I remember many years ago having a heated argument with my Regional Manager in one of the Financial Services companies I worked in. In fact we ended up fighting each other on the floor in his office.
He was a very energetic man, and was criticising the way I was managing my team of Financial Advisers. What emerged in the discussion was a fundamentally different approach to getting results. His answer was to get in, ‘kick ass’, put lots of energy into the situation, dominate people and force results. I argued that this was OK for a short-term fix, but was not in anyway sustainable over a long period of time. In addition, once you took the energetic battery (my manager) out of the situation, the people stopped working – the results only happened when he was there cajoling and driving.
My approach differed in that I saw the best results coming from working with the team to build their confidence and abilities, and their own desire to create great results for themselves. This approach takes a bit longer, but then the results grow exponentially over a longer period and would do so without damaging people through sustained overwork.
I remember the violence of our disagreement, but at the time did not realise the fundamental difference in our approaches. I now understand it to be as simple as push and pull, motivation and inspiration. He liked pushing or driving towards results, motivating people to do what he needed, by providing a lot of external energy. I liked inspiring the team to use their own (internal) energy to be at their best in the work environment, which in turn gave the great business results.
There is nothing wrong with motivation, or providing external force to a situation when applied in the short term. Results can be achieved, and it can lead to changes in behaviour which are sustainable longer term. Applying motivation is great in situations where there is some urgency to achieve a particular outcome.
However, if life is a series of quick result-driven fixes, you end up being battle weary, and no better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future. And when the motivating force is removed, people quickly drift back to their old ways, and start getting the same results again that meant they needed motivation in the first place, and round and round the cycle goes.
Inspiration however causes a shift in responsibility – inspired people do things because they want to, and are responsible for their actions and outcomes too. Their level of commitment to what inspires them is sustainable when they are alone and can lead to much greater results in the long term too.
I am forever grateful to that manager for the lesson. It was a turning point in my career – I saw that the way I work best is with inspiration. Years on, I now consider this one of the qualities of a good coach – helping their clients to harness their own energy to enable them to get the results themselves. It creates a relationship of independence, rather than need, when the client cannot function without the coach telling him or her what to do.
So under which regime do you get the best results – when motivated or inspired?