This is the essence of leadership. Influencing others towards a better tomorrow. The struggle with people is that often times, they don’t like doing the things that would lead to that better tomorrow. Parenting is full of examples. My kids need to be influenced to do all kinds of things that they don’t like doing.
- Eating vegetables
- Brushing their teeth
- Reading good books
- Cleaning up their rooms
This list could go forever. As the parent (leader), I know there’s a better life for them on the other side of activities that don’t enjoy. The leadership challenge is getting them to enjoy what they don’t naturally enjoy.
There are many areas in life where leaders need this skill. Whether in business, politics, ministry or family, leaders who master the art of helping people find motivation are going to see success at a much higher rate. Here are four strategies for helping people find their motivation:
1. Allow for choice.
Nobody likes being told what to do. There’s something inherently demotivating when you feel like you’ve got no options and are being forced into doing what you don’t really want to do. But often times, leaders adopt a “my way or the highway” stance that doesn’t give people freedom to choose.
This isn’t to say that you should settle for low standards or change direction based on bad attitudes. It’s just a recognition that people really enjoy the freedom to choose. Many times if you can set up a couple different options (do you want broccoli, asparagus or green beans?), you can accomplish your goals and help those you lead enjoy the journey.
Ben Franklin said it this way, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”
2. Create direct experiences.
People don’t get motivated to change something unless they have an experience with it. We’ve seen this time and time again while leading in the church. It’s one of the reasons why I’m convinced that if there is just one step that someone should take (after salvation), I’d recommend serving. Involvement. People change when they have direct experiences with something…not when they simply learn about things from afar.
One time I went to Africa. Before the trip, I “believed in missions”. Afterward, I acted on those beliefs. We give, plan trips, and sit on a board of a missionary organization because it’s a big value in my life. Prior to the trip, I saw it’s importance in the scripture…but the direct experience brought me to a place of radical change.
3. Tell meaningful stories.
This year, Jamie and I have come alive to the power of story. It’s like God built humans to respond to stories. There’s something about the arc of a narrative that grabs emotions and influences people in a way that facts and figures can never do. Harriet Beecher Stowe shifted the thinking of a nation about slavery with a story – Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
At Sun City Church, we kick off every Sunday with something we call The Rally. We gather all those who serve as volunteers and share stories of life change we collected that week. The whole point of this short gathering is inspiring our team to serve like world changers through the power of stories. If an usher can see how his smile and handshake was connected to a lady and her daughter coming to know Jesus, he’ll be the best usher he can be.
John Kotter says “Those in leadership positions who do not grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.”
4. Make it a game.
Gamify it. I love to compete and win. If you can show me some way to measure what I’m doing…I’m likely to try and do better at it. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been introducing our boys to Kahn Academy. At Kahn, they’ve done an incredible job helping my boys enjoy something that honestly isn’t very enjoyable (math). David and Hudson are learning and growing in their math skills while at the same time working on their “Kahn Avatar” and earning points for their activites.
When I managed a Coldstone Creamery, we used to turn our clean up duties into a competition every night. Who can do more dishes? Who can clean the floors fastest? How quickly can you count out the till (negative points for lack of accuracy). The bank I worked for put on “sales competitions” to motivate us to do something that I didn’t naturally enjoy…selling. But once it was a competition, I led the branch in sales. And made a lot more money for both my family and the company.
In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game. —Mary Poppins
You can employ any or all of these strategies with those that you are leading and see remarkable results. It’s not that your people are inherently stuck in their ways of laziness or underperforming…they just need some leadership to find their motivation. That’s where you come in. You’re the leader.