We’ve seen some great examples this week of people pushing themselves to the extreme – Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ bid to climb the highest mountain on all 7 continents, and the sailors completing the Vendee Globe round the world solo yacht race, to name but two. These types of endurance experiences all require the participants to be amazingly self-motivated in order to endure the loneliness and hardships that can be a part of such extreme pastimes.
Luckily, being in business will rarely mean that such exceptional levels of physical and mental endurance are needed, but over the years, the ups and downs of business can take their toll on business owners, and they may lose the spirit of excitement and enthusiasm that they had when they first set the business up.
Anybody in business will tell you that it is not easy to keep your levels of motivation high, year in and year out. The “ups” of more sales, higher profits, building a great team and helping customers can be easily overcome by the “downs” of lower sales and profits, poor team performance, long hours and customer complaints. It’s very easy to feel that everything is against you when you’ve had a run of bad luck or events outside your control have set your business back, and picking yourself up and trying again can seem like a real challenge. The current political and economic uncertainties and general air of doom and despair are particularly liable to sap your enthusiasm – if the country, and indeed the world, is going down the pan, is it really worth making the effort?
As a business coach, one of the things I make my clients aware of is how much their attitude impacts on their level of success. In Action, we refer to being “Above and Below the line.”
Above the line, you are in control of your own destination, but below the line you have abdicated responsibility for your future success or failure to other people. The fact is that if you are not achieving what you want to, it doesn’t help to blame anybody or anything else for the situation you are in, be it the government, your team, your customers, the weather or the economy. Likewise, denying that you have a problem at all or just pretending that it does not matter is not going to improve the situation. The only person that has got you to where you are is YOU and the only person that is going to get you somewhere else is YOU.
Now, whilst this is a simple concept to understand, getting the motivation to actually react in this way when you get constant setbacks in your business isn’t easy. So what is it that keeps us going when times are tough? Traditional thinking has always been that we do things because of the money; in business, it’s about building a successful business making more profit and having spare cash to enjoy life with. We also think that our team members are similarly motivated, they keep asking for more money and if we do not pay them, they leave.
Well, the reality is actually far from this. Surveys have shown that bosses think that 80% of employees leave because of pay, whereas in fact less than 20% of employees say this is the case, with the biggest reason they leave being that they hate their boss! With business owners, the facts are even more interesting. Roughly 80% of all new businesses are started by people who are skilled in the activity of the business they form, and who state that the main reason they wanted their own business was to be in control of their own destiny and give their clients a better service than they could where they used to work. Making money is clearly important, but it is not the main motivation factor for the majority of people starting their businesses.
Also take into account that, whilst some people may not be particularly motivated at work, they may be highly motivated at home, and have hobbies or indulge in sports that require a lot of enthusiasm and self-discipline, such as learning to play instruments, riding motor bikes/horses, cycling, sailing, running, etc. They do not do these hobbies for money; on the contrary – some pay a considerable amount of money to do them, yet when questioned, people are all highly motivated doing these activities.
So if it is not money that motivates us, what is it? Well, the best answer to this question I have found in Daniel Pink’s book – “Drive” and Timothy Gallway’s – “The Inner Game” books. Both writers look at motivation from a different perspective, but both come to roughly the same conclusion, that there are three distinct factors in motivating a person:
1 – Performance towards a clear purpose – we need to know where we are going and how we are doing along the way. Competition plays a big part of this in our personal lives, while in business it is achieving goals and targets.
2 – Personal growth and development – we need to feel like we are getting better every time we do something. If we get stuck at a certain level we soon tire of the game – just ask any golfer why they keep playing! If it is our first business everything is new, we are learning and getting better all the time.
3 – Having fun and working hard when we want to – we have hobbies and take part in sporting activities because they make us feel good, we can share the experience with others and we chose when we do them. Business should be just the same.
In my experience of working with businesses, employees and owners lose their motivation not when they do not make enough money, but when they lose sight of these three key factors:
- they do not know where they are going or why,
- they are no longer improving their skills and knowledge, and
- they have to work but they have forgotten how to have fun along the way.
So to turn this around and keep yourself and your team motivated, you need to make sure you have clear goals and plans, identify what skills and knowledge you want to gain, bring an element of fun into the day to day routine, and create an environment of upbeat and positive, like minded people. If you concentrate on these factors, the money will follow.
So what are you waiting for? Take ACTION and motivate your way to success NOW!!