Want to Motivate Your Successors? Play 'Follow the Leader,' Not 'Simon Says.'
Childhood games are so ingrained in our memories as fun experiences that we forget why we played them in the first place. For example, “Simon Says” seeks to teach children self-control, teach the importance of following directions and establish respect for an authority figure.
Unfortunately, “Simon Says” falls woefully short in advancing children's development, because it fails to harness their inner motivation. The essence of this game is to mindlessly follow Simon’s orders -- no questions asked -- because Simon said so. But "Simon Says" is a game better suited for molding unmotivated (but obedient) drones, not the leaders of tomorrow.
It’s certainly not the way you want to train your successors -- at work or at home.
As a leader, if you find that your task-delegation style is limited to “the boss says,” you owe it to those following in your footsteps to work on boosting your motivational strategies. Ideally, your role as leader is to not only ensure that your followers are performing well, but to understand why they need to perform well and to have the desire to up their game.
The takeaway: You shouldn’t be playing an endless workflow game of “Simon Says”; you should be motivating your successors with “Follow the Leader.”
Lead by example to set the tone.
The best way to utilize your leadership skills, to motivate your employees, your children or anyone else who looks up to you is to set the right tone in everything you do. You have to understand that their roles depend on their assumption that you know what you’re doing. You have to exude confidence and moxie in everything you do.
A great example of a leader who was a master of motivation was the famous Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller. Puller is famously quoted as saying, “They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us . . . they can’t get away this time.” His poise and brash confidence gave his troops peace and purpose in even the most psychologically demanding environments.
Though it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to lead your successors into battle, here are two more more tips for motivating your “troops.”
In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni explained that the first dysfunction that prevents effective team building is the breakdown of trust. Trust must exist to strengthen any relationship; and to build trust, we must be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is a way of exposing our proverbial underbellies, which encourages others to connect with us on a deeper level. It ensures that they understand how mistakes help us correct our direction and lead us to learn, grow and retain information.
Although most leaders want to be perfect in the eyes of those they lead, they’re not. Pretending to be a shining paragon of perfection would be a lie. You have to embrace your flaws.
Take the time to give attention.
Time is much more valuable than money. Money can be earned and duplicated, but time cannot. The more time you spend with your successors, the more they will remember your example.
In The 4-Hour Workweek, author Tim Ferriss discussed the concept that attention is what really gives time its value. You always have to be present when you’re taking the time to motivate and mentor. Putting down your smartphone isn’t enough -- you have to ensure that your mind is focused on your companion, not the myriad things on your plate.
My own job revolves around motivating others and helping them discover their own purpose as they grow and put certain skills into practice. You’ll find -- with your employees, your children or someone you mentor -- that after every “aha!” moment they experience, life truly shows its meaning. It’s an unbelievably rewarding experience that leaves a lasting impact, which a life of “Simon Says” could never replicate.