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Motivation is not the panacea


If a person is not performing to the required standard because of lack of knowledge and skills, motivation will only frustrate that particular individual, writes Kenneth Thomas Mathye.


“Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, you now have a motivated idiot”– Jim Rohn.

Most of the time managers, supervisors and all those who are in leadership positions think that motivation is the panacea. They think giving motivation to their non-performing employees and/or followers will resolve their problems once and for all. This is a big mistake. Imagine yourself in a doctor’s surgery and without any diagnosis the doctor tells you that he/she is going to perform a surgical operation on you. Most of us if not all of us will think that doctor is fake and doesn’t know what he is talking about let alone what to do. Why? Because the doctor is prescribing a solution to a problem which he doesn’t know as yet. We all expect a doctor to do a diagnosis before he can prescribe the medication or surgery.

Why a diagnosis? A diagnosis is done to determine the cause of the problem. Many a time what we see are the symptoms and not the cause of the problem. If we treat the symptoms without removing the cause, the problem will disappear for a while and comes back again normally bigger than it was initially. When you have a non-performer in your section, the first thing to do is to find out what is the cause of the non-performance. When that is determined, then you can prescribe the correct remedy.

Motivation is one of the remedies available, but not the only one. Taking a look at the above quotes one can conclude that if motivation is applied without a proper diagnosis of the problem, it can cause more harm than good. If a person is not performing to the required standard because of lack of knowledge and skills, motivation will only frustrate that particular individual. The correct remedy will be to send the person for training, then motivate him/her to study hard. TD Jakes says appointing a person in a position which he/she doesn’t have the ability, capacity or capability to deliver is injustice. I say applying for a position which you know that you don’t have the ability, capacity or capability to delivery is injustice, not only to the organisation, but to yourself and the organisation’s customers.

If a person is not performing to the required standard because he/she is in the wrong job, motivation will only frustrate such an individual, the solution is to help the person find a job which will suite his/her knowledge, skill and personality.

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great says that it is important for any leader to ensure:

That they have the right people in the bus.
All the people in the bus are in the right seat.
All the wrong people are out of the bus.

If you cannot find the right position and/or job for a non-performer in your section/department and/or company, the best thing you can do for the company and the person is to relieve them of their duties. Winning teams are those who have the right people in the bus, in the right seat and all the wrong people outside the bus.

Let me conclude by saying that motivation is not a panacea, neither is it a magic pill, but motivation is an energy booster. A proper diagnosis needs to be done first, and thereafter you will be in a better position to prescribe the correct remedy.

A donkey was not designed nor was it created to climb trees, therefore trying to motivate a donkey to climb a tree is not only a waste of time and effort, but it is an utterly foolish exercise

Kenneth Thomas Mathye is a Qualified Electrician. He is currently working as a Trainer as well as doing Motivational Speaking. His interests are Personal and Leadership Development
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