October Fest #18. Motivate or Inspire?

Over the years I’ve come to realise that there is a vast difference between motivation and inspiration as a model for leadership. I’ve also come to realise that most people don’t differentiate between the two. Another thing that has become conspicuous to me is that those who subscribe to being motivated, or motivating people, have a lot of mental health problems.

And on one hand it’s a little bit sad that not less than 15 years ago corporate training advocated motivation and at the same time, was trying to eliminate mental health problems from the business world. But it seems that they might have done more harm than good. At the very root of motivation is the idea that you can stimulate a person to work by incentivising them.

I hear many people craving for their annual bonus and this is a reflection of the paradigm of motivation. We incentivise people both positively and negatively. On the one hand we might say I will give you more money if you work harder, but on the other hand completely inseparable is the promise that if you don’t work harder, you will lose your job. Motivation is a two sided sword. And unfortunately those two sides shine brightly.

For the sake of this article I am going to suggest that motivation is now in the hands of the human resource department of a business or, where leaders are of the old school, management. As we have said recently, many leaders are actually just manages. A leader who is still using motivation techniques to stimulate performance is now what I would call a manager. Managers are becoming the lowest paid in the corporate hierarchy. A manager is worried about team structure, worried about incentivising people and very strongly trying to implement rules that they think will cause productivity. The lower on the consciousness cone the more strict the rules of the individual become.

A good leader wipes their hands of management. They hire others, of less consciousness, to implement the rules, but the ultimate leadership is where we inspire the individual to implement those rules.

It has been predicted by the consulting firm McKenzie is that there will be a huge shortage of leaders in the future, and massive unemployment of manages. If there is one thing we can reduce in trying to make business more efficient it is the elimination of management and the application of self leadership in the business. An individual who requires management is operating very low on the consciousness cone and even if they have technical skills that are quite valuable to the business the cost of keeping that person incentivised is quite often a second person. That means there is double cost. On the other hand an individual who can implement self leadership is not operating on the paradigm of motivation.

Our little seven-year-old girl came home from school yesterday after her after-care session with a sheet of paper labelled “who am I.” On that sheet of paper, encouraged by a selection of words she could choose from out of a significant list she had chosen 10 words to describe herself. Brave, kind, friendly, fast, athletic, fun, clever, and there were a few more. If I go into a business and ask a person who are you they will look at me as if I am a ghost. It is strange that at a very young age we know who we are and then as time goes on become confused as we try to please people such as a spouse, become someone we are not and be motivated by trying to be somebody else. In my 30 day challenge that I put all my clients through I ask this question “who are you”? You really have to take your hat off to the different definitions people give of who they are. One person might say I am a mother. A really weird way to describe who they are. Another person might say the marketing manager. These identities lock people into a terrible nightmare or self rejection and tiny small definitions of themselves that lead to incredibly small scope for operating at work and then lead people to all sorts of variation in engagement.

Back in the 12th century teams and companies would take their employees to a environment where alcohol and games were used to incentivised people to connect with each other and therefore be motivated to stay with the company because the company was so much fun and so generous. After millions of dollars was spent on legal disputes on harassment claims this sort of behaviour was realised to be stupid and absolutely temporarily beneficial. This sort of engagement is sort of engagement you get in a firm that is measuring engagement on a monthly basis based on some ridiculous notion that how a person feels right now about their team or their company is some measure of their productivity. This is absolutely Neanderthal stuff and we need all to be guarded not to sink into this quagmire.

In contrast, a real leader will recognise three different aspects of their leadership. Firstly you cannot lead people who are badly managed. And so, management of the negatives in terms of the environment is very important but it is not the leader’s job. Secondly, the leader is only as good as the team and they lead and people in that team who are in the bottom of the consciousness cone are not leadable, they can only be managed. The people at the bottom of the consciousness cone are saying got to or should do in one or more aspects of the seven areas of their life.

And so begins the first challenge of a leader that in the business world we are typically bound by the governance expectations that we do not broach matters outside of the corporate environment. What we can see from the consciousness cone is that any of the seven areas of a persons life that are in a state of got to or should do I’m going to draw that person into a state where they need to be motivated and managed to be at work. Sometimes, the individual is partnered with that person who only says got to and should do all day and so any attempt by that individual to rise up the consciousness cone will cause their spouse to become agitated and therefore do what is necessary to pull their partner back into the lower realms of consciousness. That means, even if you were able to bridge the gap between the corporate constrictions of broaching matters outside of that individual’s work life, a domestic environment might inhibit the growth anyway.

Coach them up or coach them out.

On one of my many trips into Nepal my daughter came with us. There were eight people on this particular trek and I was once again leading the group into dangerous places and being paid a fortune for it. Of course, my daughter was a freebie. However, on a trek, just like in a business, everybody no matter what their association with the leader must pull their weight. There is no shortcut to climbing increasing altitude. Either you acclimatise or you don’t and if you don’t you can’t keep up. But on this particular trip, my daughter was the one struggling. My association with her, being totally personal, in someways had the potential to blur the line between good leadership and bad management. And my daughter was overweight and because of this struggled with some of the more personal issues with being in a rural environment. At around 4500 m, in the middle of the day, I saw in her face the danger signs. The group was stopped for lunch and I had to make that awful decision between father who wanted his daughter on the trip and leader who wanted the group to be successful in their and aims and ambitions. So I made the call, I decided to send her on her own trek back down the track with her own Porter and my best Sherpa manager, and call it a day. What happen next is a lesson for all leaders.

The seven remaining people on the group volunteered to sacrifice their six-month training and thousands of dollars investment, and go back with her. The team had bonded around each other and their struggles and when one person was operating at a level of consciousness, in this case a physical challenge, everybody gravitated down to that level even if it meant sacrificing their own vision inspiration or purpose. For me this moment in time was bewildering. I have spent most of my adult years understanding the difference between living your vision and feeling compassion for others, but I have never seen this sort of empathy and how it can cause a group to operate at the lowest possible level of human consciousness. And if you argued with the group they would say it is team work.

Tracing this experience back through my years working in corporate training and retreat events what do you always find in a team is the loudest voice. That person or small group of people are usually the most outspoken, or quite often they are the ones who don’t speak out loud but do speak at the pub about what’s going on in their life and critically about what’s going on in the business. These people are well disguised as well meaning. But somewhere in the seven areas of their life they are operating at a got to level and that got to level infects everybody at work. It is not the managers job to weed these people out, it is the leaders job. And this is the first step in great leadership, recognising those who are going to infect the culture and the self leadership of others at work. This is often a commercially complicated decision because the individual that is being weeded out is quite often a critical part of a teams function and so there is a loss of talent. But a leader cannot base their decision-making or their human development on talent. Talent can be easily replaced but the inspiration of the individuals in the team, and outside the team in terms of clients and Suppliers cannot be replaced. This is where leaders are confused between motivation and inspiration.

Because I am an external coach, I am not bound by the corporate rules of crossover. Only occasionally do I become paid by a company and therefore bound by these rules of crossover. I am a spiritual coach and a business coach and a relationship coach and a health coach and a financial coach and a mental coach. I coach all seven areas of life and I do not differentiate between the consciousness in one area of the cones and any other area. Therefore I broach matters that cannot be broached within the confines of legality of human resources or leadership. And I think I represent a breed of individual that is external to the business that can make massive changes within a business without being called a consultant. But I’m also uncomfortable with the word coach.

When I get invited to present to a group of people, which I have done nearly 3000 times in my life as a person being asked to deliver the message of what is the difference between motivation and inspiration, between leadership and management, and therefore talk about self leadership there will always be a 25 to 30% disengagement in the audience from those who are, as I mentioned before, the vocal minority. Whether it is their religion or their Homelife or their parenting or their financial position there are a group of people who collaborate in an audience to resist the idea of taking responsibility and would much prefer to blame the company or defy leadership in order to maintain themselves in a comfort zone even if that comfort zone is toxic for themselves and others.

Let’s go back to when my daughter was at 4500 m in the Himalayas and struggling to keep up and therefore holding back the entire team from reaching a goal they had set 12 months earlier, spent a fortune to achieve, had trained hard and invested many hours of their life to be in the mountains to achieve and yet who were willing to throw it all away to stay as a team. It was not my daughter’s fault that she had created an empathy for her world and her situation and others were unwilling to unravel that and determine whether she had told the story well or told it as she had always done in order to gain engagement. And so when a company puts up engagement as a measure of individual productivity or performance they make a very big mistake. Because people can engage with the lowest as well as the highest determinant in a business. People can engage through motivation, bad management, bad leadership, good leadership, consciousness and many other different variables. One of those variables is there domestic pillowtalk.

In the 30 day challenge where we are starting to teach people about self leadership and to stop blaming others for their circumstances we are incentivising people to put their pillow talk in context and be romantic instead of problematic. This means problems about work and career are not discussed with partner, they disengage from the stress of others and they disengage from blaming others so that they can actually take responsibility for how it feels to put their own head on their own pillow at night, romantically, not problematically.

The conversation that takes place between spouse and partner in the home determines the quality of a person’s life. When people bring their work problems home and start talking about whether they should or should not stay employed or engage at work because the boss is bad or something wrong they’re asking the advice of a subjective coach, their partner or friend or spouse or parent or lover, and that is really like asking somebody you can easily punish, whether you are ugly. Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all…. Grrrrrr.

For those couples that I coach there is a realisation that they can discuss these matters of challenge outside of their relationship and leave their relationship for some beautiful intimacy and romance. Which, I believe, is sort of what it’s for.

There is nothing more powerful than pillow talk. No matter what I say to a person no matter what drama or challenge they are facing when that individual is lying naked in bed with another human being and there is a conversation taking place usually after sex, the thoughts of that conversation go deep and soulful. Whether that conversation is accurate or inaccurate is irrelevant. Whether the partner is qualified or not becomes irrelevant. It is deep and it is soulful and sometimes the information that’s been gathered is simply to reinforce the emotional bias of the individual asking for it. In the case of my daughter in the Himalayas, the conversations that had taken place along the Trail for the previous eight days of the trek had been about the challenges of her life and the challenges of everybody else’s life and therefore, nobody was going to confront the stories. Mirror mirror on the wall. Especially me because I’m not a prophet in my own home, especially with my daughter.

In the end, what I had to do as a good leader, was coach my daughter out. Maybe if I was a better leader and I was being less attached to my daughter’s trip I would have, if it had of been a different person I was not related to, intervened in her journey earlier, but as it was this was the reality of the situation and she was turned back and I forbid the group from following her. I didn’t have the bandwidth to negotiate with them about what was right and wrong I just said it wasn’t going to happen. 24 hours later we were standing at 5500 m in the Himalayas. 24 hours later the group was celebrating achieving a magnificent goal. 24 hours later nobody could remember my daughter. 24 hours later they were celebrating the investment and hard work they put in, there were no trophies or bonuses, there were no motivation reward certificates or any such thing, the celebration was an internal one and it was a celebration of the question “who am I.”

That’s the end of this episode. With spirit, Chris.

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