Maxwell Leadership Podcast: The Leader Who Motivates
Today, we’re talking about Motivation. Leaders who are skilled at motivating their people have higher employee retention, see more success in their businesses, and have teams that believe in their vision. That’s why John Maxwell is going to share three things you need to embrace to become a leader who motivates.
After John’s lesson, Mark Cole and Traci Morrow discuss how they use these principles to motivate their own teams.
Our BONUS resource for this episode is “The Leader Who Motivates Worksheet,” You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.
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Read The Transcript
Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Podcast. This is the podcast that adds value to leaders who multiply value to others. My name is Mark Cole and I’m the CEO of Maxwell Leadership. Today we’re talking about motivation. Leaders who are skilled at motivating their people, they have a higher employee retention. In fact, they see more success in their businesses, and they have teams that believe in their vision. That’s why John Maxwell today is going to share three things you need to embrace to become a leader who motivates. After John’s lesson, I and my co-host, Traci Morrow, will discuss how we use these principles to motivate our team, to challenge our team to bigger, better, and brighter.
To download this episode, there’s a bonus resource. You can go to maxwellpodcast.com/motivated. This resource is a free fill in the blank PDF that accompanies John’s lesson and makes it easier for you to capture notes. Lastly, if you would like to watch this episode on YouTube, please go to maxwellleadership.com/youtube. Be sure to leave us a comment, let us know how we helped you, let us know how we can improve. That’s it for now. Let’s join John Maxwell.
Let me ask you a question. Do you remember the first time in your life that you were motivated? I mean, go back, go back a while. Now, I know I was motivated before this but I’m going to go back, if you’ll let me for a moment, and share with you the first experience that I can remember being motivated. I’m sure there were others before then, but this one was the one that really helps me to understand the power of motivation is when I was in the fourth grade and I went to my first high school basketball game. I’d never been to a basketball game before and the band was playing and they were doing all the warmups. But what motivated me that evening is all of a sudden right before the start of the game, they turned all the lights off and then they put a spotlight down on the starting five. And with a drum in the background, they would announce the players and the players would run out on the middle of the floor with the whole gymnasium dark except the spotlight on that player.
And the people would stand up and they would cheer. I can remember I was in the balcony, I was hanging over the railing only as a fourth grade kid would do. I’m hanging over the railing and I’m watching these ball players run out on the basketball court and I’m watching everybody cheer and everybody get excited about the game and about the ball players. And that evening, I can still remember how I felt, I said to myself, “I’m going to learn how to play basketball, and someday I’m going to be in this gymnasium and they’re going to call my name and I’m going to run out on the middle of the court.” And I went home that night and I told my dad, I said, “Dad, I’m going to learn how to play basketball.” And my daddy, we had a little driveway there and he put up the basketball court and got me a Spalding basketball and the whole story.
And I’m telling you, I’d shovel snow and I’d be out there playing when it was snowing. I mean, from that point, I just began to play basketball and practice and work on my game. And I can remember when I got to the sixth grade, you know, you have this little fifth grade ball and sixth grade ball. I played on Franklin School’s sixth grade basketball game. And in the city we were one of the two best teams. And the championship for the sixth grade basketball team in Circleville, Ohio was to go to the Mill Street Gym and play basketball on the court where I’d seen the big boys run out for the starting lineup. And I’ll never forget what I did. When we got there, all the other kids got to practicing and I remember taking my basketball and going over and sitting there in the seat where those guys sat.
And I closed my eyes. I mean, I turned all the lights of the gym off. And then I announced my name and I dribbled the ball out to the center court. And it felt so good. Nobody else was paying attention, nobody else knew what I was doing. It felt so good, I did it again. And about the third time, the coach came over and said, “John, come on. Get over here and start practicing. We’re getting our warmups here.” He said, “What are you doing?” And I remember looking at him just as clear as I could be, I said, “I’m getting ready to play high school basketball.”
And we played that game, and I’ll never forget as a sophomore in high school, when I looked on the locker room right before the game and I saw the starting lineup and I was kind of the youngest kid on the team and I saw my name at left guard. And all of a sudden I realized now, a few years later, my dream was going to come true. I’ll never forget the lights going out, the spotlight coming on, me running out. The first thought I had right before I ran out is, don’t trip. But it is a beautiful story, it’s just my story. It’s a simple story. It’s not brilliant, but it’s just a story. It’s a story of the power of motivation, of what happens to a person when all of a sudden they’re motivated to do something that they’ve never done before.
Now, here’s what I want you to see. Are you ready to take notes? Average leaders direct the people. Good leaders direct and explain to their people. Excellent leaders direct, explain and demonstrate to their people. Now here we are, but the great leaders direct, explain, demonstrate and inspire their people. Vince Lombardi was exactly right when he said, “Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who succeed are those who can get inside their players and motivate them.” So let’s talk for just a few minutes about the leader who motivates, because there are some characteristics about the leader who motivates others.
Number one, the leader who motivates others is self-motivated. That’s a fact. I have never met a motivational leader that lacked motivation personally. They’re all self-motivated. The very fact that you’re self-motivated gives you the credibility to motivate somebody else. Number two, the leader who motivates should motivate others with the right motives. Again, the right motives is so essential. Manipulation, I say it so much, it’s moving people for personal advantage. Motivation is moving people for mutual advantage. So there are some motivational questions you have to ask yourself. This is a great question: Do I only motivate people who can help me? That’s a great question. Do I only motivate people when I am in a leadership assignment? Do I motivate others by using leverage or guilt?
Do I unconditionally love others if they do not respond to my motivation? Just some great questions to ask. Let me just stop here for a moment to say, in the area of motivating people, because all my life I’ve tried to stretch people, there has to be a certain amount of integrity in your motivation, and let me explain that. I always want to motivate people out of their comfort zone, but I try never to motivate people out of their gift zone. And you really need to understand the difference between that. All you do is frustrate and hurt people when you motivate people out of the gift zone. You got to always play to where their strengths are. Now, you always are motivating them out of the comfort zone, but if a person can’t sing, don’t motivate them to sing. Don’t do that to them. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to the people they’re going to try to sing to.
Does that make sense? Number three, a leader who motivates creates a motivational environment. From front of the book, Coaching for Improved Work Performance, there are five reasons why people do not perform the way they should. Number one, they do not know what they are supposed to do. And beside that, put the fact that is a mission issue. In other words, nobody’s ever declared what the mission is. Nobody’s ever laid out the vision. They do not know what they’re supposed to do. The second reason people do not perform as they should is they do not know how to do it. That’s a training issue. Nobody’s ever sat down and trained them how to do it. Or number three, they do not know why they should do it. That’s a soul issue.
Or number four, there are obstacles beyond their control. That’s a leadership issue. It’s what leaders do, help remove the obstacles and clear the path for people to follow. Or number five, they do not care enough to do excellent work and that’s an attitude issue. Motivation is like love and happiness, it’s a byproduct. When you’ve actively engaged in doing something that sneaks up and zaps you when you least expect it. As Harvard psychologist Jerome Bruner says, you’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than to feel yourself into action. So act, whatever it is that you know should do, do it. In other words, go from hype to habits because we overestimate the event and we underestimate the process. Get motivated and go do it.
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I’m sitting here today with Traci, and Traci, I thought about a quote from Patrick Emington. He said, “It’s the greatest folly to talk of motivating anybody. The real key is to help others unlock and direct their deepest motivators.” And as I’m listening to John today, I thought, how true is it that if you’ll just listen to this as that student we talk about, man, there’s really some good stuff here on how to motivate yourself and then motivate those around us.
I agree. And what I think is so cute, let’s bookend it. I’ll start at the end and come back to the beginning. When John says, “Go from hype to habit,” I thought it was so cute the story that he started out talking about himself as a fourth grader and how amazing that when he saw the big boys, as he called them, out on the court, I would think that most kids, now I’ve had six kids, and I would say that most kids, including myself, would see the people out on the court and would practice being called out onto the court by the microphone and to the crowd cheering. And what he saw, even as a fourth grader, was that he needed to… That was the hype, being interviewed or called out onto the court. It’s not interviewed, what is it? Being introduced.
Introduced out into the court. And what he saw was that he didn’t need to practice being introduced onto the court. Even as a young boy, he saw that it wasn’t about the hype he needed to practice. He needed to practice basketball so that he could be one of those five introduced out onto the court. I thought that was amazing that even as a child, he wasn’t drawn to the hype, even though his heart was. He was drawn to the habit that would get him to that position where he would be introduced. I thought that’s amazing.
Yeah, that whole comment and then your play on that reminds me of a great story of Serena Williams, the great tennis star. And she would, right before championship games, she would start thinking about the post-game interview and what she was going to say. She would start envisioning what she would do right after the last shot when she won the championship. Isn’t it interesting? And John’s thinking about walking out on that stage and he dribbled out there and then came back, did it three times. The coach said, “Are you going to practice?”
It’s almost like don’t focus on the pomp and the hype, as you’re talking about, focus on the talent, but then focus on how you’re going to make the best once you are really talented. And I love that. And I think that both of those stories just really motivate me, how John did that and then how Serena would spend time thinking about what is going to be her post-championship interview and how’s it going to sound, even before she’s played in the championship. So I love that. And I think that’s applicable to how we as leaders need to be. We need to focus on the disciplines, the habits, and not so much on the hype.
That’s right. And preparing to succeed. And so I would love to know, I’m sure our listeners would too, do you remember the first time you were motivated?
Yeah, I was real motivated, and it goes to John’s first point, the leader who motivates is self-motivated. I can remember, Traci, four and five years old, leading… All of 2022 I’ve been telling this story in all of our big events about how I wanted to drive a ship as a five-year-old. And I would pretend my entire carport was this ship, and all these people, we were taking a cargo that was precious to faraway places to people who did not experience the magnitude of the precious cargo that I have. Don’t ask me what the cargo was, I can’t remember. I just know it was very precious, it was very needed and it was going to impact people when I got it.
Maybe a little Hot Wheels or something [inaudible 00:15:49].
Yeah, it might have been. It could have even been one of those little red hot things, Fireballs. It could have been Fireballs.
Yeah, candy. But all I know is I would sit on that imaginary ship and I would motivate my people saying, “Hey, I know we’ve been on the waters for three weeks now but imagine the face of the people.” I can remember at five, six years old, motivating my imaginary crew with what it was going to be like to deliver our cargo. So I can remember feeling motivated at a very, very young age. I can remember motivating people, even imaginary people, probably motivated imaginary people a little bit better than real people.
It is easier. Less resistance for sure. But I can remember early in life being motivated and a lot of that came from within. I just had this passion within me that burned and exhibited itself as motivation. And I can remember after about two years of driving this big cargo ship, which was our carport.
This is imaginary or this is real?
This is all imaginary.
Driving our carport, which was my cargo ship. And one day I’m standing on the railing, looking out over a 20-foot drop, and all of a sudden a plane landing in Atlanta Airport flew over and I went, “Why would I drive a cargo ship when I could drive an airplane, an airship, and get there much faster and take a lot more people?” So it quit being such a precious cargo to now getting people farther than they’d ever been, faster, until about nine, and then the United States had the space shuttle program and my cargo ship turned to an airship, an airplane, to a spaceship. And I soared into the world and took people to destinations they had never been. And so anyway, it’s funny because I could tell more of the story, but today I’m not driving a cargo ship, an airship or a spaceship, but I’m driving a leadership.
Hey. I love that so much. Oh, my gosh. Why we love you, times a million. I love that. Okay, so getting back to… So you’re self-motivated, that’s the goal. John talks about the leader who motivates is self-motivated. But then he talked about something that we should motivate someone with the right motives. And so can you do a little bit of motivating right here to our audience? If someone is listening, he gave two examples, that manipulation is moving people forward for personal advantage.
And I would say that that’s a temptation for every leader because every leader is trying to get ahead, has personal goals and has their eye on certain goals. But then he says, “Motivation is moving people forward for a mutual advantage.” So let’s say someone is in our audience, and I’m certain that this has to be if we’re getting real with ourselves, as leaders should be. And they might have heard John say that and there was that little bit of, oh in their spirit of like, it is kind of one-sided. Maybe I am guilty of manipulating my people, not with bad intentions even, maybe. But can you talk a little bit to our audience if they have found themselves that it’s one-sided, maybe, and how do they move that needle from it being just about personal advantage of how do you become a leader who makes it a win-win situation?
Yeah. I think all of us that are leading things bigger than us, things that are more significant us, we have manipulated people. So I want to start there because it sounds so bad. But I want to tell you this, if you’re asking the question, “How can I not manipulate people? How can I make sure that I’m motivating people?” You don’t have a manipulation problem, you have a passion problem and you don’t have people around you that can speak into your blind spots. Because all of us that are leading will at times get so focused on our agenda, on our mission, on the thing that is so important to us, that without even knowing it, without being intentional about it, we will begin to manipulate people to get to the accomplishment of our vision and mission. So start there, there’s a chance, those of you that are leading big things, leading teams, there’s a chance that you might be manipulating right now.
I’m not challenged with the fact that people manipulate, I’m challenged with the people that manipulate ongoing, consistent and don’t have checks and balances in their life. So I don’t want to manipulate people, I hope I never do, but I do. Because the agenda sometimes becomes so important that I got to get there, that I don’t slow down and motivate. Now let me explain motivation. When John says motivation is moving people for mutual advantage, the only way I can know what mutual advantage is is with questions. Now, John goes right after that motivational questions in his lesson, but stop right here. Manipulation, we all have a strong temptation to manipulate people at certain times when we got to get to the goal, we’ve got to get to the summit. But the way that you motivate people is you have to ask questions. You have to sit down and ask, what is motivating to you?
And let me tell you how you know you are being tempted to manipulate rather than motivate, when you’re doing a lot more talking rather than asking questions. How does that make you feel, Traci, that we’re going to go chase this agenda, that we’re going to go get 100,000 people in the growth app? How does that make you feel? You’re, “Oh, it feels good. It feels good.” Sometimes I got to slow down and say, “Why does it make you feel good, Traci?” Well, I know that answer for you, I think. Let me try it for a moment. You are so passionate about women that are great moms and great leaders and have a passion for the world to embrace both expressions. You’re passionate about it. And you want people that are passionate about family and people that have enough significance to be passionate about the family that they are significant in other areas too.
So when I feel like I am over-motivating you for my agenda, I slow down and say, “Traci, you do remember that on the personal growth app, you’re going to be able to talk to more people about making relationships important in their life.” And all of a sudden I watch those lights turn back on in your eyes. I watch you lean forward again and say, “This is what I want my life to be about.” Too many leaders that are casting too much vision, they cross the line between motivating people to mutual passions, mutual accomplishments, to manipulating people to their passion and their accomplishments. And so for me as a leader that is very passionate, we just talked about that with my five-year old self, I’ve got to slow down and ask questions to make sure that people are getting motivated at their passion and desire level, not my passion and desire level.
It really is coming back to the relationship, which I love to always connect back to. It’s knowing your people. You know that about me. You’re able to say those things because you know that about me. And you also can know that I can lose motivation as somebody who you are leading into a new place because I can get distracted by other things in life. And it’s connecting back of where we’re going to the heart of what really matters to me and what matters to the people. And I know somebody needs to hear that because you can start to feel, and maybe you feel this way sometimes, that the people that you’re leading and trying to motivate get distracted easily. And so it’s a matter of connecting back, because life is busy, life has hardships, life can distract our people. And when we’re trying to motivate them, we need to make sure that we are connecting to the things that, through those questions, that really matter to them.
Well, so recently, sitting in the studio today as Jared Cagle, he’s recently been named our executive vice president of content development. And so he texts me earlier this week at the podcast recording and he said, “Mark, I’m living my best life.” He said, “I just experienced a day that I could have only dreamt would’ve happened in my life. It was a perfect day, it had all these components.” In fact, he was telling us a little bit about some of the components before we started recording. Here’s my point, when you are motivating people and you’re getting their best, an agenda of the leader can be accomplished. But it is much more gratifying as a leader to know that it’s being accomplished on, in this case, Jared’s terms rather than my terms. And I’ve left too many meetings, Traci, and John Maxwell would say, “Hey, how was the meeting?”
I go, “Man, it was great.” “How do you know it was great?” “Because I really delivered my message.” Anyway, “That’s what made the meeting great, you got the message off your chest?” A great meeting is when I deliver a message that awakened something in the person listening to the message and inspires them to go chase fulfillment of significance and success in their life because it’s something they want to do. A great meeting is not always everybody rallying around my vision and my direction, but a great meeting is always when I can rally people around what’s in them and what they want to accomplish with their life.
And that leads right into creating a motivational environment, a motivational meeting environment. But how do you gauge that, like for that meeting when John would say to you, “How great was your meeting, Mark?” or “How was your meeting, Mark?” How do you gauge if they were sparked, if the people sitting in your meeting were sparked, if they were motivated by what you were saying and connecting with that, how do you gauge that?
Well, it’s a good question. I love this question. In fact, I’m thinking of a meeting that’s coming up pretty soon to where I really have got to motivate our team for the vision that I have for the rest of 2022 and getting us ready for 2023. I’m starting to feel the intensity now it’s middle of October, starting to feel the intensity of 2023 plans. And I’ve really got to motivate our team. What I’ve asked them to do, I just shot a video this morning before I came in to record with you. I asked them to consider, I gave them an example of what success looked like from an event that we did with the vision we had for the event and for the organization.
I said, “Here is the model of perfect scenario.” Give them a picture of what success looks like. Then I asked them and I said, “I want you to come ready to this next meeting with clarity on how you can learn from this picture perfect example that I’ve just given you and apply that to some areas that you are already connected with the vision or areas in your organization that you’re part of the organization that you need to connect to the vision. Find what’s going well or find something that we really need to work on.”
I think oftentimes we ask people, “Why aren’t you motivated?” But we don’t give them a picture of what motivation or inspiration looks like. I think you’ve got to give a good model, a good example, and then ask them the question, “What will motivate and inspire you to get to that good example in your world?” And I’m trying that now, Traci. Maybe we’ll come back in a podcast next month or in a couple of weeks and I’ll tell you how it’s going. But that’s what I’m trying to do currently is create this motivational environment by saying, “Hey, this is what’s working perfect to the vision with great culture and great momentum. This is what I would like for your part of the organization. How can you get there? What would it look like in your mind to get there?”
So giving them a model of what it should look like and their part in it. And then I feel like that goes right into those five questions that John has them asking and you asking for a motivational environment for what to do, how to do it, why they should do it. So connecting to their mission, training, the soul, the leadership.
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Okay, so then he said at the very end, “You’re more apt to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action,” which I think my mom has said that my whole life. That’s so funny that she’s probably heard that from John Maxwell because I thought, has John been talking to my mom? And then he said, “We overestimate the event and underestimate the process.” I’ve heard John say both of those things, and my mom, a bunch of times. Those are two big things because I think so many people wait for a feeling before they act, number one, and they’re waiting for some big event to spark motivation rather than understanding that that’s a process, that you need to do things whether you feel like it or not.
And the process is where motivation comes from, taking those steps continually. It’s the unsexy process of just every day being consistent. And so what do you think are some of the common things that sabotage people from just taking that step and acting and taking those steps towards acting their way into a feeling to be motivated rather than just waiting to be motivated?
Well, it’s so interesting because I listen to that and I don’t get confidence, I get conviction. And let me explain. I’m a feeler, I’m an emotional leader. Because one of my top five values is passion. And so passion, intensity, excitement, got to feel good about it. If you’re watching the YouTube part of this podcast, I’m waving my hands everywhere. And so I’m a very passionate person and so, so often I have found myself feeling myself into an action rather than acting myself into a feeling, because my first filter is feeling. And so I listen to that and I get convicted and go, wow, that may be some of the things that’s holding me back. Because I’m waiting on having a good day to tackle a difficult obstacle or challenge rather than tackling the obstacle or the challenge and having a good day. Right? And so in full disclosure, and that’s what we do here, Traci, because you and I, our role is to apply what we heard from John, right?
And I’m sitting here going, I am applying that and not living it. That is not something I can speak and say, even after all these years of leadership, “Man, I’ve got it. Fake it till you make it. Fake it till you make it.” That’s what I hear when I say that and I go, you can’t fake it till you make it. Make it and then you won’t have to worry about faking or anything. Well, to act myself into a feeling, I really have to overcome the challenge that that feels a little hypocritical, that it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay, when internally, emotionally I’m going, I don’t know if it’s going to be okay or not.
So one, I want to say that because I do think that there are a lot of podcast listeners, a lot of leaders that do act themselves into a feeling and it works. Get up, do it, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and let’s go. Let’s get this thing done. And the sense, the feeling of accomplishment when you push through difficult times is truly a real authentic act into a feeling. For some of us that are very much feelers, emotionals, I can tell you that I can sit in something and then all of a sudden I feel that sense. You know what? This is going to be okay. And I feel myself into an action and then that action happens. And I don’t feel the exhilaration afterwards, I feel the exhilaration beforehand because I am going to go out no matter how bad this thing can go, I’m still going to go give my best to it. So I’m listening to this and I’m really enjoying breaking it down because I think there’s two different ways to come at that.
Yeah. And I think it’s probably knowing yourself, but in the end, it’s coming back. I’ll end with how I started and it is how John ended and that was, it’s really going from hype to habit. When it’s not, we aren’t talking about… What you’re not describing is you’re waiting for the feeling like you want to feel like you want to do something. You’re talking about a passion, which that’s something you know about yourself.
And maybe you could just sort of describe that for somebody, because when John says, “Go from hype to habit,” he’s talking about being consistent to show up and do it whether you feel like it or not. What you’re describing is a passion and knowing yourself to not act too soon, but to wait till you have a knowing, and that combined with your passion. And that could be confusing maybe for somebody who’s like, “Well, so should I do it or should I wait for a feeling?”
Yeah, yeah. No, don’t wait. I’m glad you brought that up. Don’t wait for a feeling to go do it. Leaders have a propensity to action. Period, end of story, there you go. We’ve got to be acting. But sometimes we want the feeling, some of us that are feelers, we want the feeling before we go rather than acting and then getting the feeling, because we’re feelers. So you got to start acting. You’ve got to start pushing and directing and engaging, or you’ll become paralyzed because of your emotions. You’ll become docile, not effective.
So that’s certainly not what we’re talking about here today. The best way I know to illustrate this as kind of we wrap up, Traci, is I used to communicate and I would want the emotion of the people to describe to my feeling way of doing things on whether I did a good job or not. I grew up, my dad was a Pentecostal preacher and I grew up in a lot of emotion, a lot of emotion in communicators. And John said, “You’re going to have to get rid of allowing emotional responses to indicate effectiveness. You’ve got to.”
Oh, that’s so good.
“You’ve got to get to a place to where you will allow somebody pausing, thinking, processing, and then writing it down be the indicator of impact, not an emotional response.” And Traci, that was huge for me because again, I’m an emotional guy, I work a lot off of feelings. But there is a application that we want people to have that is not centered around motivation. That’s why John says I’m a motivational teacher, not a motivational speaker. I want to teach people something and use motivation to teach, not motivation just to inspire. In fact, let me tell you what I want to do. For those of you that kind of just connected with that, man, communicating and wanting a response, rather than wanting an application, I want to give Jake, team, I want to give the book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect as our offer this week. We’ll give you a 15% off.
You’ll get a 15% discount with the code PODCAST. We’ll put the link in our show notes. I want you to pick up this book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect because it will help you here. I love the listener comment that I want to pull out today. And by the way, I always pull out something that I think will motivate and inspire. Those of you that give us really good things to think about, things that may not be as positive, please keep those comments coming too. We want to know how to get better and each and every one of your comments we take, some of them respond to, some of them we read on the podcast, but for all of you that take a moment to help us become better, thank you. We greatly appreciate it. Today it comes from Ricky. Ricky listened to the podcast Goal Conscious Versus Growth Conscious.
He said, “I really like this episode as I’m now in the process of shifting my mindset to be growth conscious. When I think about my life in the past, I was really goal conscious and when I achieved my goals, I don’t think I paid attention to the growth or to the understanding that you gain on the way to achieving your goals. I’m going to continue to set goals, but I will be more focused and strategic in picking specific areas I want to grow.” And Ricky, you nailed it. That little paragraph right there is exactly what we were trying to do with this podcast. We’ll put that podcast in the show notes as well for those of you that want to go back and listen to Goal Conscious Versus Growth Conscious. Traci, as always, thanks for being here. You really do, you do exactly what this lesson does because you’re a leader who motivates. And isn’t that what we want? We want to inspire powerful positive change because everyone deserves to be led well.
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