Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Who Motivates You?

Motivation is a familiar concept to us. From the time we were infants, our parents, teachers and others around us have motivated us to conform to certain behaviors or to achieve certain goals. In athletics, it is the role of the coach to push his athletes to attain their highest level of performance. In school, the teachers motivate students to grow in their understanding of the material. Eventually, it becomes the role of employers to motivate employees to be more productive and efficient. Motivation is all around us, but it manifests in very different ways.

There are two ways most people try to motivate others: encouragement/praise and disparagement/criticism. Undoubtedly, we have all experienced both and probably feel strongly about what form of motivation is most effective. Effective motivation will be tailored to the individual, the context and immediate purpose. While there are countless iterations of how different motivation-styles manifest, I am focusing on two in particular: the “angry coach” and the “cheerleader.”

The Angry Coach: Many of us may have experienced the angry coach, he may have been an actual coach, or he may have been an employer or even colleague. The angry coach motivates by disparaging his team-members, he believes that by publicly criticizing a team-member, he will motivate that team-member to prove him wrong. The angry coach believes that this form of motivation will cause the team-member to strive to prove that he is not the “worthless waste of space” the angry coach has accused him of being. Often, even successful performance is not enough to outwardly please the angry coach.

The Cheerleader: The superior form of motivation, in my opinion, is the “cheerleader.” No pom-poms are necessary for this cheerleader; he is an encourager who motivates by positive affirmations and constructive criticism. The cheerleader criticizes behind closed-doors with the purpose of helping the team-member to recognize a weakness or area of improvement and to offer advice on how to improve. A cheerleader will help the team-member to reach his full potential, without expressly pushing anyone down. The cheerleader seeks to promote the best efforts of the team members.

Both motivation styles will certainly have their appropriate venues, but generally speaking, motivation is most effective when it is individualized. As students, our class-mates are our colleagues, and we may find ourselves in positions where we need to help spur each other along to reach our full potential. The “golden rule” applies here for me, I know that I am motivated by the cheerleader and not the angry coach, so I choose to be a cheerleader. Who motivates you?

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