The Motivational Transfer

As leaders, it is not enough for us to be motivated.  We must transfer our motivation to others so they are as motivated as we are.

By Brent Filson - 4/2009

Leadership is motivational or it’s running around in the dark.  However, your motivation is not the issue that should define your job performance and career path.  After all, if you aren’t motivated, you shouldn’t be a leader.  The issue is: can you transfer your motivation to the people so they are as motivated as you are?

There are three ways you make the motivational transfer happen. 1) Provide information. 2) Make sense. 3) Share your experience.

The first two ways are self-evident.  For instance, many people are motivated to stop smoking when information on the deleterious effects of smoking on their health make a lot of sense to them. 

However, the most effective way to trigger a motivational transfer is the third way.

Sharing your experience involves powerful, human bonding that can provide an inexhaustible store of motivational-transfer material.

The power of those relationships has been demonstrated since the dawn of history. In all cultures, whenever people needed to do great things, one thing had to take place: A leader had to gather those people together and speak from the heart. In other words, deep, human, emotional relationships had to be constituted for great things to be accomplished.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders is the successful ones are able to engage in deep, human, emotional relationships with the people they lead, the unsuccessful ones don’t.  However, few leaders I’ve encountered know how to go about sharing their experience consistently and effectively. 

A powerful means to manifest the third way is with the “defining moment” technique.

This entails having the leader’s experience become the people’s experience. When that happens, a deep sharing of emotions and ideas, a kind of communing, can take place.

Generally, people learn in two ways — through the intellect and through experience. In our school system, the former predominates, but it’s the latter that is most powerful in terms of inducing a deep sharing of emotions and ideas, because our experiences, which can be life’s teachings, often lead us to profound awareness and purposeful action.

Look back at your schooling. Which do you remember most, your book learning or your experiences, your interactions with teachers and students? In most cases, people say their experiences made the strongest impressions on them; they remembered them long after book knowledge had faded.

This is where the defining moment comes in. Its function is simple: to provide a communion of experience with you and the people you lead, so those people will be as motivated as you are to meet the challenges you face.

The process of developing a defining moment is simple, too: put a particular experience of yours, a defining moment, into sharp focus, and then transmit that focused experience into the hearts of the audience so they feel the experience as theirs.

Out of that shared feeling they can be ardently motivated to take action for results. It’s easy, and it’s a game changer.

But if you don’t get the defining moment right, it can backfire. In fact, you could wind up having people motivated against you. So follow carefully as I show you the precise steps in developing and transmitting defining moments.

Take the first step in mastering the defining moment. Review experiences from your past. Don’t try to figure out how to use them or how they relate to developing and communicating a defining moment.

They needn’t be wrenching, shattering experiences; everyday experiences will do. They don’t need to have taken place recently; you might want to look back upon experiences from your youth. Finally, they don’t need to have taken place in an organizational context. Look at every aspect of your life. Any of your experiences, at any time, anywhere, can make a good defining moment.

Make sure, however, that it is your experience.  Be aware of the difference between personal and private experiences. Usually, our personal experiences are those we can share with others, and our private experiences are those we want to keep to ourselves. The dividing line between personal and private is embarrassment. If you would in any way be embarrassed talking about the experience with others — don’t use it.

Motivation is an essential element of leadership.  But don’t just look a motivation as something you yourself must embrace.  Look at motivation as something you must transfer to the people you lead so they make the choice embrace it as you ardently as you.  When he share your experiences through Defining Moments that transfer has the best chance of taking place.


4/2009© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"