Category Archives: motivation

Values Elicitation Exercise

This exercise is one that I share with my clients in the early days of our coching relationship as it helps me to understand them better.  Often it also helps build awarness for the client as they may not be fully aware of what is most important to them in their personal or professional lives.  By being clear on their values I am able to provide clarifcation to around making choices that are more fulfilling and aligned with their values. We are also able to  strategise appropriate actions according to their values and we can recognise situations where conflciting values may be an issue.

What are values?

Values define who we are.  Values represent our unique and individual essence, your ultimate and most fulfilling form of expression and relating.  When you honour your values on a regular and consistent basis, life is good and fulfilling.  When you are not honouring your values life becomes uncomfortable and unfulfilling.

Honouring your values is about taking congruent action towards expressing your values.

Important life decisions are easier to make and more fulfilling when the decisions are made in honour of your values.

Honouring your values has a three-fold advantage

  1. You will become more motivated towards a specific action
  2. You will undermine the Ego/Gremlin because actions based on your values is more powerful than actions based on your Gremlins reason for taking or not taking another course of action
  3. Life will be more fulfilling.

Vaues elicitation

Consider the follow questions then write words that appropriately describe your response.

Peak Moment.

Identify a moment in your life that was particularly rewarding or poignant.  It is key here to pick a moment i.e. being told something rather than long duration i.e. a holiday.  Now answer the following questions

What was happening?

Who was present?

What was special about that moment?

What feelings did you have at that moment?

What were the values being honoured at that moment?

Suppressed values

Identify a moment that was a low moment in your life.

What was happening?

Who was present?

What was challenging about that moment?

What feelings did you have at that moment?

What values were not being honoured at that moment?

Must haves

Beyond the physical requirements of food, shelter and community, what must you have in your life to feel fulfilled?  List at least 5 things

Obsessive Expression

We are all capable of obsessive behaviour, insisting on honouring a value until it becomes a demand rather than a form of self-expression. Our friends and family are very good at pointing out the obsessive expression of a particular value, for instance they may say “You’re too ______” or “You always ________” or “all you think about is _________”.  List some of these here – and remember there is no right or wrong here , there is only what you are.

Here are some more questions to help you uncover your values

  • What qualities do you hold in high regard, when you see those attributes demonstrated in other people?
  • What qualities do you hold in low regard, when you see those attributes demonstrated in other people?
  • What cause or principal would you sacrifice, suffer or maybe even die for?
  • Beyond the physical requirements of food, shelter and community, what must you have in your life to feel fulfilled?  List at least 5 things.

Once you have identified your list of values the next task is put them in order of importance to you.  I recommend a list of no more than 10 values.

  1. Create the list: Start the list by placing what you feel are your most important values at the top.
  2. Test the list: You can then test this and reorder the list by asking yourself the question “Is this value of _____ more important to me than this other value of ______ “.
  3. Reorder the list: values that are more important than other ones should now take a higher place on the list.

The Real Job of Leaders

Word count 1277, Time to read: 15 mins, Published 16 November 2011

In the previous newsletter I started to talk about motivation as that was a subject that a number of you requested as a place to start in our work together.  Since writing that installment I have been reflecting on a number of themes around motivation in order to provide you with something more meaningful than a rehash of “bog standard” motivational theories and practices.  As part of this reflection I became curious about whether or not as leaders, motivation, in its truest sense, is really our concern.  Allow me to explain further …

Dealing with Symptoms or Causes

Leaders these days are stressed out with the many calls on their time to fix the day to day crises that occur in their departments or organisations.  In fact they could probably be better referred to as fire-fighters rather than leaders.  As a coach and consultant my job is to challenge their thinking and behaviours and very often I discover that what their time is most consumed with is fixing the symptoms of organisational issues rather than the true causes.  So let’s take the subject of motivation in its most general terms: poor motivation, low morale, malaise, discontent, absenteeism and so on; are these symptoms or causes?  To my mind these are symptoms of underlying issues and not real causes.  Allow me to present you with a case study of someone who I worked with a few years back …

Dealing with Anger …

I was asked to coach Sally (not her real name), who was a senior manager responsible for quality in a large manufacturing organisation.  The issue that I was asked to coach her on was her anger and attitude.  For the first couple of sessions I was getting to know her and what was expected of her in her role and most importantly why she was “doing anger”.  (I can’t assume that she was feeling angry or yet more deeply being angry; to jump to conclusions about her experience would be fateful to the coaching relationship and the subsequent coaching outcomes, a mistake that rookie coaches or well intentioned leaders acting as coaches make.)    It became very apparent to me that Sally had every reason to be angry about what she was observing in the organisation.  Sally was good at her job.  She was a perfectionist, the ideal sort of person you would want to be heading your QA efforts.  However this tendency carried over into her professional relationships which had an inclination to put a strain on them.  Now bear in mind that HR had asked me to come in to work with Sally and to help “fix” her anger issue.  As I have said further exploration to the underlying issues, the potential causes of Sally’s issues revealed chaos, bullying, lethargy and incompetence in the organisation.  Now of course I have to be careful and not swallow everything whole that Sally presented, but even if only a fraction of what she was saying was true then to my mind, she had every reason to be angry.

A Happy Ending?

I wont go into the how I proceeded with the coaching suffice to say that the contract was renegotiated so that I could help Sally deal with her righteous anger in a healthy way.  The organisation wasn’t yet ready to change and subsequently Sally made her peace with the organisation and parted ways; she now works in an organisation that demonstrates appreciation for her, not by paying her more money (although she gets that too) but by listening to her and acting, where appropriate, on the advice she gives.  So all round yes this was a happy ending both for the organisation and Sally.  The organisation didn’t want to particularly lose Sally’s expertise but it didn’t also want the disruption that it perceived that Sally caused.  Sally is most definitely happy because she has come to understand that her feelings are telling her something and rather than act them out (doing anger) her feelings are usually a sign for her to go inwards and discover her own true source (or cause) of her discontent.  In Sally’s case this was a clash of values, a conflict that could only be resolved in the short term by sally find another organisation where people shared and lived her values.

Are You Working in an Angry Organisation?

So we started about talking about motivation and how leaders can motivate their people. Anger in organisations is commonplace, but organisations aren’t angry – people are, but very often the feeling of anger is justifiable but how we demonstrate our anger becomes an issue. Anger is a most uncomfortable emotion to deal with for many people.  In fact many people have been told that their anger is not “right”.  There is also a common belief that anger is a negative emotion.  These are very curious beliefs that find their origins in our care-givers who will punish or chastise a child that demonstrates their anger.  So what tends to happen in those cases where we are conditioned to believe that anger is bad, the anger goes underground and becomes invisible.*    This happens a lot in organisations, especially hierarchical ones that reinforce a parent-child dynamic between its leaders and it’s workforce.   Seething anger ferments and festers under the false smiles and “let’s pretend to be nice to each other” is far more damaging because it remains underground and becomes the un-discussable.

*As an aside its a fact that covering our true feelings happens with just about any emotions; a care-giver might just as easily reinforce the belief that it’s bad to demonstrate too much happiness, confidence, joy, love and so on.  These feelings are then supressed and replaced with feelings that are more acceptable to the care-giver.  In Transactional Analysis (TA) terms this is referred to racketeering.

So dealing or “fixing” anger is a classic example of dealing with an organisational symptom and not a true cause.  Peoples negative attitudes in organisations are often born out of frustration at not being able to make a change or difference to their working lives.  Worse still, they see their destinies being held in the hand of their leaders who in their minds are a “bunch of idiots who don’t know what they are doing.”  Of course this is the politer version of what I tend to hear, but I’m sure you know what I am driving at.

The Real Job of Leadership

The real job of leaders to my mind is to work on fixing what Herzberg referred to as hygiene factors.  If anger is a commonly observed symptom in the organisation the job of the leader is to uncover the root cause of the issue.  However there might be little appetite for that work as it may uncover deep rooted issues that are far more difficult to fix than sending the angry people to coaching.  It may mean that the leader will have to change something about themselves or their team.  Is your organisation one that deals effectively with the destructive and un-resourceful behaviours of senior management; or does it turn a blind eye because there maybe difficult, adult conversations that lie ahead?  I’m interested to hear more so please do share your experiences here with us all – but do give yourself a pseudonym in case your truth, like mine, is a little unpalatable to others in your organisation – just in case they read this too.

In the next article I will talk a little more about the hygiene factors and how as leaders we can make our organisations more habitable for our people.

Until then I wishing you all the best in your quest to become the leader you dream of being,

Mark.