Motivation Only Comes From Within-and not from motivational speakers

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This is not a piece about bashing the goodwill, good intentions or short term success which motivational speakers bring to their clients, not at all. Motivational speakers are great for helping you to fire up that initial spark.

Let me repeat that…they are great in the beginning.

But what happens when tomorrow arrives and the novelty has worn off?

Motivation comes from within, and always has.

Please allow me to clarify this a bit further. Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding, as in the behavior itself is its own reward.

Extrinsic versus Intrinsic Motivation

As an example, my older son is a competitive high school soccer player. In fact, he’s a ninth grader who starts on his varsity high school soccer team as a midfielder. That’s a lot of responsibility for a ninth grader, considering the academic load and a new school.

But his coach believes that’s what gives his team the best possible competitive advantage, starting a 14 year-old boy on his varsity team.

But the coach does not motivate my son to improve his game. Not at all. My son practices, away from the team, by getting up 90 minutes earlier for school, just so that he can work on his ball-juggling skills, passing and shooting accuracy.

I asked him, why get up earlier to work on your soccer skills? His answer, “Because my team needs more and I want to be the best player in the league.” You get it? He’s only 14 and is willing to sacrifice sleep because he wants more. He’s highly motivated and that comes from within.

But why does he sacrifice sleep for soccer? It’s because he enjoys participating in the sport for the enjoyment. Sure, he’s competitive. He wants to win. But he really enjoys what he’s doing-intrinsic motivation.

He’s also the only member of his high school team that gets up early to work on his ball skills, which are essential for a competitive midfielder. In soccer, games are won and lost in the midfield. But this analogy can be applied to any field.

Basically, this means we like to feel we are good at something, and are making a difference.

A likely extrinsic motivation would be that the team, should they win the championship, will get to lift the trophy and call themselves the ‘best team in the school league, albeit for just one season. Any outside recognition is an extrinsic motivator. Recognition of any kind: trophies, academic honors, money, praise and so on, are the short-term motivators.

Why are they short-term motivators?

Well, what happens when you get to the top? What happens when the championship has been won?

Do you say something like, “Now what?” Or, “Is this it?”

External motivators may get the ball rolling but do nothing beyond that. Intrinsic motivation, self-motivation, is what leads to long term success. Fame and fortune is nice. But what’s next? There’s a reason for the oft-repeated ‘Super-Bowl Slump.’

Photo by Dan Aragón on Unsplash

How Do You Motivate Your Team?

That’s just it-you don’t motivate them. It’s up to them to self-motivate. You can, however, inspire them. Give them a better understanding of what’s important to the team’s success-by identifying core values and their specific defined role in said success.

Provide clarity on everyone’s expectations, support your team to self-manage, foster regular daily communication to address any concerns that may pop up or answer questions. Ideally, the conversations will center on what inspires them (individually) as it relates to their roles. By doing this, you’ll foster more creativity and freedom which will lead to greater understanding of when and how each will contribute to the betterment of the team.

Start With the Why

In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people to become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions of people have been impacted by his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on Start With Why, the third most popular TED video of all time.

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Sinek begins with a core question: Why are some organizations more influential, innovative and profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from employees and customers alike? His message, in short, is that people don’t buy in to what you do; they buy in to why you do it.

Leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all act, think and communicate the same way-and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek talks about how people like Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King Jr., all-despite having little in common- started with why, as in why do you believe what you do? Why do you exist? Why are you in business? They challenged the status quo. They inspired.

They, and great leaders like them, start with why.

So go ahead, inspire your team, your child or yourself for success. Just don’t demotivate with misguided attempts to motivate.