“Louder and Funnier”*

Posted by jlubans on November 25, 2021

Caption: Homer NOT Stepping Up.

The title* suggests the complexities of motivation. Yes, most of us can speak louder. But, funnier?, that’s more of a challenge.
The funnier has to be there, waiting to be released. If not there, no matter the audience’s heckling, it’s not going to happen.
So it is with motivation in the workplace.
Telling someone to be funnier is like telling them to be more creative or more innovative.
We all know that fear will get some results but they are short term. For long term results, something other than fear has to be the trigger.
How does a manager/leader prepare her reports for “stepping up” – which, as illustrated, Homer is not doing so well.
We can hope to motivate others by example. Maybe.
We can try to motivate through exhortation. Maybe.
How we try to motivate depends on where we think motivation comes from. Is it external to the worker? Or is it internal? I believe it is always the latter and managers get to figure out ways to trigger that motivation and the talent in the individual.
My long-held view is that leaders can release creativity – if it is there – we cannot kick it out of someone.
We can and should prepare staff to “rise to the occasion”. How do we do that?
Well, for one thing, we make sure the tools and supports are in place. The worker is trained and able to do what is called for.
He is ready to step in and take on the challenge.
The permission to fail - tacit or explicit – is integral to my formula.
Pardon the sports analogy, but sports teams give us microscopic insight to preparing someone to step up.
Getting a player to the next level is not a “gut check” regardless of what sports writers tell you; it is putting or letting loose what you know (your skill and talent) and what you have learned from repetition in practice into the actual game.
In American football there are coaches for every position; players are divided into “rooms”, quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive linesmen, offensive linesmen, kickers, etc. Each room has at least one full time coach!
Imagine the cost (and benefit) if we did that in the workplace.
Each coach is an expert and is exclusively focused on the individuals in that “room”, preparing each player to not only start but to be ready to step in and up.
At the elite level, the so-called “second string” is only a percentage point less capable than the starter.
In some programs, players are rotated in and out after so many “snaps” of the ball in a game. Not only does this assure less fatigue among starters but the practice creates elite substitutes; there’s no drop off when a back-up comes in for the starter.
Were you challenged?
The was my question to a recently returned staffer from a several-days training program.
She looked at me as if I were asking if she had endured survival training.
For her the training was all academic; it neither prepared her for a leadership role nor did it lead to self-reflection on leading.
Others in that meeting were just as puzzled as to my meaning about challenge. I was asking – however cryptically - what had changed about her; had she wrestled with the difficult concept of leading others, etc.
Had she emerged from the training crucible stronger than when she went in?
Seemingly, the “same old, same old” was good enough for her.
Training completed, she’d checked off that box.

*Louder and Funnier is the title of a collection of essays by P.G. Wodehouse published in 1932
The title derives from a nervous after-dinner speaker being asked to speak louder, then a voice pipes up, “Louder, please”, it observed. “and funnier.” Wodehouse concludes, “One is left to suppose the speaker did his best to oblige, as I have done (in this collection).”

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© Copyright text by John Lubans 2021

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