Have you ever noticed that there are some folks who are so motivated, they speed around at Mach III with their hair on fire, embracing every opportunity, turning every stumbling block into stepping stones, and creating success wherever they go? And have you also noticed that there are other folks that you couldn’t pry off the couch with a crowbar, that you couldn’t motivate to move if their hair were on fire. What makes one person a dynamo and the other a dud?
We all know people that we feel we should counsel to slow down before they have a heart attack. And we all know people that we feel we should counsel to move a little more before they DO have a heart attack. What is the difference between these two people? Why is it that one can’t stop and one can’t get started?
I have spent most of my business and academic life at Mach III with my hair on fire. It has never felt like a conscious decision, as in “OK, let’s put it in high gear and move, Move, MOVE!”
Instead, I feel that whatever project I’m working on is so exciting, with so much to do and so little time to do it in…that sitting still and doing nothing is as uncomfortable as the sensation of “pins and needles” when a limb has fallen asleep.
For years, whether hiring and training employees or recruiting for network marketing companies, I tried to create motivated people. I figured that if people weren’t as motivated as I was, I could teach them to be; if I could just help them to see what I saw and help them to feel the same excitement and sense of urgency that I felt, they would understand what needed to be done, and they would enthusiastically roll up their sleeves and work tirelessly beside me.
If you’ve tried this approach and realized the futility of it, you’re probably chuckling at the memory or shaking your head in commiseration.
Finally, after years of what felt like banging my head against the wall, someone said to me, “If it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…it’s a duck.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“Well, it seems to me,” my mentor said, “that you’re trying to force square pegs into round holes. It’s not going to happen. You can’t make someone change from what they are into what you want them to be. If they’re going to change, they have to be the one to initiate the change.”
“I don’t want them to change,” I said. “They just need to see this the way that I do – when they do, they’ll be excited to jump in and get moving.”
My mentor barked a quick laugh. “You ARE trying to change them…into your own image, even. You want them to see the situation the way that you do, take responsibility for it the way that you do, produce results the way that you do…and it’s not going to happen. If you want motivated people, you’re going to have to go out and find them. You can’t MAKE them.”
That declaration stopped me in my tracks. Was it possible that I was trying to change folks into the type of employee, the type of marketer, the type of recruiter that I wanted them to be? What would happen if I looked for people who were as motivated as I was, instead? What if, by choosing to work with folks who were already motivated, I no longer had to spend my time trying to figure out how to motivate them? What could I accomplish then? What could WE accomplish?
That was a pivotal point for me…the understanding that I had to accept people where they stood; that I couldn’t motivate the unmotivated any more than I could teach a jerk to be nice! If I wanted to work with nice people, I had to hire nice people; if I wanted to work with dedicated people, I had to hire dedicated people; if I wanted to work with motivated people, I had to hire motivated people. I couldn’t teach anyone to be something they weren’t; I couldn’t initiate change in someone else, only in myself.
So, if you find yourself looking at your team or your staff and wondering how to motivate them, consider instead whether they are motivated people to begin with. Motivating the unmotivated is impossible.
Learn to recognize the qualities that you want in a team mate or an employee and recruit or hire with that filter in place. Understand that you cannot change someone into what you want them to be. But you can increase your chances for success by actively seeking alliances with folks who already possess the qualities you desire.