Motivating for Success

I have known many people through the years who waited for someone or something to motivate them. They complained about being bored at work. They complained about being bored at home. They were even bored when they appeared to be having fun. 

I kind of started thinking they were just boring people. But the truth is, they, like all people were naturally motivated. They lost their motivation over time. It could be a bad boss destroyed it. It could have been a set of circumstances beyond their control. Maybe they even made some decisions themselves that robbed them of the essential motivation required to reach their potential. 

Are you one of  the people who struggle with motivation? Do you have a hard time keeping yourself motivated? Have you been waiting for your boss or someone else to motivate you? Maybe they will or maybe they won’t but the reality is your motivation is up to you. You’re responsible for getting yourself going and keeping yourself going every single day. If someone else helps you a bit then that’s great. But never count on anyone or anything else doing what you should be doing yourself. 

Self motivation is a crucial factor in achieving success and reaching your goals. But I get it, it’s not always easy to stay motivated, especially when you face obstacles and setbacks. So here are a few thoughts on how to keep yourself motivated, even when the day appears to heading downhill in a hurry.

  • Set clear goals: Having clear and specific goals gives you something to work towards and helps you stay focused. Make sure your goals are realistic, measurable, and achievable. You cannot reach a goal you haven’t set. The absence of real goals in your life tends to make everything meaningless. Staying motivated is tough. It makes no sense in putting up the fight to stay motivated if there is nothing in it for you. Achieving your goals is what’s in it for you. If you want to be a motivated person then set goals today.
  • Break down big goals into smaller tasks. Large goals can seem daunting and overwhelming. Breaking them down into smaller, manageable tasks makes them less intimidating and helps you track your progress. Setting goals that seem too big to actually achieve makes you less motivated. 
  • Create a plan. A plan helps you stay organized and focused. Make a list of the tasks you need to complete and prioritize them based on their importance and urgency. Do this every single day. Know what goals you’re going after and know exactly how you intend to go after them. 
  • Celebrate small wins. Recognizing and celebrating small wins along the way can boost your motivation and keep you on track. On some days even small wins can be a very big deal.
  • Surround yourself with as much positivity as you can find. Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you. Avoid negative people and situations that bring you down. You are a compilation of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If you want to be an enthusiastic and motivated person then that’s the type of person you should be hanging around with.
  • Give yourself a break. Taking breaks helps you recharge and avoid burnout. Make sure you schedule time for self-care activities like exercise, “me time,“ or spending time with loved ones. If you think eating lunch at your desk makes you more productive then think again. Research shows people who eat lunch at their desk are 30% less productive late in the day. Even a 15 minute lunch break can make a positive difference for you. So indeed, give yourself that break.
  • Visualize success. Visualize yourself achieving your goals and imagine how it will feel. Use positive affirmations and visualization techniques to stay motivated and focused. This may sound corny but it is absolutely not. You can think in terms of “can’t” but that robs you of your natural motivation. Thinking, and seeing, in terms of “can” makes a much bigger difference than you may think. See yourself where you want to be and you’re far more likely to be there one day.

Remember that motivation comes from within, and it’s up to you to cultivate and maintain it. By using these ideas and staying committed to your goals, you can keep yourself motivated and achieve success. No matter what success may look like to you . 

Personal Motivation

I wish every person in a position of leadership understood how important recognition is to their people. They don’t just want recognition, they need it. For many people recognition is the fuel for their engine of productivity. 

Most people are people pleasers and one of the people they most want to please is their boss. They want a few things in return for pleasing their boss and one of those things is “credit” or recognition for a job well done. If they don’t receive that credit many of them lose their motivation to continue giving their best effort. 

And that is a mistake. 

None of us should give someone else that kind of power over any part of our lives. 

The most consistently successful people do not look out for recognition and affirmation, they look within. Knowing that they have given their best effort motivates them. Their opinion of themselves is more important than someone else’s. 

We all want the recognition and support of the people we work for. But wanting it and needing it are two very different things. Recognizing your own effort is way more important, or should be, than the recognition of anyone else. 

Absolutely appreciate any and all recognition and support you receive from someone else. But don’t depend on it to keep you going. The only reason you need to continually give your best effort in everything you do is this: YOU deserve your best effort. You deserve to be the best that you can be in all areas of your life. 

That cannot depend on the actions or inactions of someone else. 

Don’t count on someone else motivating you to greatness. Always always give your best effort and whatever you do, you’ll do it great. Tonight before you go to sleep make sure to take a moment to thank yourself for the effort you put forth today. Remind yourself that no matter what was or wasn’t accomplished today that you did your best. 

And that’s all anyone, including yourself, can ask for. 

Some of you know that I’ve been trying out something relatively new over on Twitter. It’s a paid subscription level. That means I post some tweets that are for subscribers only. The tweets I post for subscribers are all video tweets. I post two each weekday, mostly on leadership but also sales and living a better life in general. I’m also way more available for questions from subscribers than I can be for the million plus regular Twitter followers. The investment to see these “subscriber tweets” is $4.99 a month, that’s about 17 cents a day. The videos continue to grow in popularity so clearly a lot of people think they are worthwhile. 

Not only can you invest in yourself with solid video coaching, you can also make a difference in the world too. All the income from my subscribers on Twitter go to help kids with Down Syndrome. 

Just click the purple “subscribe” button next to the regular follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP or on a web browser. Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and what topics you’d like to see me address.

Go Fly a Kite

There is an old fashioned idiom, mostly used in the United States, that says “go fly a kite.” It was used and once in a great while still is, when a person was being annoying. To “get rid” of the annoying person you would say, “go fly a kite.” 

It was a way of telling someone to go away.

But when you stop to think about it “go fly a kite” is some awesome advice. Flying a kite isn’t the easiest thing to do. First off you need a kite, then you need some string. Then you need favorable wind conditions. 

The favorable wind conditions mean being able to launch your kite against the wind. That’s against the wind. Imagine that! The person telling you to go fly a kite was challenging you to go against the wind. You could fly your kite with the wind but it wouldn’t be as easy to get it in the air and it wouldn’t fly as high. To truly succeed in flying your kite you have to have the wind against you. 

What was likely meant as an insult could easily be turned into a challenge that leads to success. 

As with every statement presented to you as an insult it’s completely up to you to decide if you’ll accept it as such or you will turn it into a challenge to improve yourself. 

Almost all of life’s greatest achievements were accomplished “against the wind.” The wind might have been a bunch of negative nellies who told you that you couldn’t do it. The wind could be circumstances outside of your control. The wind could be self-inflicted laziness that is preventing you from even getting started. 

Whatever the cause of your wind you’ll likely need to go against it to reach your full potential. Just like a kite. 

But know this…somewhere in the world, likely many places in the world, a kite is flying this very moment. It’s flying because someone decided to go against the wind. Steve Jobs was warned the the iPhone would not succeed. He was told to go with the wind and keep making computers. Leave the phone business to the phone people. He went against the wind…it seems to have worked out. There is a tremendous amount of success happening in the world everyday…almost all of it because someone decided to go against whatever headwinds happened to be in their way. 

You can choose to be that someone today. If someone tells you to “go fly a kite” or makes some other insulting comment just say, “thanks for the inspiration, I’m on it.” They may be a bit confused but you’ll be on your way to proving them wrong. 

The Motivational Leader

When I do Leadership presentations and workshops I’ll frequently make the statement that people are naturally motivated. Not some people, ALL people are naturally motivated. 

That gets as much pushback as almost anything I say. “Leaders” in the room will respond with silly comments like “you’ve never met some of my people.” Or “I’ve got people you couldn’t motivate with dynamite.” 

My response is always some variation of “sounds like a leadership problem to me.” I say it jokingly but I’m not joking. I ask who is responsible for motivating people in your organization? I generally get no response. That’s understandable because they just told me they have unmotivated people. To admit it’s their responsibility to motivate them would be admitting that they are not actually leading. 

But everyone in that room knows that one of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to motivate and encourage the people they lead. But, like almost everything else worth doing, that is easier said than done. 

Here’s the thing. No one wakes up in the morning hoping their day will suck. No one begins life with the desire to drag themselves through every day. Everyone wants to do something that matters. That’s how we all start off. But somewhere along the line many people lose that enthusiasm and motivation. It is most likely stolen from them by bosses who couldn’t lead or they caught the “unmotivated bug” from friends and family who have given up on their own dreams. But they want to be motivated, they just need a little push.

If you’re in a Leadership position and you want to help your people get and stay motivated the first step is to STOP complaining about unmotivated people on your team and start actually leading them towards greater motivation. 

Next, schedule consistent one-on-one time with them. Ask them how they would like to structure this time together. Remember, for this time to be productive it must benefit you AND your people. This is your time to set clear goals and expectations and to discuss how those expectations will be measured. People NEED to know what’s expected of them and how those expectations will be measured. 

This is their time to share ideas, suggestions, and issues. People value relationships with their leaders and these one-on-ones are all about building those relationships. 

Here’s a crazy idea for discovering how to motivate your people. During the one-on-one ask them directly what motivates them and how you can help them remain more motivated. Do you know the goals, aspirations, and interests of the people you lead? It becomes far easier to motivate someone when you know what motivates them. Here’s the caveat to this question…they may not know the answer. At least not off the top of their head. That’s fine, ask them to think about it. About where they want to be in five years. About what they want to accomplish. For some of your people they may have never considered those questions before. 

If you want your people to know you care for them as people then ask about them as people. Yes, “the job” is important but as a leader you cannot afford to forget that “the job” is done by people. Real live human beings. 

Once they know what motivates them, and you know what motivates them, you can work together towards that common motivating goal. Authentic Leadership is about making human connections and there isn’t anything more human then helping another person achieve their life goals. 

It is very possible the pursuit of those goals will require learning new skills. As a leader one of your other primary responsibilities is to help your people grow. Now you know where to help them grow. Their commitment to you and the organization strengthens as you help them grow. So does their motivation to improve. They are not only motivated to do a better job for themselves, they are motivated to do a better job for you. 

When your people have doubts about their ability to grow, SHOW your belief in them by giving them purposeful work. Show them how their work makes a difference for you, for the organization and especially for themselves. Trust them to do the work without micromanaging the motivation out of them. 

Your belief in them might be the exact nudge they need to remain motivated when obstacles appear. It’s even possible you’re the first person who has shown them that level of trust and belief. 

Above all, create a culture where motivation thrives. Where people are encouraged to excel. Where mistakes are accepted as part of the growth process. A culture where people feel they matter. 

When you do all that there is no question about your leadership because you’ll have demonstrated that you are in fact, an Authentic Leader. You’ll even be a Motivating Leader!

How Can You Know?

If you’re in a leadership position then one of your core responsibilities is developing the people you are leading. Key to developing your people is understanding what motivates them to accept change in their lives. 

So how can you know what motivates them? Well I have a rather shocking and provocative idea. 

You could ask.

I know that’s not really shocking or provocative. It only seems that way because so few people in positions of leadership flat out ask their people what motivates them. Many of those who do ask only do it within the confines of an annual review process. That is NOT nearly often enough. 

When you ask you should be prepared to receive no answer…at least at first. Your people may initially be surprised by the question since it’s so rarely asked. So give them a day or two and ask again. 

One of the reasons the question is so rarely asked is that many people in leadership positions believe the answer is likely to be “money.” As in, more of it. But Authentic Leaders know that money is seldom the answer because money is actually a very poor motivator. If people have enough money to pay their bills and meet their basic needs then more money isn’t likely to motivate changed behavior. 

Once you know what motivates them then ask a follow up question. Something along the lines of, “how can I help you attain and retain that motivated frame of mind?” 

Those two questions should be asked anytime you see one of your people struggling to keep themselves motivated. Asking shows you care. If you don’t care enough about them to help them remain motivated to reach their potential then you don’t care enough about them to actually lead them. 

So stay close enough to your people to detect reduced motivation in it’s early stages. The sooner you catch it the sooner you, and your people, will overcome it. Never forget, your most expensive employees are not the ones you pay the most. The most expensive people in your entire organization are those who are unmotivated and disengaged. They receive a paycheck and provide little in return. 

These days, no organization can afford that.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

The great Dale Carnegie said that “Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “horse sense” in today’s terms it would most closely be associated with “common sense.” Which of course isn’t actually all that common.

Dale Carnegie believed in the power of enthusiasm. He saw it in action during thousands of sessions of his Human Relations, Public Speaking, Sales and Leadership courses. I saw it in hundreds of those same courses. I see it all the time today as well.

People who are very enthusiastic about whatever it is they are doing simply do it better, in every way, than less enthusiastic people.

You, and every other human on the planet, can spot an enthusiastic person a mile away. You can also feel them, hear them, and maybe even be contaminated by them. You, and every other human on the planet can also spot an unenthusiastic person a mile away. And you most certainly can be contamination by them.

If you’re in a leadership position then it is vital to understand that you lead by example, whether you intend to or not. Your people are watching and they are watching to see if you do the same things you tell them to do. They are also watching to see if you do it enthusiastically.

Are you enthusiastically walking your talk. Merely going through the motions won’t get it done. As a leader you are the “model” for the actions you want from your people. But not only is it important “what” you do, it’s also very important “how” you do it.

You know that your more enthusiastic people are more productive and better team members. What you may not always realize is that they often model their enthusiasm level after yours.

Dale Carnegie also said to “act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.” There will be days when your enthusiasm level isn’t what it needs to be. On those days follow Mr. Carnegie’s wise advice and act enthusiastic. Sooner or later your natural enthusiasm will take over and your “acting” will be replaced by the real thing.

Your enthusiasm is contagious, make sure you have enough so that everyone who comes near you catches a bit of yours.

What Motivates Your People?

I will often ask that question of people in leadership positions. Authentic Leaders have an answer. Other leaders have a response. 


The main difference between an answer and a response is the answer is based on what someone knows and a response is based on what they think.


Authentic Leaders know what motivates their people because they have asked them. Other leaders assume they know or they figure what motivates them will also motivate everyone else. 


Assuming they know what motivates another person is an all too common mistake of ineffective leaders. Every person is unique. They have different life experiences that shape their beliefs, their likes, their dislikes and their motivations. To assume otherwise is a fool’s errand. 


Authentic Leaders invest the required time to understand the unique motivators for each of their people. Sometimes that means helping their people discover what motivates them because oftentimes people don’t stop to consider this important question on their own. 


Authentic Leaders know that everyone is naturally motivated. Some people lose their motivation along life’s way and need to be reminded and refreshed. Some people just need help maintaining their motivation. 


Whatever circumstances your people find themselves in, one of your key responsibilities as a leader is to help them maintain or restore their motivation. 


There are leadership development programs that discuss “clues” to finding what motivates your people. There are leadership developments programs that offer tools like the DISC Test to help determine a person’s motivations. 


I’m not a big fan of any of that. I’m a fan of a leader talking with their people on a regular basis to truly get to know them. I believe Authentic Leadership requires that level of personal leading take place…frequently. 


If you want to know what motivates your people and how you can help them stay motivated to reach their goals and excel in their job and in life then ASK. The question will surprise people who have never been led by an Authentic Leader. Ask anyway!


Ask and then demonstrate another leadership characteristic they may not be used to…LISTEN to their answer. 


Disengaged employees can suck the life out of any organization. Unmotivated employees quickly become disengaged. When you lead your people to what keeps them motivated you give them and your organization a chance at lasting success.

Do YOU know what motivates YOUR people?