Sometimes we just want to say that, don’t we?! 

But we can’t (most of the time).

Or at least we know it won’t be the motivating, inspirational speech we hope it will be. In truth, language like that is far more likely to put people on the defensive than to draw them into the team or the endeavor.

Do you know why? It does seem like a clear, succinct, and direct request, doesn’t it?

The Short Answer: It makes them the problem.

It implies that if you were different, we’d be better. And that’s simply not true. Usually. (Though I admit, sometimes it’s true, but those aren’t the people we’re talking about here.)

The Longer Answer: It’s loaded with judgment rather than discernment, curiosity, and problem solving.

People who seem disengaged or unmotivated are generally that way for a reason. Sometimes it’s them: trouble at home, personal difficulties, they’re hung over, etc. 

But most of the time, it comes down to a lack of clarity.

More specifically, there’s a lack of clear expectations. People can feel disengagement for a host of other reasons, too:

  • They are unsure of how to proceed. 
  • They worry whether they are capable enough. 
  • They question whether they are really free to act as they see fit.

So get curious, and aim to discern objectively. Understand what isn’t working and how they see the problem and sense some difficulty. I am willing to bet that the two of you aren’t solving the same problem, even if you think you are.

But let’s be honest, there’s a possibility that you could get to the heart of a problem, yet the person or team still doesn’t care and remains disengaged and unmotivated. They may not care enough to fix it. 

Guess what that means.

You didn’t get to the root of the problem. 

In some cases, you might be up against real, honest-to-goodness apathy — someone who simply doesn’t care, and nothing you do could make them care. In that case, feel free to consider offering them to industry. 

However, more times than not, what you are bumping up against is an uncomfortable or inconvenient core truth about your organization, its mission, or its structure. And there is likely fear, worry, or safety concerns that keep the disengaged person from naming it out loud. It’s important to know that it is not their fault but the fault of the organization and its culture

This becomes the new problem. The real problem. And it must be addressed before other issues can be addressed.

Rather than blaming others for not rising above, consider what it takes to remove the obstacles in the way. When you figure that out and fix it, you’re a hero, and you garner the trust of those you lead.

So how do you get there? Let me remind you once more of the power of the Core Values Index™ (CVI™). 

There are four Core Values at the center of each person: facts, feelings, solutions, and decisions (full disclosure: this is an oversimplification). Use those values as guidelines in your discussions. 

Ask people to put on their Facts Hat — or, if they’re old enough, their Sgt. Friday badge: “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” Once we have the facts — of the circumstances, culture, environment, or problem — you can then ask how people feel and experience those facts. How does this affect them? In approaching the problem this way, you can uncover a wealth of information about why they are unmotivated — and what actually motivates them. 

Now that you have divined the facts and ventured into the emotions surrounding those facts and people’s perspectives, it’s time to put on your Collective Solutions Hat. First, be crystal clear that everyone is talking about the same things and solving the same problem with the same end objective. Then, dive in. How can we solve this? Having discussed the facts and feelings, people will realize there is seldom a perfect solution that makes everyone happy, so they’ll (hopefully) start pushing themselves to find deeper, more creative solutions. 

When that’s gone on long enough, and you have lots of options, put on your Decider Hat. Take a vote. If you all agree, you will have determined a real solution to the real problem that is mutually agreeable to everyone. Great work.

However, if you are still disconnected, drill down on the top solutions your team offered, and repeat the cycle to determine the facts, collective solutions, and decisions. 

What are the facts? How do we feel, and why do we feel that way? Which collective solution solves the highest percent of the problem? Can we modify anything to get a better solution?

You get the idea.

What’s interesting about all this is that while motivation comes from within a person, inspiration comes from the outside. This approach to leadership has nothing to do with motivation and everything to do with inspiration. 

To inspire means “to breathe into.” 

By engaging with insatiable curiosity and objective discernment, by seeking to get to the heart of the real problem — and not shying away from the internal barriers that stand in the way — you demonstrate what it means to really care. 

And here’s the magic: humans have a tendency to duplicate what they experience. If you don’t make them the problem and instead use their behavior to uncover the problem, they are likely to do the same with others. 

And wouldn’t that be cool and engaging and oh so motivating and inspiring. 


Photo by Goutham Ganesh Sivanandam on Unsplash