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Samosas make the world go round



Recently I read an online management study article (i.e. one designed to teach people). It was one of those days.


For some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on, the article made me uncomfortable.


It was an article about motivation. A word that has a strong and noble history in the lexicon of leaders, and plays a key part in anyone’s growth.


The piece of the article that stood out was their definition of motivation..:

“[Motivation is} a goal-oriented characteristic that helps a person achieve his objectives. It pushes an individual to work hard at achieving his or her goals.”

A pretty classic definition. Nothing to set the world on fire. One I’m sure we’ve all seen variations of. 


Had to read it a few times before it clicked what didn’t sit right.


“…it pushes an individual…”


It reminded me that I used to do that. I used to push motivation onto myself.


And others.


It reminded me that I probably didn’t use the word correctly back in my early corporate days. I used the word (and probably believed back in the early part of my career) that motivation came from somewhere outside of me and even the team. 


It was a magical construct.


Anyone recognise these?


  • ‘Morning all, anyone got any motivation I can borrow.?’

  • ‘Right then, I’ve been to the shop and bought some motivation. That’s lemon cheesecake motivation and those are vegetable samosas motivations*.’

  • ‘I’ve booked us on a team-building event. We’ll build a boat and we’ll have fun. That should be just the motivation we’re after.’


(*somosas are the exception here. They are the one true form of external motivation. People will do anything for a somosa. It’s science.)


Whether your a leader by design, job-title, aspiration, or a self-leader, I’m pretty certain you see motivation as one of your key responsibilities.


How many Mondays, or too-close-to-the-deadline-days, or one-last-push-days have you been the one that’s picked up the mantle of Director of Motivation? Stood tall, squared the shoulders and pulled out all the motivation tricks and techniques you have up your sleeve?


A lot of leaders use the word motivation like that. It’s their role to go find it. To encourage it when they see it’s needed. To create it if they don’t.


But you can’t create motivation. I’ve come to learn that the hard way.


True motivation though comes from within*.


(*apart from samosas. They start out and end up within)


You shouldn’t be motivating your teams. That’s not your responsibility.


Your responsibility is to help them find their own motivation.


To get curious about what their motivation could be. To look at the goals your team needs to achieve and help them figure out what will pull each indivudal and the team as a whole towards them.


Pull towards, not push towards.


When you try to motivate someone be careful you are not pushing ideas, actions, and values onto them. Especially if they’re yours. Each of the above sentences and al their variations treats motivation as an external thing. A reward someone is given.


You could use the word the Devil likes (hey, Netflix’s Lucifer is an absolute blast, okay!), and ask your team what they desire. Unfortunately, I suspect you’ll get a list that’ll make an 80’s comedian blush.


How about wish? It’s only slightly better, and again likely to create a sense of external fulfilment - Amazon Wish Lists anyone?


Rather than look for different words which can better signify your intent, I think the answer does actually lie in the word motivation.


i.e. Motive.


(okay, you have to add an extra ‘e’; but I’m trying to create a punchy prose here so give me a break…)


The word motivation conjures up rewards. What will make you do this. 


It’s not the word’s fault. It’s a victim of circumstance.


The word motive on the other hand…that has echoes of internalisation. Of thought and feelings rather than tangible things.


It forces you or whoever you’re talking to to reflect inwardly. 


“What is my motive?”


It’s a posh word for why...


  • ‘Morning all, can someone remind me of my motive for doing this work please?’

  • ‘Right then, my motive for feeding you cheesecake and samosas is to help us get over the finish line with one last, big team rally.’

  • ‘I’ve booked us on a team-building event. You all said your motive for joining this project was to make new connections and have new experiences so it should be float all our boats. And yes, there will be boat building.’


Motivation is good, but as leaders let’s steer aware from it’s inference to you or your team needing someone or somethings to motivate you.


Let's not talk about motivation.


Let's talk about motives.


Preferably over a samosa or two.


Preferably warm.

“When you chase end goals, especially end goals related to your calling, you no longer need to be ‘motivated’, instead, you are pulled by your vision.” Vishen Lakhiani
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©2019 by Colin Mobey