May 24 2021| Leadership

Motivation Part 1

It's quality, not quantity that counts.

by Phil Eyre Founder

One of the fundamental roles of a leader is to motivate their people. The pandemic has caused many of us to pause and reflect on how we are motivating our people. So, what do people need from us as leaders to be motivated?  There are two dominant responses in our experiences with clients in the Channel Islands to date:


  • The first, to pour in as much care and support as possible, recognising that conditions have been exceptionally difficult for many.
  • The second is to inject energy, forward thinking and excitement in an effort to raise morale.


In our view, this is too simplistic; the more effective way is consider the question of motivation is to understand the quality - not the quantity - of motivation in our teams (and ourselves).


Human Basics 

Motivation draws on some human basics. From a very early age, we develop habits/skills that move us towards good things and that move us away from the bad.  That’s the basis for human success. You may be able to relate to some of these examples:


  • The habits associated with ambition will get us out of bed in the morning to put effort into attaining good things for ourselves; breakfast, a new client, hiring a great colleague, acquiring a new phone.
  • Maintenance skills propel us to take care of these good things and good people; locking the door to your home, being on time for a meeting, telling your partner that they’re fabulous.
  • Our risk-radar skills move us to identify problems in advance and take evasive action. Checking road-closures ahead of time, reading the board pack well in advance of the meeting, or even paying attention to deteriorating sight and visiting the optometrist.
  • Thinking and acting on resolving problems gets us out of trouble. Phoning a plumber to fix a leak, booking a childminder ahead of a night out, agreeing a performance improvement plan with a colleague.


Counterproductive Skills

We can also develop habits that move us *away* from good things and *towards* the bad, undoing all the benefits and compromising our success. There are often short-term payoffs for these counterproductive skills. But they can become entrenched. In our analysis, we measured four counterproductive habits:


  • A defeatist mindset will give up opportunities for success, letting opportunity pass and continuing with the status quo. For example, the salesperson that over-discounts the fee far too early in a negotiation, the employee who says they don’t want a promotion when in fact they do, people that intend to take a relaxing long weekend but spend the time on their work phones.
  • Self-sabotaging habits are received by others as careless. Losing the car keys, forgetting to pass on a message, missing an important deadline, forgetting a birthday. Busyness is often the excuse.
  • For some people, risk is associated with a ‘rush’ and they develop reckless habits - bravado. They take on unnecessary risk, founded in faulty beliefs (e.g. “if it’s not painful, it’s not worth it”). Carrying a heavy bag despite back pain, leaving it until the last moment to prepare for a critical meeting, pulling an “all-nighter” to complete assignments, recruiting someone who’s known to be a problem.
  • Martyring habits lull people into thinking that their suffering and pain is helping others, yet they are rarely being as helpful as they think. In fact, they’re making themselves miserable and resentful, for little discernible benefit. The manager who stays late to do work that their team should be performing, the parent who pays their adult children’s bills even though they have a decent wage, the friend who is always there for others even though they’re exhausted themselves.

People who are high in the productive skills will benefit from more energy being applied; give them all the ‘rah-rah’ and challenge that you can. But those who are high in the counterproductive habits will respond negatively to the same energy; their negative thoughts and actions will be elevated, not lessened. They first must attend to their counterproductive tendencies.

Herein lies the issue, a one size fits all approach to motivation simply does not work.


Leaders’ responsibility


Leaders need to understand the quality of motivation before applying quantity. That includes their own actions, attitudes and behaviours as well as those of their team. The quality of your self-motivation will significantly influence how you’re motivating others.


Leaders - lead yourself. If you’re having the proverbial bad day, the chances are that you’re the cause of other people’s bad day, too. Motivation - good and bad - is contagious.  It’s incumbent on the leader to ensure that they are managing their emotions; applying positivity, energy and pace at the right moments and tempering frustration, anger and defensiveness - unless, of course, you want more frustration, anger and defensiveness in your teams.


The next step is to look at a number of tactics to enhance the quality of our motivation. Take a look at our subsequent article to find out more.

About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has significant expertise in sophisticated psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company, Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Since launching Leaders in 2017, Phil has worked with many senior executives and boards primarily in the Channel Islands and City of London. He regularly writes for a variety of business publications and is often invited to speak at events for institutions such as the IoD and the British Army. Phil works closely with clients on focussed projects and long-term retainers to raise leadership standards. He is a popular and inspiring educator and coach who, with the insights gained from psychometrics, is able to accurately detect the strengths and weaknesses in leadership teams and boards. Phil has served on the boards of various charities, ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and is accredited in various motivation and behavioural techniques.

Next Article