Leader’s Pep Talk 3-Part Formula

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. ~Zig Ziglar

Have you attended (or maybe organized) your organization’s “town hall” meeting? Maybe it’s annual or quarterly, typically part updates and part pep talk. How did it go? For how long did the “motivational” pep talk stick?

I’ve seen leaders treat motivating like an event. A periodic occurrence packed with information and the assumption that everyone is fully motivated and will sustain that motivation until the next “event.”

As Ziglar said, motivation needs to happen daily; fortunately, there’s a proven formula to guide us.

Thanks to the extensive research from husband-and-wife team, Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield, at Texas A&M International University, we know the 3-part formula to motivate. Whether you’re speaking to one or 101, the formula is the same.

It’s a balanced approach that includes three parts: direction giving, expressions of empathy, and meaning making.

Direction Giving. Use what is called uncertainty-reducing language. This means you need to be precise about what they need to do and how they will be evaluated. In other words, what they need to do (specifically), how they are to do it (specifically), and how they will be evaluated (specifically). This doesn’t mean you can’t empower people to determine how to do something on their own. It does however mean that your expectations for what needs to be done and how it will be evaluated, are crystal clear. The level of specificity will depend upon both the person(s) on the receiving end as well as the task.

Expressions of Empathy. Show concern for them as a human being. You don’t need to relate to them (say how you’ve experienced the same thing). You need to tell them that you recognize what they are feeling or experiencing. Acknowledge. Appreciate. Affirm.

Meaning Making. Tell them why it’s important. Link the organization’s vision, mission or purpose to the goals of the individuals. Describe how their work is truly making a difference in the lives of others. How they are part of something bigger than themselves.

I’ve spent enough time working with various behavioral style assessments to see that practicing all three of these elements may not come naturally to everyone. There is probably at least one of the three that you’ll have to consciously think about in order to be certain it’s included in your next pep talk.

You may want to ask a few colleagues whose judgment you trust to tell you if you are hitting each of the three elements sufficiently. As an example, you may think that you’re giving precise direction about what others need to do, but those on the receiving end may have a different perspective.

Want your next pep talk to really stick? Then include three parts: direction giving, expressions of empathy, and meaning making.