to what she had to say; the good and the bad. We soul searched in order to discover out what she really wants out of life, what she could get out of life and her deep rooted needs and desires. I have listened to her excuses and reasons not to do certain things. I know from my own experience that a change of mind-set is something that takes time; small baby steps are normally the way forward. We drafted a plan on how she was going to achieve her goal and the time to accomplish it. Finally, after taking things at her chosen pace, she took action and in my opinion the latter speaks louder than words. The real motivation starts when you finally begin to see the results. After a while I could see a change in Sophie, she became more driven and happy in herself. There was no longer the need for me to keep a track of her progress; she had now visualised her goal to be more real and within her grasp. I believed in her just as I hoped she believed in me. It’s this belief and being able to see unlimited potential in another person that can take them off a beaten track to a motorway of success.

© 2014 Pete Rann