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Can you motivate someone?

Years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of business leaders. I was a novice general manager. During the question-and-answer period, a gentleman asked me. “Do you believe you can motivate your staff?”

I must admit I didn’t know. I felt if I was a good boss, I should be able to motivate staff. I also didn’t know if I had that ability. My answer was, “I do not know, but I am going to study that and find the correct answer.”

To understand the correct answer, we first must define terms. Motivation is a need to complete or accomplish a task. Inspiration is different. It is hearing or seeing something and doing a task as a result of that external experience. Inspiration- since it is external- tends to wear off after a few days.

Every psychologist will say it is impossible to motivate another person. When someone behaves in a certain manner on a continual basis, it is due to their own internal set of values. Therefore, all motivation is due to a person’s set of values. The reason any person does anything is determined by their internal, self-generated value system. Our behavior is based upon our own personal value system. Values are defined as the non-negotiable priorities that govern our behaviors.

It is important we can clearly state our values. It is equally important to understand why we hold those values. How clearly do we understand why we do what we do? What is our internal drive? What excites us to action? What are our non-negotiable values/ behaviors when it comes to our Christian life?

  • Do we have a focused daily prayer time?

  • Do we have a consistent devotional time?

  • Do we have a giving philosophy?

  • Do we seek the face of God- to have a relationship with Him?

How we answer these questions tells us a-lot about how much we value our relationship with God.

Let me finish my leadership story. Once I realized it is impossible to motivate anyone- then I realized my responsibility, which is very doable, is to create a motivating climate. This is the environment where self-motivated employees and students thrive. I developed processes and systems that created a motivating climate. The elements are:

  • Articulate a vision and mission

  • Develop and live key/ core values

  • Create an environment of trust

  • Be a model for correct behavior

  • Satisfy the basic human need for achievement and a sense of belonging

  • Involve staff whenever possible in decision making

  • Provide coaching and feedback

  • Allow them to grow

  • Have a clear process for problem solving & conflict resolution

  • Recognize, reward, and celebrate successes

If we commit to enacting these principles and values as a leader of a business - it shows great respect for the staff. I believe this honors God when we treat people this way. We also honor God with our lives when our value system, priorities, and behaviors are consistent with God’s greatest value. That is, we honor God with all of our heart, mind, and soul.

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