When team motivation becomes a dead end
Engineering leaders are not immune to that constant management mantra of motivate, motivate, motivate. In fact, some managers I’ve known seem to do little more than try to motivate others, with flowery speeches and too-long-to-read emails ending in statements like “This is going to be THE YEAR!!!”
But in his book, What to say when you talk to yourself, Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D., goes against the grain in many ways and doesn’t really believe that this kind of motivation works at all. He posits that this sort of encouragement, whether coming from a boss or a coach or a fitness instructor, is always very short-lived, as the energy depends on the person trying to motivate. Thus, it has to be repeated often (and endlessly) — which sure sounds like a recipe for tediousness and boredom.
According to Helmstetter, the real key is encouraging people to motivate themselves. Employees want to believe that they can do more individually and achieve more as a team. But the negative self-talk that we all tend to participate in weighs us down and reprograms our subconscious to truly believe those things. Think of all the things we say to ourselves in our heads (and sometimes to others). “I can’t get the hang of this new system,” “I won’t ever get anything out of these conferences,” “I don’t get along with anyone in that department” … all of these harmful and negative types of self-talk really do become self-fulfilling prophecies — and they serve to hold back individuals.
Many of us short-change ourselves with the negative way we speak to ourselves. Think about the things you tell yourself, especially concerning tasks that you wrestle with at work. It’s not about having a Pollyanna attitude that isn’t realistic, but it’s more about refocusing and reframing how you see challenging tasks.
If you have coworkers who seem to struggle with their outlook on things, perhaps a casual chat about self-talk (and how you’ve successfully incorporated it into your life), might be a good topic for a one-on-one lunch with them sometime soon. And maybe a copy of Helmstetter’s excellent book, after you’ve read it yourself, might be the thing that really helps that coworker to motivate themself — for years to come.
Paul J. Heney – VP, Editorial Director
Filed Under: DIGITAL ISSUES