Traditionally it was thought that there were three key prerequisites for success: IQ, qualifications and work experience. Decades of research has shown that neither of these is essential. These factors might get you through the door but they won’t take you up the ladder. They are not always necessary to get you through the door. Take qualifications, the world is run by drop-outs. Bill Gates of Microsoft, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Steve Jobs of Apple are all university drop-outs. Then there’s Richard Branson of Virgin, he’s not a drop-out, he never got to University to drop-out! More than half the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies don’t have a higher qualification, many of them don’t have an exceptional IQ and they often arrive from the outside with no experience of that particular company or even industry.
Research into success at Harvard university by Doctor Albert Rhotenburg set out to find the star performers not just in business but also in sport, art and science. Rhotenburg checked IQ, qualifications, experience race, culture, inheritance and social background. The only factor found present in the star performers in all these diverse fields was motivation. This doesn’t mean that motivation is enough it does mean that it’s essential.
OK what is motivation? Dictionary definition: Motivation is an emotion that produces action. Emotion comes from the Latin, ‘movere’, meaning: ‘to move’. If you’ve got no emotion, you’ve got no motion, you’re not going anywhere. The problem with motivation is that its like a hot bath, it goes cold quickly. I’m sometimes called a motivational speaker but if all I do is motivate my audiences for five minutes, that’s not worth very much. The key is self-motivation, can you motivate yourself when you’re not feeling so motivated? To do that you need to understand what motivates you.
Human beings are motivated by one of only two things. There are only two reasons that you will do anything and only two ways you will be able to get anyone else to do anything: pain and pleasure. We are motivated to reduce pain and increase pleasure. If you want to lose weight the reasons may be to avoid that feeling of sluggishness and low energy, and perhaps a heart attack, in a word, pain. Other reasons may be to improve your health, become more attractive or gain energy, to increase, in a word, pleasure. Even a really noble goal like housing the destitute is basically about reducing their pain and the pain that you experience in witnessing their homelessness and increasing their pleasure and the pleasure you experience when you see the effects of your good work. One powerful way to raise your motivational levels is to focus on the pain you will get if you don’t accomplish your goal and the pleasure that will arise when you do.
If you are in leadership and you need to motivate others, something I call ‘social motivation’ you need to help them see the pleasure that they will get when they help to realise your vision. Leadership is not the art of getting people to do what you want, leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what you want. That’s why incentive schemes are so powerful, they link present performance to future pleasure.
But financial rewards only motivate us so far. What do you think is the number one reason people leave their jobs? Money? In fact money is around sixth on the list. The top reason is lack of positive recognition. There are few things as demotivating as going the extra mile and having your hard work and initiative ignored. Recognition comes in small ways it’s a hand written note, a thank you or even just a smile. One of our greatest human pleasures is acknowledgement. We are highly motivated to win social approval. Napolean said: ‘My life changed when I realized that a man will risk his life for a blue ribbon.’ It doesn’t take a lot to recognize performance.
There was a child who didn’t say a word until he was eight years old. Doctors, psychiatrists, speech therapists – they’d all tried to help, but to no avail. Finally, one lunchtime, he looked up and spoke his first words: ‘The soup is cold!’ His mother was amazed. She said, ‘I didn’t know you could talk! Why haven’t you spoken before?’ The boy replied: ‘ I don’t know, I guess every thing’s been great up until now!’ If every thing’s been great, let them know. Show them that they’re valued. Your customers want the same thing. They want to know that that you care about them. That provides them with a deep pleasure motivating them to come back again and again. The best way to get your customer to be treated as king is to treat your colleagues and staff that way. There’s motivation – for you and them!
© Justin Cohen
Justin Cohen is an international speaker, trainer and author. For more personal development resources go to www.justinpresents.com .