“People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

Zig Ziglar

Self-motivation is our internal drive to achieve, produce, develop, and keep moving forward. It causes us to:

  • Attack projects and tasks with energy
  • Get passionate about work activities
  • Go above and beyond what’s expected

Some would say that you can’t teach self-motivation. You either have it or you don’t. It’s a highly prized characteristic in every organization that I've worked with and yet it’s incredibly difficult to determine who’s got it and who doesn't. Most job postings refer to “enthusiastic self-starters” as part of the job description. The problem is that all candidates can appear to be self-motivated. It’s virtually impossible to confirm based a resumé. Given the fact that candidates put their best foot forward when they give references, and that many former employers will only confirm employment history, it is difficult to corroborate whether a candidate brings this to the table or not.

The issue of self-motivation is a complex one. It’s linked to four factors, three of which are controlled by the individual. The fourth factor rests in the hands of the hiring organization and that individual’s immediate supervisor. The four factors are:
  • Self-confidence and an capacity to believe in our own ability to succeed
  • Positive thinking (both in the present and in the future)
  • Focus and the ability to set strong goals
  • A motivating work environment

More often than not, it doesn't take long for a highly motivated person to outperform their peers only months into a job. Clearly if you are able to hire only the candidates that have self-motivation you've given your organization an incredible competitive advantage. Any hiring interview that you conduct should include behaviour based questions that are designed to probe the three factors controlled by the individual. Here are some examples of the types of questions you should be building into your interview process:
  • Tell me about a time you set a challenging goal for yourself.
  • Take me through the process you use to set goals for yourself.
  • Help me understand how you handle setbacks once you have established a goal.

Of course it also helps to know the behavioural temperament of the candidate that you’re going to be interviewing. Know that and you can tailor the behaviour based questions that you ask during the interview. I use the McQuaig Talent Assessment System™ with my clients. They love the fact that the system generates the right questions for them to use with each specific candidate and compares those candidates to the behavioural role requirements for them.

The payoff is that self-motivated people are able to look at difficult goals as challenging whereas others would see the same goals as beyond their abilities, and might not even attempt to achieve them. Positive thinking is closely related to self-confidence and helps top performers to continue to look at the situation positively even if things aren’t going as planned. When an individual is able to set strong goals they develop focus, a strong sense of direction and the self-confidence that comes from recognizing their own achievement.

Here are 10 tips to help you with your own motivation:
  1. State of mind. It’s important that you've got the right motivators around your work space to give you the initial spark you need to get going.
  2. Keep good company. Engage in more regular encounters with positive and motivated people. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? The last thing you can afford is to get sucked down into the vortex of gloom and despair.
  3. Keep learning. There is something energizing about continuous learning. The more you learn the more confident you become in starting new projects.
  4. Stop thinking about it. As Yoda would say “do or do not…there is no try”. Just do. If you find motivation for a particular project lacking, try getting started on something else. Something trivial even, then you’ll develop the momentum to begin the more important stuff.
  5. Know yourself. Understanding what your strengths and areas of development are helps you to be aware of the blind spots that can derail you. I have my coaching clients complete the McQuaig Self-Development Survey™ so they have an inventory of what they can expect from themselves under stress.
  6. Stay positive. You’re going to encounter setbacks; it’s a fact of life. Take a positive approach and don’t give up on the goal that you've set. Your goal is to find out what it takes to get over, around or through the obstacle.
  7. Share your goals with someone else. Research recently conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews (Dominican University of California) shows that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.
  8. Provide regular progress updates. As Dr. Matthews found out, adding accountability to the mix took goal performance to the highest level. “My study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals,” Matthews said.
  9. Help others. Share your ideas and help friends get motivated. Seeing others do well will motivate you to do the same.
  10. Set SMART goals. Use a process to help you develop clarity around the goals that you are going to commit to. I use the GROW model to help my coaching clients set challenging, achievable goals for themselves. It’s simple and it works.



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