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The Myth of Motivating People

Kit Grant is a motivational speaker and I receive a regular newsletter from him which is usually thought provoking, and I have shared his ideas several times in this blog.

The latest newsletter deals with the issue of motivation and is once again near and dear to my heart. I firmly believe that in order for a person to affect any kind of change they need to buy into it personally. I cannot force, motivate or otherwise push someone to do something they do not inherently want to do.

What can I do? I can try to persuade; I can lead by example; I can demonstrate the value in my argument. At the end of the day if the person does not "buy in" then it won't happen.

The world is full of great examples ... here are two extreme health related thoughts that suggest reasoned arguments have no affect unless people buy in.
1. Smoking kills ... people still smoke.
2. Obesity causes many issues including death ... people eat junk and don't exercise.
Reason has nothing to do with these decisions! People need to make the connection for themselves and decide to take action ... then there is a chance of success.

Here is an extract from Kit's newsletter ... you can subscribe yourself at his website.

"You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb a little." ... Andrew Carnegie. (or ... it's the old "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink".)

I have been asked many times when I speak by audience members about what impact I have on people. I learned long ago not to be so foolish as to believe I was "making a connection" with everyone in the room. In a keynote presentation (which is about 90% of my speaking) I believe my job is to create awareness with the intent that listeners will then take action on the ideas and concepts presented. I am there to provide a "push" but the real climbing, learning and any subsequent behavior change is the responsibility of the listener. As the "Director of Comfort Zone Infiltration", I push harder than many speakers and do so intentionally.

If I entertain 90% of the audience, that's great. If I "reach" 35% of the audience, I think I'm doing well. If ONLY 5% actually do something different as a consequence of hearing my message, I'd be very pleased. My problem is I never know who is in that 5% group so everyone gets to hear the message. Those who choose to listen and take action get the biggest benefit. I am naively optimistic enough to operate on the philosophy that most people already know what they need to do to become more successful I am just there as a catalyst to get them to move and enjoy the outcome. They may not like me for "pushing", but they'll like the results when they start moving. Oh, by the way ... that remaining 10% that didn't get anything from the presentation had already decided before they came into the room that nothing good was going to happen it never does, so what's the point? You know those people ... a few of them work in your company, don't they? Hope you don't live with one of them!

Is this a good investment for an organization or association to "only" really impact the 5%? Absolutely, because over time, they have the opportunity to influence others and produce even better results for the company and those they work and live with.

Incidentally, any speaker who tells you he/she can significantly change behavior just by speaking to your group for an hour is either delusional or they are stealing your money! If you can create behavior change in 3 days, you're probably doing great! The learning usually always takes place AFTER the person leaves the session and starts to implement what they have heard.