Which is the better motivational technique, positivity or reality?

IMG_0504As a leader you’re going to always be searching for ways to empower your people to grab the brightest future possible. you want to encourage and inspire them to levels of performance far above anything they can imagine.  We are of course, supposed to be developing leaders.  One motivational techniques is to let them see the future.  A peek at the future may be a great way to get someone out of their comfort level and enable them to grow. My question today is, should that picture be more positive or realistic?

I guess the first step in trying to answer this question, is to make sure you know your audience.

I recently had an experience with an older gentleman, whom I manage that is retiring.  We were talking about him being able to spend more time with his wife, who is already retired, and all the fun things they can do. He has a lot of kids and grandkids that you will be able to do it more thoroughly now.  That’s what it supposed to be all about, right?

I decided to take a very positive position with this conversation. Partly, because I felt I could connect with him and partly because he actually does not want to retire. He loves the company and he loves the people.  He has other extenuating circumstances that make retiring a non-option.  He feels like he’s being forced to retire.  As an outsider it seems that he is wrestling against an outcome over which he has little control.  One way to help him is to paint a very positive picture of the future.  I also encouraged him to talk to his wife, who is great by the way.  I feel like a positive stance with this gentleman was the right move.

Let’s switch gears.  I manage a group that includes a very young, but very promising, millennial.  I see a lot of myself in this young guy, and he’s learning more and more every day.  He has the perfect attitude and should easily be a leader in our organization someday.  So I decided to take him under my wing.  I painted a picture of the future by using my own life as an example.  I worked hard going from an entry-level employee to finally earning a spot in management.  I went back to college got a degree and then earned increasing levels of responsibility in management. Here I am today, a higher level employee in the organization, charged with managing multiple units and groups of people.

I told him all of the things he could be if he decided to work hard and make the right moves.  I even offered to help him along the way.  Here’s the catch, he wanted all of this in six months! I’m not even kidding, every time I seen him he was very positive, very open-minded, very agreeable.  There came a time shortly after he started where he was required to “pay some dues” on an off-shift for a little bit.  Being low on the totem pole you don’t get to choose choice shifts. Now mind you, myself and others in the organization that have been around for almost 20 years have definitely had our share of off-shifts and holiday work. It comes with the territory in our industry. But after about seven or eight months of off-shift work he was ready to quit.

That’s when I decided a reality check was needed. I told him about how it took me many years of being underutilized, underpaid and working hard through tough situations, in order to get where I am.  It’s took at least five or six years before I even became a lead on a shift.  Needless to say, in his mind, he didn’t sign up for that. And I think I may have made the mistake of painting a picture that was so positive, it was unreal. Especially for this millennial. You really have to manage this group differently.  And I’m not knocking millennials, there are a lot of hard-working one’s.  I’ve got another one that is really blowing our minds away right now.  So it’s more tied to this individuals personality.

They’ve got to understand that things take time, especially when non-millennial’s are still in charge.  Right or wrong the bottom line is, manager’s will want you to pay your dues, just like they did.  That’s reality!  I think that conversation brought him back and he is much better after that discussion.  Later on he was able to bid off that shift, so I’m sure that helped as well.

So to answer the question I started with, I would surmise that positivity is good but reality is required.

Know your audience.  There are many ways to figure out the mental make-up of the folks you work with.  One of the best ways is to just form a relationship with them.

3 thoughts on “Which is the better motivational technique, positivity or reality?

  1. Very nice post. Awesome content. I think both positivity and reality and necessary for success. Both must go hand in hand.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree that it ends up being a blend of both that will work. Ultimately, it depends on the audience. How individuals need to be supported often comes down to who they are. Situational leadership training helps with that. I appreciate you reading the blog as well.

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