I often joke about the big laugh that is being had at my professional expense, somewhere in the heavens. There is no doubt that some snickering and, “Hold my beer” moments are happening, I’m going to bet.
As a Professional Motivational Speaker, I always believed that attitude was 100% up to us. I lived by the idea that anyone can “turn that frown upside down” and “attitude is a choice”. In fact, I have used the mantras and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to redirect my own attitude, my whole adult life. So, in a nutshell, I’m a believer and I used to peddle that, for years.
Then Reality, with a capital R, came barging in, knocking down tchotchkes, tripping on rugs, and stumbling around like a drunk uncle, leaving a mess in its wake. Everything I had believed in, the power I had tapped into for years, the pillars I built my success upon, blew up, right in my face. None of it worked in my real world. Not one bit.
Reality Checks are never graceful, are they?
So, full disclosure: I am a successful Motivational Speaker who is married to the one person who I absolutely, positively, cannot motivate and pull an attitude adjustment on, no matter what. And, trust me, dang it, I have tried everything! This extraordinary individual is kind, loving, compassionate, creative, brilliant, sensitive, hardworking, AND affected by depression. No matter how many platitudes and mantras I throw at him, no matter how many books I read or seminars I attend, there is not a darn thing I can do to change his chronic depression. It’s taken 12 years, but I’ve finally come to understand that this is his journey and my job is notto fix, correct, force, or change it; my job is, simply, to accept what life hands us and accept him where he’s at, at any given moment. The challenge is, in my chosen professional field of 24 years, it's my job to fix, correct, force, and change behaviors... are you with me? There really couldn't be a better irony, than this. SERIOUSLY.
While this blog post is not about diving into my love life, it does point to an incredibly powerful leadership lesson that I had to learn and want to share about attitude and motivation. If I was going to continue with this relationship, I needed to accept him where he was at and continue to step forward, with compassion. That meant I had to quit fighting against something bigger than me, quit trying to coerce him into feeling something he wasn’t, and quit insisting that he needed to do things “my way”. The best way for me to help him is to remain strong, capable, focused, and compassionate.
And, so it is in business. When leading your team, how often have you found yourself wondering if one of your employees has a pulse? Debated whether they’re worth keeping? Tried to figure out their exit strategy? Guilted them into action? Forced them with fear? I promise you’re not alone. Trying to motivate others, who are incapable of it, (in the moment) is a test of wills. But, remember, your job is not to change them, it’s to influence them. And, how do you do that best?
By being strong, capable, focused, and compassionate.
The minute you lose your positive perspective is the minute you’ve lost your ability to positively influence others. Read that last sentence, again. (and, again) Management actions and language set the tone for team morale. Your behaviors and attitude must display and encourage the following to your team:
• Set a positive tone, regardless of the response you are receiving.
• Convey that responsibility is shared among all team members.
• Reiterate that team members help one another. No one is more important than the other.
• The entire team has an impact on the outcome of the task or process.
• The team’s success is directly related to how well the team members pull together.
• Sharing information within the team is vitally important ... encourage this, over and over.
• Team members encourage one another to grow and develop professionally and personally.
We’ve got to end this blame game/show of force/pigeon hole/odd man out cycle in management and redirect our energy. It’s easy to put the blame on others for not performing with enough energy, or not meeting our expectations, but it takes real courage, strength, and patience as a leader to choose to find other routes that may speak to the employee, or feel like a better option to them, in the moment.
In leadership, it’s our job to create a positive culture on our team and any veteran manager can tell you, it’s not a walk in the park. Try not to get frustrated with those you can’t motivate; instead, focus on who you can influence, what you can affect, and how to set the right tone. The energy you bring to the day, the team, or the project will have a far better impact than trying to force a square peg into a round hole. So, check your energy and get your hat on straight—it all starts, with you. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing the following, consistently:
• Communicate the vision with energy and optimism. No. Matter. What.
• Be someone others can trust… and, be willing to trust them, again and again.
• Seek open and effective communication. Be transparent.
• Expect and encourage creativity. Let them try it a different way.
• Focus only on tasks and goals, not personalities. Hard, I know.
• Be emotionally consistent. Dump the grump and low energy. This is huge.
• Provide avenues for growth and development, even if the employee doesn’t seem motivated, now. Everything is temporary and those opportunities may spark their interest.
• Express real appreciation, constantly. They need more words of affirmation, trust me. Everyone needs more.
Remember, this whole leading and managing thing is not for the faint of heart—it’s work. But, it’s incredibly rewarding work, when you’ve done it right AND you’ve done right by those you lead. Great leaders create greatness in others because they are able to individually lead and manage that person, where they are at, in the moment; this is not a cookie cutter kind of deal. So, step forward honorably in strength, be the kind of leader who inspires others with your independence and stability, and be compassionate in your endeavors… your future leaders will emulate all of this, one day, and that will be a testament to your greatness.
** Before you jet, don’t forget to head on over to my Client Portal on this website to download the 50 Leadership Attributes which is a list of 50 motivational quotes you can send out to your team, daily. While you’re there, download the Favorites List, which will help you motivate your team, individually and thoughtfully. I’m always curating ideas to make you a better leader, so keep checking in. There’s at least one freebie a week!