The Fifth Level Of Motivation

A new look at the ranked dimensions of motivation

By Brent Filson - 5/2007

The course begins after the course is over. Your clients must not only acquire new knowledge and skills, but they must be motivated to apply them back on the job. Without motivated clients, post-course activities tend to fall apart.

This is not so obvious: Many learning leaders misunderstand post-course motivation; and even if they do understand it, they can't make it happen with their clients consistently.  After all, motivation, as it applies to learning leadership, isn't an abstract concept. It's a dynamic reality. It is like a loose, high-voltage cable whipping back and forth on the floor at your feet. If you pick it up the wrong way, you'll get zapped. However, if you know how to handle it and plug it in the right way to the right organizational outlet, motivation will boost your job and career as well as the jobs and careers of your clients.

Understanding motivation entails knowing the levels of effectiveness that motivation can operate on in your organization.  Failing to have your clients be motivated to carry out post-course activities back on the job is bad enough; but what's often worse is having them operate at a lower levels of motivation while you mistakenly believe they're higher levels.

The levels of motivation I speak of form a hierarchy. Knowing this hierarchy will enable you to come to grips with motivation's deeper concepts and applications.

The hierarchy is, starting with the least effective and moving toward the most effective:

--HAVE THEM LISTEN. Motivate them by speaking to them or have some one besides you speaking to them or have them speak to themselves.

Not as effective as:

--HAVE THEM SEE. Motivate them by using powerful visuals. Learning leaders know that human vision is the most potent and complicated of all the senses. People can be powerfully motivated when they see things: 

Not as effective as:

--HAVE THEM DO. Motivate them by having them take action. They move from passive recipients of information to active participants, thus engendering a deeper motivation.

Not as effective as:

--HAVE THEM TEACH. Motivate them by challenging them to teach others

in the post-course activities you want to engender. When people teach, they are obligated to know their subject and also the best ways to communicate that subject.

Not as effective as:

--HAVE THEM LEAD. The Fifth Level, the Leadership Level, is the most effective of all levels; and it is missed by most leaders. There is a decisive difference between people doing a task and people taking leadership of that same task. When one is a leader as opposed to a "do-er", one applies an extra commitment in time, attention, initiative, and inventiveness to the accomplishment of that task. Taking leadership of a task changes the expectations of the task. It even changes the task itself. When you have your clients take leadership of insuring that what you teach in the course sticks when they get back to their jobs, you can create seismic transformations in the way your clients do those jobs.

For instance, here's a tip that can help you both strategically and tactically: clarify the doing vs. leading imperative. Before clients return to their jobs from my leadership sessions, I facilitate a discussion on the Fifth Level Of Motivation. I have the participants draw a line dividing a sheet of paper in half.  On one side of the line, I have them list three actions they'll take to simply do the methodologies they've been taught. On the other side, I have them list the actions they will take to take leadership of the methodologies.

In most cases, the "doing" actions will be different than the "leading" actions. Those differences can spark a great discussion on the differences between doing and leading and help insure you have the Fifth Level of Motivation operating in the field.

However, make sure the leadership they exhibit is the RIGHT leadership.  The WRONG leadership not only costs too much, it can lose you your job. Many learning leaders put courses together based on the wrong kind of leadership and then wonder why their clients avoid manifesting such leadership on the job.  If you don't focus on right leadership at the beginning -- in your course design -- then, getting your clients to apply what they learned will be like trying to change tires on a moving car.

Here's what right leadership is: It's fundamentally motivational. On one level, that's a simplistic way of looking at leadership; however, on another level, seeing leadership primarily in motivational terms is a necessary first step in understanding and applying right leadership.

Right leadership is not about ordering to people to go from A to B or having a style of leadership that promotes such leadership; right leadership is about having people want to go from A to B. Instilling "want to" in others, i.e., having people be motivated, is the defining difference between average and great leaders.

Here's what right leadership does: It simply gets results, not average results but a concept I've been teaching leaders for some 22 years: "more results faster continually."

When the right leadership they learn in the course propels behavior back on the job that helps them achieve increases in results they are being held accountable for, they're more likely to continue that behavior.

Many learning leaders, however, don't make a systematic, comprehensive effort to support and strengthen such behavior. Such an effort could involve not only monitoring their on-the-job leadership activities but providing systematic reinforcement through specific, on-going processes. There are many categories of such processes, recognition, rewards, punishments, etc.

For instance, in the recognition category, you can implement on-going processes that incorporate:

–upper management recognition

–peer recognition

–recognition from their immediate supervisor and the supervisor's supervisor.

A footnote: "What does your organization really reward?" is a question you should be asking when you develop rewards and recognition processes. Yet because few leaders ask the question, their organizations often reward the wrong things. Sure, these organizations may pay lip service to rewarding people for the right things: getting results, getting the right results, getting the right results in the right ways. But what they really reward, often in terms of promotions and job perks, are such things as the care and feeding of top leaders egos, political machinations, tyrannical leadership.

Copyright © 2007, The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All right reserved.

Note from Brent Filson: Leadership is the trim tab of careers: A trim tab is an independently controlled tab that connects a ship's hull to the rudder. Without a trim tab, the rudder is useless. Without knowledge of leadership and the requisite application of right leadership skills, one's career might tend to go in circles. Please call, and let's talk about how the Fifth Level of Motivation along with my many leadership tools can measurably enhance your clients' job results-performance and their career paths as well as the cultural effectiveness of your organization.

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Brent Filson
Brent Filson