7.24.2009

Motivate with Direction


In my many travels this month (eight days of trainings in Oklahoma, two in Boston, two in Springfield MO, one in Nashville TN, and one in Las Cruces NM), a recurring question popped up:

How do we get people motivated to act?

This question was stated to me via four questions:
  1. How do we get our student leadership board to take action?
  2. How do we get our adult teachers/advisers to start using technology?
  3. How do we get our field managers to adopt new practices?
  4. How do we get and keep our team members engaged in our monthly leadership study?

Although each situation requires different approaches, the basic strategy has one common thread: Your average person needs specific and clear direction in order to be motivated to act. It would nice (and easier) if everyone was internally motivated to constantly scan each situation and asking "how can I help out right now in the most meaningful and purpose-filled way?" However, we know two things are absolutely certain: 1) Leadership is not easy and 2) the reason leadership development is so important is because most people will default to their average behavior unless and until their better self is inspired to act. This direction that people need comes in many different forms, as well. Here are the suggestions given to the situations listed above:

  1. How do we get our student leadership board to take action? Make sure there is a clear and trusted leader in the group - either a highly-equipped adult or peer leader will work. Then give the team either concrete and/or abstract responsibilities. Make sure you "inspect what you expect." Remember, it is pointless to get frustrated that the board isn't behaving in a certain way when they haven't been told how to behave.
  2. How do we get our adult teachers/advisers to start using technology? Fear and purpose are the two big enemies here. Your average, mature human brain is very fearful of change. The best antidote for this fear is compelling purpose (second best is good ole' fashion basic training.) If you can demonstrate how the new technology will help them do their core job functions better, faster and more efficiently, then they will be more willing to get on board.
  3. How do we get our field managers to adopt new practices? Same strategy as number two.
  4. How do we get and keep our team members engaged in our monthly leadership study? Give them duties. This strategy is similar to how you can increase attendance at monthly member meetings or your garden variety social/family gathering. If you delegate small tasks (bring something, make something, create something, etc.), people will feel a higher sense of ownership in the event, as well as feel a higher sense of responsibility. Its easier to just not show up than it is to not show up AND be the one that didn't do something.

7.06.2009

LiFT – Life instantly Feels Tremendous

Paper_Airplane

What is the driving force of your happiness? I.e. - when your life instantly feels tremendous, why? It's important to notice, the emotion in question here is happiness, not joy.

Think of happiness as short bursts of energy that are powerful, fleeting and created by good things that happen in life. Joy is just as powerful, but is a more sustained state that sticks around no matter what is going on in life. However, joy gains energy from moments of happiness and helps you survive the bad times. We all know people who get happy from time to time, but who are missing joy in their life. They live on a roller coaster and have little to no consistency in their emotional life. This post is about helping you understand how to have more happiness in your life, but happiness alone is shallow without a foundation of joy.

So, what creates happiness in your life? More importantly, as a leader, is your LiFT created primarily by giving or receiving? I.e. when you think about your good times, are they a result of people or circumstances lifting you up or you lifting others? The most effective leaders and managers focus their LiFT on giving praise, building others, and serving the greater good.

The concept of LiFT in terms of achieving happiness is comparable to the lift that creates flight for airplanes in four specific ways. Examining each might give you some insight into how to have more moments of happiness throughout your day. This will result in strengthening your leadership abilities because the fuel of life is a positive attitude mixed with helping others achieve a positive mindset, as well.

1. IT IS AN INTENTIONAL ACT. Obviously, it takes a coordinated effort of many different people and machines to get an airplane into the air. Certainly, there are times when we get happiness from unexpected people and places, but consistent happiness is drawn from the pool of taking intentional steps to respond positively to life's circumstances. Happy people do not have great days consistently. They respond positively to the days they have consistently.

2. IT TAKES A GOOD AMOUNT OF ENERGY TO CREATE IT. The best example of this in flight is the space shuttle. The amount of energy it takes to pull that massive airplane from the earth's gravitational pull is enormous. Those booster rockets have to work hard to make it happen. Happiness also takes hard work. It is easy to be sad. It is easy to negative. It is easy to be a pessimist. It takes time and effort to make happiness a regular visitor in your life. It is easier for some more than others. Each of us has a default demeanor that was formed early in life. Yet another reminder that we are mostly hard wired by the age of six. Development after that age is just software upgrades. The happiness upgrade requires a large amount of resources, but it is well worth it.

3. PEOPLE SEE IT, BUT MOSTLY DON'T UNDERSTAND IT. Line up ten non-rocket scientists and you will be lucky to get one correct answer of how lift works in aerodynamics. Happiness is elusive to many people, as well - at least genuine happiness is. Genuine happiness is the kind that isn't followed by negative baggage. I.e. when you seek out happiness from putting things into (alcohol/drugs) or doing things to your body (plastic surgery), you might have a surge of good feelings in the short term, but in the long term these actions result in guilt or shame. Again, many people don't grasp the concept of how to create genuine happiness because they are blinded by the hard work it requires and because many times it involves being entirely others-focused. Genuine happiness can be very counter-intuitive. A great example is parenting. Many parents feel unhappy in their role because they are looking inward instead of outward. Parenting is tough and tiring. The genuine happiness comes from focusing on the end result of your work - (hopefully) happy, well-adjusted and caring children (who will take care of you when they grow up. :)

4. ONCE IT IS CREATED THERE ARE LARGE FORCES FIGHTING IT. Gravity is the most pervasive force on earth. You simply cannot escape it. Gravity is constantly working against lift. There are multiple forces working against your happiness. The primary one is other people who do not have it. They would give anything to have your genuine happiness and many times they can only create it in the short term by putting down or making fun of yours. These people are Chicken Littles and they can and will diminish your happiness if you let them. However, as a skilled leader, your task is to understand these forces, work hard to fight back, be human and admit when you can't and keep a smile on your face and love in your heart through as much of it as possible.

Good luck!