"It is impossible for ideas to
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Thomas Mann, 1896
The Business Forum
Who Motivates the
Thomas R. Northup
We are experiencing the most dramatic business climate
changes since the 1930's. We are in a 100-year flood economically and will not
quickly return to the comfort and growth of the 1980s and 1990s. For many
companies, it will take years to return to 2007 revenue levels. For all
companies and industries, Washington is changing the way we do business in such
diverse areas as health care, union relationships and capital access.
Many companies are downsizing, cost cutting and reducing
expectations. Employees are experiencing loss of income. Personal angst is high.
Great uncertainty affects everyone's lives. In this environment productivity and
creativity suffer. It becomes very difficult to change uncertainty and
pessimistic attitudes to optimism. We must re-invigorate our employees so they
will work together to achieve the vision of the organization. The conundrum is
that we need time to create effective change yet we need employee commitment for
this to occur. Employee motivation is one of our most important tasks.
The obvious question is: Who motivates the Motivator? His or
her career and financial status are all affected in a major way. The 80s and 90s
were good. Managers achieved high levels of organizational and financial
success. Organizational growth brought great personal reward. Yet success often
breeds comfort. When success is easy we lose some of our passion and drive.
Change affects the leader in a major way. The "the new normal" environment means
change is not temporary but long term. Leaders also experience doubt,
procrastination and loss of purpose. How do you recommit yourself and build the
infectious personal enthusiasm necessary to motivate yourself and others? Who
provides your drive?
The answer is: You must motivate yourself. No one else will.
True motivation is internal. We ca not change reality. We can only react.
Business conditions are unforgiving. We don't have time.
Change is pervasive and might swamp us. We must rapidly build a program of
personal motivation if we are to keep up. A positive mental attitude is a key
attribute of successful people. If you are struggling with negative emotions,
you need to recommit to building a burning desire to reach new goals. List the
benefits of reaching these goals or list the alternatives, the losses you may
incur if you don't reach them. Include all aspects of your life, including
family, friends, associates and employees.
Create a strong personal determination to overcome any
obstacle that will arise as you work to achieve the benefits of reaching your
goal. Develop the attitude that nothing will stand in your way. Once you
realize that your motivation comes from within, you can build a comprehensive
plan to create the personal motivation that will help you achieve the success
you want. An effective plan has four steps.
First: Determine the goals you will commit to achieving.
Include personal, financial and organizational goals as appropriate. Write
them down because writing crystallizes your thoughts and commits you to
action. Be specific, including exact dates for completion. Determine
how you will measure progress to keep yourself accountable.
Second: For each goal, develop the action steps you must
take to make the goal reality. The smaller the action steps the easier it is
to accomplish them. Sequence them. Determine dates for their completion.
Decide when you will review progress and what resources and people you need
to accomplish them.
Third: The key to success is to put the action steps into
your scheduling system. Make an appointment with yourself to accomplish
these steps. They are tremendously important to building your positive
mental attitude and achieving the success you envision.
Fourth: Hold yourself accountable. Regularly review your
progress. That way if you miss a step you only have to make a small
correction. If your reviews are infrequent, you have a large gap to close
when you miss steps. You will mentally slip further behind on your schedule
if you are already far behind.
Success is cumulative. Success begins when we accomplish the
first step of our plan, not just when we achieve the goal. As we complete each
action step milestone, we generate success. Then success breeds more success and
Today we may be starting from a personal situation that
includes doubt, procrastination and loss of purpose. These attitudes make it
easy to slip behind on our plan. In addition, goals that stretch us expose us to
potential failure. In the early stages of achievement, we have difficulty
maintaining drive and determination because procrastination and doubt are still
strong. The most powerful way to conquer this is to build successful
accountability by using others to help us through the process.
Accountability is the most difficult step to maintain over
In your business, build consensus among the management team
to create agreement on which actions the company requires to effect positive
change. Develop best thinking where everyone participates in determining which
changes are needed and in setting the new direction of the firm. By involving
others, you ensure their intellectual and emotional commitment to the change
They become change proponents not change detractors. Build
accountability into the team process to ensure that accountability is group
centered, not individually centered. This way everyone supports each other and
works together to implement change initiatives.
Personally, do not behave like the Lone Ranger. Use a board
of advisors, a mentor or other trusted person to listen to, suggest changes in
and challenge your assumptions and your attitudes. Allow them to hold you
accountable for the results you commit to. These advisors help you maintain your
desire and determination.
True motivation is personal and internal. We motivate
ourselves. As leaders, we are responsible for inspiring our employees to develop
their own positive motivation. Because you are the role model, your demeanor is
critical to the culture of your organization. Become excited about going to work
every day and making a difference. This positive attitude will infect your
employees. Positive employees and a results orie nted organization are important
to overcoming your current obstacles and will become a catalyst for your future
How do we do this under difficult circumstances? Believe that
even though things are tough you still have the ability to control your destiny.
Build your burning desire and positive determination to succeed whatever the
situation. Fate is in your hands. It is not dictated by others.
Thomas R. Northup is a Fellow of The Business
Forum Institute and is a nationally recognized management expert,
consultant, speaker and coach. He is the author of the book, The Five
Hidden Mistakes CEOs Make. How to Unlock the Secrets and Drive Growth
and Profitability. Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York
Times best-seller, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,
said about Five Mistakes “Gleaned from years of success as a CEO in his
own right, Tom Northup masterfully provides practical wisdom and tools
to move senior leaders beyond the status quo to help them see what
they need to see, not just what they want to see.” Tom is the
former CEO and principal of three successful businesses, and he
understands the business complexities faced by today’s busy executives.
He is experienced in high growth situations, new product start-ups,
strategic planning, market analysis, team operations, and
turn-around/reorganization. Today, through coaching, consulting,
mentoring, and training, Tom provides practical experience and
thoughtful leadership. Tom works side-by-side with clients to develop
plans and implement strategies to …. build capabilities that increase
revenue and profitability year after year, make companies more proactive
in the marketplace, build effective management teams, foster greater
corporate wide accountability and generate sustained results. He is a
goal-oriented executive experienced in developing strong management
teams all with a focus on driving continuous results and success.
Tom graduated with a BS in Mathematics from Bucknell University and has
an MBA from Syracuse University. He is an active with the Forum for
Corporate Directors, the Institute of Management Consultants and runs a
CEO roundtable at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his
book he has written many articles on management published throughout the
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