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What Is Your Big Reason?

Oct 17, 2007
Often I get asked how to motivate people ... how to motivate them to perform better, to want to do things or to want to buy your product. People are motivated only by two things - to move away from pain or a painful situation or towards something they want. The archetypal carrot and stick approach.

If you want to motivate someone you need to either create constant pain (I use the word constant because the second you stop - they stop) or create a big enough positive to get people to want to move towards it.

I don't know about you but the thought of creating pain is not my idea of a good time as a manager or business owner or parent. Finding the big positive is a gentler and more enjoyable way of motivating people. But how do you find the right positive to motivate someone?

Often I see managers go straight to - "give them money" as a motivational tool. They try and motivate by giving bonuses or raises as their sole motivational strategy. The problem with this is that people are not motivated by money - money is just a piece of paper or metal. They are motivated by the feeling that having money creates - the emotions that buying something with money creates.

When you give someone money you are really trying to give someone the feelings that money creates in them. However, you can not be sure of how the money will be used and the feeling you are creating. It's a hit and miss strategy in terms of motivation and as a result you get inconsistent results with people.

The easier strategy is to start with the key value/emotion you want to create or tap into. You want to find the "big reason" that people understand and can get behind. Once you find a big enough reason people will be motivated to accomplish amazing things.

Think back to some of the big reasons that changed the world. The challenge to land the first people on the moon ... the challenge that all people no matter their skin colour would be equal ... the challenge to respond to the Boxing Day Tsunami. If the reason is big enough - people are motivated to respond no matter their personal cost.

Big reasons are usually tied into higher values. Higher values include things like making a difference, contributing to society, learning, equality, personal growth, freedom, love of family, mateship, security as well as emotions such as pleasure, joy, happiness, respect, empathy, fun, love. Big reasons for people can also include smaller things such as saving time or money, fitting in, recognition of status or being the first at something.

Before we look at motivating teams or groups of people lets take a moment to look at you. If you are not sure what your personal "big reason" for doing things is, imagine for a moment you suddenly were handed $10,000 - what would you do with the money? If you would invest it, your personal big reason is the feeling of security, if you would travel your big reason is freedom and if you spend it on a huge plasma TV your big reason is pleasure.

Once you know your personal big reason you can consciously use it to motivate yourself to do things you may have a challenge with - lose those 5kg, get out of debt or have that hard conversation with someone. You just need to find the link between your big reason and the challenge. How specifically will losing 5kg make you more secure/ feel freer/ give you greater pleasure?

Taking this back to a workplace for a moment - say you want to motivate a team to higher sales. What is the biggest reason you can find why the team would want to personally contribute to higher sales? If a portion of the sales is going to a cause they believe in then you focus on "contributing to society". If you team is competing against another team - then mateship within the team and not letting the team down is important. Find a big enough reason for your team and they will blow all sales records out of the water.

Taking the big reason approach to marketing - say you want to market a new service to people. What is the big reason that people would want your new service? Will it save them time or money? Will using this service help them to personally grow? Will using this service give them pleasure? Find the big reason and use this through your marketing copy and advertising.

Remember the "big reason" varies between baby boomers, generation X and Generation Y people. Baby boomer's big reasons are often aligned with security, Gen X with family and personal growth and Gen Y with learning and making a difference. Check your demographic before putting any strategy in place.

Finding a big reason to motivate people to action is like finding a big lever to lift a heavy weight. The bigger the reason, the bigger the lever and the easier it is to lift the weight. In business and life - find the biggest reason you can and you will create amazing results.
About the Author
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter, Business Development and Human Resources Consultant to Small and Medium Businesses. Ingrid has just published Instant HR Policies and Procedures for Small and Medium Businesses www.heartharmony.com.au
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