I am asked often to visit corporate teams or sports teams to help with motivation. A lack of motivation or apathy exists within the team so I am hired to create some perspective and point the team in the right direction. I am always happy to meet the requests of the client and create a short-term framework for getting people back on track.

But, I must also caution that client at the same time. While this may fill an immediate need, the problem is always short-term gain. Even the best motivation fades quickly if it is not grounded in a solid, fundamental foundation. Motivation must always be complemented by practical implementation of performance fundamentals. It is simply the difference between the short-term benefits of Red Bull and the long-term benefits of a balanced meal.


Sticks and Twigs vs Bricks

Everyone knows the story of little red riding hood and the big, bad wolf. The wolf had no trouble blowing the house down that was created from sticks and straw. But, when he arrived at the house with structure and a foundation, it wasn’t quite as easy. The wolf brought his best stuff, but the house stood tall.

Why this story?

Well, your team will be constantly blown down by the metaphorical wolf if it is built with sticks and twigs. You will be frustrated and unsatisfied if short-term motivation is your “house” of choice. If you want your team to stand tall, be consistent and have resiliency, your focus must be bricks (long-term) and not sticks and twigs (short-term).


 Motivation has a Place

I love motivation. Motivation is important and there is a place for it. But, it won’t be enough to sustain your team and create real change. I have been to many conferences with exceptional speakers motivating audiences to get very excited about their messages. I have done the same as a speaker. The problem is that this sort of motivation fades quickly and produces no real sustainable value. The pounding rainstorm of motivation creates excitement and intention in the moment, but quickly dries from the memory.

I understand the need for finding quick solutions. The idea of a few tips here and there – that can put a temporary band-aid on the problem and generate some energy. But, quick solutions without sustainable impact create an ongoing circle of frustration and unproductive behavior.

Like high performance sports, performance in business must be based on key pillars and foundational pieces that will generate sustainable results. Will there be immediate results? Yes, if combined with the right tone and messaging. More importantly, there will be a fundamental structure in place to get the ball rolling – in the right direction – and sustain performance in the long-term.


Motivation + Structure and Foundation = Balance

Dan Pink’s research in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us highlights that work in the 20th century was based on an external rewards and punishment motivation. But, jobs in the 21st century have changed dramatically. They are more complex, more interesting and more self-directed. He argues that, today, intrinsic motivation is far more effective – working for the joy of the task itself. And this is where the foundational pieces support this motivation, creating more purpose, values that bond, a defined vision and an identity.

It begins with purpose. Why are you in business? What is the point of the business? What does it accomplish? How does it make anything better? These are key questions that must be answered and defined to build purpose into what you are doing. After all, if there is no purpose – what’s the point? An organization’s people must clearly understand why they are going to work and have a direct connection and pride to the value they are providing.

Purpose is followed closely by values – creating the right ones for the individual or team begins the framework for day to day consistency. When values are selected and committed to in the right manner, and there is genuine belief in them – there is a sense of security and a straighter path moving forward. The greatest teams I work with in sports commit to a core set of values (they have chosen), sign off on them and are reminded of them everyday. It makes up the structure of who they are as individuals and who they are as a team. In an organization, an individual’s or team’s values are the glue that holds everything together.

The vision follows values closely. Where are you going? Where do you see yourself or your team in a period of time? What do you want to do to create real value? These are all questions that must be answered to have a clear direction moving forward. Leadership is about many things and partially about vision. See the future, see the path and get commitment from others to go there. Without a clear vision, there’s lots of zigging and zagging and a constant fog around where you’re going. If you are a team in business or sports, a vision is vital.

What is your identity as a team? Who are you? How can a variety of individual identities be blended to create a functional team identity? In business and sports, individuals bring unique qualities to a group environment. Acknowledgement and blending of those qualities is key to how far your team will go. As Seth Godin argues in his book “Tribes”, human beings have a need to belong, “to be part of a tribe”. Establishing an identity for this tribe is another key foundational piece in high performance.


 Insist on a Balanced Meal

I’m all for motivation. But, the motivation must be linked to long-term drivers – foundational pieces that will hold people accountable each day … not for a week or a month. Those long-term drivers are found in a few basic questions …

  • Why are we doing this?
  • How are we going to do it?
  • Where are we going?
  • What is our role?
  • And finally – what’s in it for me?

To get results, hire a speaker that will make these linkages and insure that their motivational messages will not support short-term impact like Red Bull – but carry on and sustain your team in the long-term … like a balanced meal – creating pride, joy and results in the work experience.



John Haime is a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be their very best by helping them tap into the elusive 10% of their abilities that will elevate them to the top. John closes the gap for performers in business, sports and entertainment taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional/high level sports as he does in the world of business/leadership or the performing arts.