I am sure you have experienced it, for I certainly have. You are a leader of a successful organisation and you have booked a motivational speaker to address your staff. Or, you are a member of staff and you have heard your manager, or your boss, say: ‘You really must hear this guy – he’s great – he’s inspirational’. And of course he normally is… a guy; there are women doing it, but the big names all seem to be blokes, and the field is saturated with guys who are motivational speakers.
And what happens? Well, you sit down, but usually not for too long, and you may be positive, in neutral, or even hostile when he starts, but then he does start and you notice his high energy; also, he makes three or four insightful remarks that you hadn’t considered before that seem relevant to your work experience or your situation; plus, he’s really got that great sense of humour – not so much jokey, more that sly take on reality that is really funny. Boy, does he play that?
Then, before you know where you are your energy too goes up. This is great. You are quite prepared to stand up, shout, smash wood, do silly things and suddenly work takes on a whole new dimension: anything is possible. In fact so possible the next thing you do is agree to walk on hot coals, or to bungee jump, or – finally – best of all – to complete the five peaks challenge AND raise money for charity too. And you know what? Yes, you can do it! That’s the mantra: you can do it. You are like a hobbit that Gandalf has shown there is more to (you) than anybody ever realised before; and you know this too now. There are no limits!
At least, there aren’t any for about two weeks. And then you are back at work and nothing has changed, except you have a memory of a ‘peak’ state that was all too brief and fleeting, and now increasingly distant too. We call this Ra-Ra motivation, and you’ve just had it. It’s good, but in the same way that sugar is good: you get a rush but there is no lasting nutrition or value in it. Indeed too much of it and you become a personal development diabetic.
For this Ra-Ra motivation is all externally driven. It doesn’t answer the question of what is motivation, or what is or are my motivations, and how do I sustain my motivation over time? Nor does it usually help your organisation address the issue: how do we, and the work we create, support motivation in our people, understanding that motivation comes from within and not from without?
These are profound questions and unless we take time to consider them, then our motivation is always going to be flawed, impermanent and unsatisfactory. Eventually, our motivation is going to trip us up and we will find our performance fails, since so much of performance is intrinsically linked to our motivation.
What then motivates you? Do you know? Can you describe your motivators? And do you know what rewards nourish your motivators and lead you to a much more consistent and powerful state of motivation? That is the challenge beyond Ra-Ra motivation.