When someone’s not doing what you want them to do, or not doing what they ought to be doing, it’s because either they can’t, or they don’t want to. Ability, or motivation.
Solving a motivation problem can often be complicated, so let’s start by debunking a myth. The opposite of ‘motivated’ is not ‘lazy’. Of course there are lazy people out there, but thinking about someone as being lazy doesn’t give you any added power for changing them.
It’s better to think of all people as motivated, just maybe not motivated to do what you want them to do.
The root of a motivation problem is a difference in priorities. We’re going to look at how you should explain your priorities in a way that’s believable and convincing while, at the same time, understanding the other person’s priorities. This gives you the ability to make balanced, wise decisions in moments of accountability.
Natural vs. Imposed Consequences
The way to motivate someone is by explaining consequences to them. These are the results, impacts, and outcomes of our behaviour.
There are two broad classes of consequences to consider – natural consequences and imposed consequences. For example:
Natural consequence: Son, if you ride your bike on the wrong side of the road drivers may have trouble seeing you and you could get hit by car.
Imposed consequence: Son, if I catch you riding your bike on the wrong side of the road I’m going to lock you in your room until you’re 23 years old.
When possible you should motivate people using natural, rather than imposed consequences. There are many reasons for this, but five reasons in particular stand out above all others.
1. No Power
The first reason is that with natural consequences, you don’t have to possess any power over the other person. You don’t have to be in a position of authority since you’re not reprimanding or disciplining them. This allows you to explain natural consequences to a peer, an employee, or even your boss.
2. No Resentment
The second reason is that you don’t become the object of resentment. The other person won’t be angry with you because you’re making them do something. Instead, you’re explaining the way the world works, and then they get to make their own, informed decision. This is powerful!
3. No Infractions
Sometimes in accountability, we may know that someone isn’t doing what they ought to be doing, but we don’t have proof. We feel like we need to catch them in the act of doing something wrong in order to properly discipline them to correct the behaviour. By explaining natural consequences, you don’t have to catch them doing something wrong. Instead, they become self-motivated. It becomes intrinsic.
4. No Apathy
It lets the other person learn why you care. If you simply say, “Do this because I said so,” they learn that you care, but they don’t know why. This creates safety, and often it helps establish mutual purpose. They begin to see you as someone that cares about them, not just the current issue.
5. No Orders
Finally, by explaining natural consequences, the other person becomes motivated by understanding rather than obedience. Often when you’re working with experts or established employees, obedience just isn’t good enough. You need their full understanding and commitment. This will enable them to use their ingenuity, creativity, and initiative to go far beyond what you could ever order them to do.