In my early days of leadership I ran a small subsidiary of a large corporate in which we specialised in supplying sports surfaces and equipment.
As my sporting activities were severely limited to to very average hockey and slightly more average table tennis, the fact that we were manufacturing athletics artificial track, artificial ski slopes and marketing ski equipment there was something of a knowledge gap.
Accordingly we retained consultants who did know what they were about and I had the pleasure of getting to know people like Ron Pickering, a renowned athletics coach and broadcaster and John Shedden, possibly the best British ski instructor and later the Director of Coaching for the National Ski Federation of Great Britain.
John is a brilliant coach with many very happy clients both in Europe and the U.K. He worked with individuals as well as families and groups and it was probably their enthusiasm that encouraged him to take up teaching as a career.
He went to University, graduated and got his first job in a tough school in Liverpool where he met, possibly for the first time, young people with a marked reluctance to conform to the wishes of authority. I forgot to mention that he also had a black belt martial arts and that helped to say the least.
None of this implied that his methods were wrong, it is just that unless people actively want to learn then we might as well try to push boulders uphill.
The fact was that while his clients were delighted with him his students (and I use the word reluctantly) considered that they had better things to do. Very few people are autodidactic and those that are will generally be voracious learners.
There are a few educational geniuses who are able through force of personality perhaps to turn reluctant youth into enthusiastic learners and they are to be applauded.
However, all speakers, presenters, trainers and the like know that feeling when we see someone sitting in the audience, arms folded, and looking resentful because they had been SENT to today’s event.
Motivational speakers of which there are legion can offer great advice as to how to motivate people but under analysis it is a very difficult outcome to achieve.
It is almost arrogant to suggest that we can motivate people. The best that we can offer is to give them a culture and environment in which they can motivate themselves to study and learn, should they so desire.
This is not a negative approach. In fact it is extremely positive and many leaders can attest to great success. In the end, however, motivation is a strictly personal attribute and self-motivation is the key. Nobody motivated me to start this blog nearly eight years ago and now I realise that it wouldn’t appear unless I am constantly self-motivated to continue.
How then do we develop that enthusiasm in our teams that enable us to develop and grow the business?
Simple really. First of all make sure that you have very best people in key positions, give them freedom to make decisions, learn from mistakes and failures, use reprimand as infrequently as possible, give praise and reward (other than financially) as often as possible and have sufficient humility to accept that some people actually know better than we do.
It is a matter of culture and it can readily be measured by the rate of attrition in the team. A high retention rate can indicate a desire to succeed in the business and that is a great metric.
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