6 Tips to Motivate Anyone

The power of progress is in your control

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review turns conventional leadership thinking on its head.  And it has significance in your other relationships – with your life-partner, kids, and others in your community.

The Problem at the Workplace

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer at the Harvard Business School did a survey of managers to rank the most significant factor determining employee motivation and emotions.  “Recognition for good work (either public or private)” came out way ahead of the pack.

Recognition and celebration are important.  But based on a multi-year study of workers, it’s not nearly as important as a factor that the managers ranked dead last.  What is it?  Progress.

“When workers have a sense they are making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak.”

A Solution

This is really cool because it means that motivation of others is totally in your control, and not dependent on fancy incentive programs.  You can proactively create the perception and reality of progress.  How?  Make a conscious effort to clarify goals, effectively support peoples’ efforts, minimize/eliminate stressful time pressures, be helpful, and pitch-in with the project.  As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”  And when progress is happening, then it’s also a great idea to celebrate and provide recognition along the way.

In a nutshell, these solutions are effective relationship building.

If you are a manager, this can be an extremely powerful way to keep a happy, productive team.

You may be thinking, “So what?  I don’t manage other people.”

Manager or not, this same principle can be extremely powerful and positive in all of your relationships – especially with your life-partner.

The Problem at Home

When Carol and I coach couples, they often express stressful feelings and even conflict over the roles and responsibilities around the home.  There are conflicting expectations from both people, which have not been discussed or agreed to.  There is confusion about what is important and what is not.  There is no clear vision or agreement about what they want the relationship to be now and in the long-term, and therefore there are no goals for the relationship – or at least none that have been clearly communicated.

Both people go through their days doing what they do in their professions, but at home, they don’t feel like they are making any progress in their home relationship – they are de-motivated and have negative emotions.  Home may not be a desirable or comfortable place to be.

What do they do to solve this problem?  There are normally two alternatives which arise because they are not consciously aware of the root of the problem, which is ineffective communication, and therefore a dysfunctional relationship.

1. One or both may choose to spend more hours at work, join sports teams, service clubs, and committees away from home and away from each other.   They choose these activities because they feel they are making progress in those roles – they are motivated, supported, and have positive emotions.


2. One or both become apathetic and spend most of their time in front of the TV, a computer game, drinking, eating, and smoking.  Communication and duties around the home are on a “need to” basis, which leads to resentment, resistance, and greater apathy.

Both scenarios are avoidance mechanisms, which exacerbates the problem.

A Solution

Just like in the workplace, each person in the relationship can take control of their level of motivation and emotions, and choose to be accountable for their results.

You may be thinking, “How can I do that?”

Here are 6 tips to motivating yourself and your partner – making progress.

– Schedule a time to sit together and to talk honestly, openly, and respectfully about what you want your relationship to look like, sound like, and feel like – now and in the future.

– Create clear agreements (both agree) about what each of you will do.  These are your relationship goals.  These could be in regard to how you speak to each other, how you treat each other, and how and when you will work and play together.

– Discuss strategies and times when you can be together and work together to accomplish the routine roles and responsibilities around the home.  It’s weird, but it seems that two people working together can accomplish a task in less than half of the time.  You’ll be making progress and it will feel good.  And neither person will feel resentful that they “have to” do it all of the time.

– Agree on roles that each person will do on their own.  I.e. At our weekly meeting, we agree on our meals for the week and who will cook them.  I take responsibility for repairs and maintenance of the vehicles, buildings, and yard.  Carol takes responsibility for the biggest part of the house cleaning.

– Discuss and agree to ways that you can support each other in your separate roles and tasks.  In the morning, ask your partner, “What can I do to support you so you have a fantastic and productive day?”  Listen to the response and do what is asked if you are mentally, physically, and emotionally able.  If you can’t provide the support, be honest and talk about it.  There are many options available.

– Consciously be aware of the progress you are both making and make a big deal of them.  Celebrate the progress with kind words, hugs, kisses, a bouquet of dandelions picked in the yard, a surprise picnic, or whatever works for you.

These tips are not hard, they don’t take much time, and they make sense.

But do you apply them consciously and consistently in your relationship?

The progress and emotions you are achieving in your relationship are totally your choice.  Why not choose to make great progress, feel worthy, and create the relationship and life you really want?

When?  Now is the best time.