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Who Motivates the Motivator?

About 20 years ago I started asking a trick question:  "How do you motivate your people?"  The answer: "You don't!  They have to motivate themselves."  Simple as that self-evident truth is, its logic doesn't appear in most leadership training programs.  In contrast Paul J. Meyer, Founder of Leadership Management International, wrote in 1970 an insightful piece titled "Who Motivates a Motivator?"  What follows are excerpts from his work.


 "One of the compelling questions faced by any executive in today's super-charged business environment is: How can you, as a manager, who must continually work to motivate others, recharge your own batteries and re-motivate yourself? The question begs for answers. How many times in your career have you seen examples like these? A talented, capable, fast-rising sales manager is put in charge of an entire region - and begins a rapid slide to oblivionA manager of manufacturing, after a brilliant climb up the managerial ladder, is named vice-president of manufacturing - and finds that the fire has gone out. The founder of a successful business enterprise struggles to raise the company to a position of leadership, and just as they begin to reap the rewards, competition passes them by. What happens to us? Do we still have the same drive, the determination, and the consuming ambition that seemed almost inexhaustible just a few short years ago? Do we still possess the same powerful self-motivation?

Motivating Yourself Requires Action!
I'm sure all executives know someone who spent years working day and night to achieve a planned goal - becoming a district manager or a vice-president in the home office. But once there, all the drive that brought them to their coveted position melts away. They run out of steam. They lean back in a plush executive chair, gaze with satisfaction at their well-furnished office, and let their dream world slip from under them. I've never seen a successful company in which a title on the door, or even the executive suite, meant "open sesame" to a life of ease and retirement. 

As a successful executive you must work twice as hard as before. You must continue to be creative or you must be content to wither. When your enthusiasm atrophies, the whole organization dries up, too. If the business is your own, you can go broke. If it is someone else's, you may find that another person with the qualities you once had is soon your successor. Those who reach the executive level must retain the very qualities of drive and initiative that got them to that position in the first place."

Paul Meyer, in the last speech I heard him make before he passed away, recounted numerous business ventures he started with others, all of which went broke.  

I wondered why this multi-millionaire success example, who shared his success plan with others, was telling us about failures?  I now know. The above paragraph is his "What Not To Do" story based on his own business experiences. 

He continues:
"Sometimes, the fruits of our early labors - the title, the carpeted office, the authority, and the prestige - lull us into the false illusion that we no longer need to push and motivate ourselves. We lay aside the real tools of our achievement: our minds, our hands, and our feet. We lose momentum, humility, and the human touch. Perhaps the most important missing link between our present self and the one we used to be is the lack of having someone above us to supply inspiration and motivation. For the first time, we stand alone. But this is no oversight. We are expected to stand alone. We would not have achieved executive stature unless, somewhere along the line, we had exhibited an ability to stand alone.
Don't Quit - Do It
If At First You Don't Succeed...

This brings us back to our basic question: Who motivates the motivator? Who provides the drive for the executive to whom others look for inspiration and leadership? The answer is obvious: YOU MUST MOTIVATE YOURSELF! You can no longer look to the upper echelon for "outside" inspiration. You are that "upper echelon." Once you realize that the motivation for your continued success must come from yourself, you can proceed with the proper steps to achieve it. You can build a comprehensive program of personal motivation that will keep you moving steadily forward. You can and must "press on." You cannot stand still."


Paul Meyer wasn't one to latch onto a problem and sit on it with an "Ain't it Awful!" attitude.  He took pride in pointing out diagnostic signs and more importantly treatments for the disorder.  He identified five diagnostic indicators:

  1. Self-Doubt
  2. Procrastination
  3. False Symbols
  4. Complacency
  5. Loss of Purpose

So it's impossible to "motivate your people" and you are failing to successfully motivate yourself.  What are you supposed to do?  Fortunately, Paul Meyer focused his 1960's analytic/pragmatic ability on bringing to the surface unconscious ideas as conscious, organized thoughts and actions.  His recipe for this process became the core of LMI's Effective Personal Leadership Program.  The five "must-have" ingredients in order are:

How Committed Are You
  1. You must crystallize your thinking;
  2. You must have a written plan;
  3. You must develop a burning desire;
  4. You must maintain an unshakable self-confident faith; and
  5. You must create a force of iron-willed determination.

Those who know me can vouch for my strong cynical/analytic style and lists like the five items above set off my alarm.  But at this point in my career I've looked at a 50-year log of successes based on these core principles, and I am an empirical convert.  The evidence has taught me that:

  • It takes all 5 plus 1 more, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
  • PRIDEA void in one area will inevitably lead to more than a one-fifth motivational loss.
  • Clarity of thought, attitude and action must be a confluence of personal power.
  • All five factors' power is required because of humans' innate and acquired resistance to change.
  • When a culture teaches you not to dream, then motivation will lose its enduring reason.

You see, even I can get hooked on the magic number 5.  I'll call my list, "Five Core Pieces of Motivation."


Don't Lose That Thought, 
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Allen M. "Dr. Al" Raffetto, Ph.D.


REFERENCE:  Paul J. Meyer, Leadership Management International, 1970

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