The Myth about Goals and Motivation – How knowing this might be the key for you

As we discovered from my previous blog, not everyone is motivated by striving towards goals. Some are motivated to move away from problems. Just like Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery for example.

The key is to discover for yourself which is your motivational preference. Gain vs Pain? Carrot vs Stick?  Here is an example of the huge difference knowing which it is for you can make to your career and your life.

Some years ago, I was coaching a senior executive who was going through a major career transition in his life. A few months earlier he had taken a significant redundancy package as a result of a merger, and he was keen to refocus his energies towards finding that new opportunity that would allow him to bring all of his considerable skill and experience to bear in the next career move. In his previous role he had specialised as a high level analyst to whom the board and top executives of his company turned whenever they had a major issue with internal reporting systems not delivering the information they needed. In other words he was the “go to man” for solving problems.

For the four months since he had left his previous employment, no matter what good ideas he had and advice he had received about putting himself back on the market, it seemed that he always found other minor projects at home to take his focus away from his main objective.

When I questioned him about his apparent inability or unwillingness to take the focused action needed to create the career opportunities suited to his talents, his emotional response was that all through his career he had struggled to set meaningful goals for himself, and he had lost count of the number of leadership courses that he had been on over the years where this had been rammed home to the participants ad infinitum. His distress was palpable as he questioned whether he was incapable of being a motivated individual.

Knowing something of his background as the “go to” problem solver in his previous employment, I questioned when was the last time that he had made a major life changing decision within an incredibly short time. His answer was that he made the decision to buy his current home in less than a day of first seeing it. I quizzed him further as to what drove him to such a high state of motivation to decide and act in a time frame that was foreign to his usual pattern of behaviour, and he replied, “because we had just sold our previous family home only one day earlier.”

This was the key for me that unlocked his motivational code regarding being proactive. I quickly explained to him the difference between a “going towards” motivational strategy and a “going away from” motivational strategy and how he was in fact highly motivated, but it was just a matter of how. In his case it was the “stick” not the “carrot” that made him so effective in life as well as in his career. I then told him the stories of Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, and how they all shared the same overriding motivational strategy that he had.

At this point, he broke down and cried and declared that after all these years of questioning his own motivation as a result of the various courses he had been on, and performance reviews he had endured, he was “okay” just the way he was, and that all he needed to do was tap into his own pattern that drove him to perform.

Together we devised a strategy for the next month that would support him to leverage his new found understanding of himself, and when I next saw him after four weeks he had not only changed his whole mode of operating, but had been offered and accepted a position that was $100k more per year than he had previously earned. And to put the icing on the cake, this was an offer from a previous employer who had been trying to make contact with him and had until this time been thwarted by my client procrastinating in returning his calls!

Knowing your own “motivational code” does not always have to be a complex exercise. As in this case, it is sometimes the smallest things that can have the biggest impact. I wonder what is ‘the difference that makes the difference’ for you?

Until next time… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less.

Precision Profiling – What Makes You Tick? Revealing the hidden secrets about yourself that even you didn’t know.

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here

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