I guess most of you who have been in the retail motor industry for any length of time will at some stage have encountered the dealer principal dinosaur. The type of person whose management style was to ‘walk people round the car park’ or had that militaristic attitude of ‘if you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined’. But like that good schoolteacher who commanded respect, we never forget the manager who inspires, motivates and seems to get more out of everybody. Many business leaders still believe that motivation is a personality trait – ‘You’ve either got it or you haven’t’. We hear about leaders who are great motivators in their pep talks to employees. Of course motivation is fundamental to human performance, but it’s far more complex than many would choose to believe. That’s why the ‘one size fits all’ answer – whether it’s motivational speaking, team building or an improved commission scheme - invariably fail, often not changing behaviour at all and sometimes alienating as many people as they inspire. Reflect on your motivation - are there activities that you engage in simply because you’re passionate about them? What about those where you’re only there because you’re being paid or because you’ll feel guilty if you aren’t? Then there’s the way you think about your successes and failures - what’s your thought process after you don’t land a big fleet contract? What about when you do get the big sale? How does it make you feel when you are passed over for a promotion or unexpectedly are presented with an opportunity to advance your career? These are all vital questions because, depending on the answers, the quality of the result will differ dramatically. The more that motivation is internal – ‘I do it because I love it’, or ‘it’s part of who I am’, the higher the quality of performance. In contrast, when motivation is external – ‘If I don’t do it I’ll feel guilty’, or ‘If I do it I’ll get a reward’, the opposite happens. Those who enrol for our Athlete at Work programme learn that the degree to which motivation comes from the inside is driven by three basic needs we all share: for autonomy where we can make our own choices; for confidence in using our skills; and for strong relationships where we feel supported and valued. Of course, there are some unenlightened souls who still insist that people are motivated mainly by material rewards. So at what point does the reason they get out of bed begin to control them? Our experience is that the best performances do not result from people who feel strongly controlled. Alongside our work with athletes, we have also been involved with a number of football clubs. One manager couldn’t understand why his players weren’t ‘sufficiently motivated’ to avoid a performance slump. He complained that they earned thousands of pounds a week but failed to show consistent maximum effort. When we watched him coach, he insulted and ridiculed players on the training pitch, never asked for their input and was very distant – negative and controlling coaching behaviours in the extreme. When asked why he did this, he said that when he was a player his managers had coached that way and he thought that was the way to motivate. Working with him, the starting point was for him to gain commitment from the players by getting to understand them as individuals with different needs and to engage with them more. He also increased the players’ input and their responsibility for performance. Trust increased and a positive motivational climate was gradually achieved. Results on the pitch followed, and the team had its highest league finish for six years. Pay and reward was shown simply to be a ‘hygiene’ factor – not the route to top level performance. Elite individual and team performance is about shifting emphasis from giving people direction to one where they commit to doing things they care passionately about. It doesn’t mean letting people do whatever they want – but it might involve a real change of attitude. For example, where a job simply has to be done, having and giving a sense of choice as to how it should be done will improve results immediately. However, simply asking for opinions with the intention of completely ignoring them if they don’t match yours, won’t work. So, to sum up, the gold standard of motivation comes from the inside. For you, that means finding ways where you can exert influence and where your sense of confidence leads you to seek even greater challenges. It means ensuring you have support in and out of work. For your team, it no longer becomes a question of ‘how do I motivate them?’ – they will motivate themselves. This article was contributed by Keith Hatter, chief executive of K2 Performance Systems. With shareholders including David James, the England goalkeeper, K2 draws on its experience in athletics to train and coach clients in the ‘art and science of performance in the workplace’. K2's programme - The Athlete at Work - brings together the secrets of peak performance. Further information on 01635 30460 www.planetk2.com.