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Motivating others

There are two main dilemmas at the heart of motivating others. One is between trying to give people unconditional acceptance while at the same time providing accurate feedback.

This is resolved by making clear that any corrective feedback is focused on skills or behaviour rather than the person. The second tension is to strike a balance between controlling and protecting others while releasing their potential for self-determination. This can be resolved by initially setting guidelines and boundaries then gradually, in a geared approach, 'letting go of the reins' to provide increasing opportunities for negotiation, choice and self-determination. In this way power assertion can be transformed into empowerment via power sharing. 

We usually think the best way to produce confident people is to boost self-esteem. We can't influence others' self-esteem as much as we think but the good news is that low self-esteem isn't as big a barrier to motivation as we assume. Even better news is that we can do a great deal about the mindsets that shape self-motivation. Self-esteem is more a consequence rather than a cause of success.  

It may be more useful to pay more attention to the most important 'feel good' factor, i.e. self-efficacy in goal achievement. Self-efficacy is the belief in one's ability in particular skill areas and is different from self-esteem which is an affective judgement of our overall worth. We motivate ourselves by thinking we are in control and can achieve our goals by our skills

The twin track approach to confidence involves helping others to think of their ability as changeable and so lead them to adopt a self-improvement rather than a 'prove yourself' attitude. It is also about helping them make sense of progress in a way that builds their self-belief. Confidence-building organisations communicate how much everyone is contributing and the many ways to succeed. They treat mistakes as opportunities to learn by linking failure to factors that people can repair. They instil the belief that ability is not fixed.  

Highly motivating people encourage in others an accurate match between aspirations and skills level. They praise effort and strategy use and so help others focus on the process of their work and make them feel responsible for success. They emphasise the possibility of improvement. They encourage others to put progress down to effort and concentrate on learning rather than displaying ability. Most importantly they stress individual progress rather than making comparisons.

Copyright: Alan McLean, 2006

 
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