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The Midweek Motivator – Motivational Myths

We’ll likely hear the word “motivation” at least a hundred times this year. It’s among the most misapplied words and one of the most inaccurate concepts found in the lexicon of leadership. So, offered here, the following thoughts as we consider our “Five Biggest Myths of Motivation.”

“Some people are inherently lazy; they just need an occasional kick in the butt” Whatever the barrier, it’s almost never “laziness” under the traditional definition. People are inherently uncertain, but lack the confidence to confess it. Depending on one’s “social style” and career experience, most of us are malleable; open to coaching and direction leading to our growth.

“Money does the trick; it’s the quickest way to stimulate someone” Wrong. A stack of studies prove (especially for Gen-Y and Millennials) “money” is not only subordinated on a person’s motivational index, it’s also a short-term incentive. If cash was the universal motivator every seller would be Tony Robbins or Zig Ziglar. In fact, money ranks several rungs down the motivational ladder.

“Certain types of people are just naturally motivated” This “special genetics” theory gets us into rocks and shoals. If true, would that mean the iconic General Patton was “born with it” while Admiral Nimitz wasn’t? Would it prove John Kennedy “had it” but Lincoln didn’t? After all, those historic American heroes were style-opposites! The “born with it” rationale is easy to toss around when explaining someone’s accomplishments, but impossible to validate and misses the truth.

“I have to acquire the power to motivate people” Sometimes when thrust into a leadership position, we falsely believe we must suddenly become endowed with the gift of leadership in order to inspire our staff. The truth is we can only participate in someone’s growth by taking time to learn their history and core skills then gain understanding of their strengths and weaknesses which can be shaped into success as they define it.

“Sometimes a little intimidation does the trick” The time-honored break room memo: “firings will continue unless morale improves!” Completely ineffective and wasted effort; instead this form of “motivation” ensures your organization will never achieve a lasting core covenant, not to mention losing personnel before we begin to know their true potential! People usually don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.

For every Norman Schwarzkoph, there’s a David Petraeus (both were superb Gulf War commanders). There’s no best place to be…except being yourself! When a boss or department head is flamboyant it may simply define their most natural style; or, it may mean they’re playing a necessary role because it yields results.

Businesses don’t compete, people do. The study of motivation is a complex subject, pondered through the ages from the Greeks to America’s service academies. Becoming a stronger motivator necessarily requires shedding unproductive beliefs and habits, while embracing Webster’s definition: “the condition of being stimulated.”