Motivation myths – part 1

Dan at Leadership Freak had a recent post on De-motivation – I thought it was a great mirror to hold up.

Shall I or shan't I?
We pay a lot of attention to what we ought to do to motivate those around us, but very little to how we get it wrong.

My first coach talked of the emotional bank account: you can make 100 fantastic deposits and then make one (small) withdrawal and it’s all back to zero. It is so very true.

An amended version of the list of de-motivators from Dan’s blog can be downloaded here. I made it separate as it speaks for itself and I wish to build on the concept.

Firstly many of us have a slightly distorted view of what is required to motivate. I hope to dispel some myths with over the next two posts.

Myth one: Treat others as you would like to be treated

To put it simply: we have a world full of stamp collectors and motorbike racers, in-between is everything you can imagine. Do you really think the same thing will satisfy them all?

I sit with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Karl Pooper, Immanuel Kant on this one. The trick is to treat others as they wish to be treated, their habit’s, behaviours, tastes and preferences will be different to yours, so it follows that what motivates them will be just a bit different too.

As a leader you need to take the initiative to try to understand who you are working with.

Myth two: Stretch targets give you stretch

I’m either motivated or not. If I set the target myself I’m more likely to get there, because I know and understand myself better than most.
[pullquote]What you need to do is motivate them to then achieve stretch.
You will never stretch them to motivation![/pullquote]
Managers often fall into the trap of setting goals too big or too far away for their team.

What you need to do is motivate them to then achieve stretch. You will never stretch them to motivation!

The best targets are ones which are knocked off and replaced by new and different challenges at appropriate intervals. For some this means daily, for others weekly, a few can go 3 or 4 months and the exceptions longer.

Those who achieve bigger goals further out simply reflects that they have the capacity to set and achieve all the small goals in-between by themselves.

Smaller goals in shorter timeframes don’t deliver lesser overall outcomes, and don’t require more management; big goals with nothing in between lead you to that trap.

Stretch follows motivation, if you are not getting stretch you simply are not ‘motivating’ the person in the right way or often enough. Or you may be de-motivating them by having them feel overwhelmed by the unobtainable or micro-managing or any of the other things on the document I have attached.

Tomorrow : Part 2 – Myth 3 – It’s about the money, and Myth 4 – It’s not about the money!

13 Replies to “Motivation myths – part 1”

  1. Motivation is beyond treatment and target.Itis a impulsive force to get what we like and we are capable to achieve that. If things are not achievable, they can no longer motivate. Transparency is the greatest motivator because you know that eveything will be treated fairly and no backbiting, backstabbing or politics will take place. Today, these things exist mostly in theory and rarely in practice. So, culture creates trasparency and it creates motivation.The other thing about motivation is that intrinsic reward encourages motivation and extrinsic reward encourage motivation for short time.

    1. Thank you Ajay for this great addition. Transperancy is critical and I had not thought of it as a pre-cursor to motivation. I’m really enjoying your insights. Warm best wishes, Richard

  2. Motivation – purpose, drive. Those two dictionary descriptors give us a clue.One comes before the other.Purpose…then drive. Purpose is directly connected to identity. When an individuals identity lines up with their environment life comes together in meaningful pursuit.Motivation isn’t far away…sadly,this is where it usually takes a detour.When identity is compromised the opposite occurs.It’s the old “do what you love” cliche!

    1. Thanks Jim , and I know for you “doing what you love” is what you do and it is very inspiring to others. cheers Richard

  3. Thanks Richard for this blog.

    It covers important topics and I like the way you point out the key deviation to the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as they would like you to do”.

    Jim’s comment on purpose is particularly poignant. Though I do wonder if purpose can be a bit of an amorphous beast on occasions, and sometimes better recognised as a retrospective understanding of actions. A little bit of “I am because of what I have done, now knowing that, what fits next or what no longer fits.”

    1. Hi Grant and welcome – i thought I had responded but it has vanished! I agree some, me included, take longer to find our prupose others almost seem to have it fall in thier lap. i think an obstacle for me has always being loving ‘too many things’ and not being prepared to choose. Looking forward to hearing more from you. Best regards Richard

  4. Richard,

    Thanks for your great work and insight into motivation. Additionally, thanks for compiling the list of de-motivators. You consistently add value to those interested in enhancing their leadership skills.

    I’ll add that vision and progress are my own most potent motivators.

    Best to you,

    Leadership Freak

    Dan Rockwell

    1. Thanks Dan for your kind words and generous link back to this post. I’ve actually exceed my word limit on both this post and the one tonight and found it very hard to contain myself to not go further. Progress – that is a great point, I think is what i call the trigger point for the ‘virtuous cycle’ – we do something, we get a result, we do something because we got that result, we get another result etc. etc. Always great to have your company.
      Kind wish
      Richard C.

  5. Great article and very true. Motivation is often sold as some cookie cutter mindset that we should all follow. Which in itself can defeat a person if they feel they don’t live within those means. I personally motivated by things that are attainable, and spend little time dreaming “large”, although the smaller attainable steps along the way build toward the bigger picture.

    1. Thank you for joining us Elliot. I must look out for the ‘cookie cutter’ wielding managers! I appreciate your sharing how you are motivated. Best regards Richard.

      Elliot is from Toronto Canada and has his own Coaching business and blog/website at

  6. I really enjoyed your post and when I considering it from a psychological background I think its important to differentiate between internal and external motivation.
    External motivators are easy and are most frequently used by companies. These can include money, recognition, promotions, etc… I’ve found internal motivators are the ones most managers miss, because it takes longer to get to know someone and understand what drives them and/or gives them purpose. As you mention if you haven’t tapped into someone’s interest any goals that are set won’t be met. By understanding what is considered a de-motivator, as you outline in your article it gives managers a foundation to start their search on what they should do to understand their employees individual needs and interests.
    Again, really enjoyed your blog! Thanks.

    1. Thank you Michelle for joining us and your kind words and insights. Your comment made me think – how did money originate? – it was as a means of trade or exchange – it placed a value on an object or service not on a ‘person’ – yet often organisations think money itself is sufficient recognition of the person. Look forward to your further comments. Kind wish, Richard

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