A good pep-talk isn’t what you might think. Movies depict pep-talks that are passionate, emotional and eloquent. That may work in Hollywood, but it rarely works in business!
When people experience a major setback, or they’re not getting the results they want; they get frustrated, lose confidence, and become demotivated, and that’s not a winning mindset!
You can pump people up with encouragement and positive thinking, but that won’t last for long. It’s like a sugar high. It might feel good in the moment, but it wears off fast and then people crash back into reality.
These are “empty pep talks”, because they lack the essential psychological nutrients needed to get people back on track. You’re just feeding people empty calories full of psychological sugars and fats. In fact, an empty pep-talk does more damage than good!
Here’s the pre pep-talk reality - people are uncertain and worried about their self-interests. They lack direction and are struggling to make sense of things. They’re lost! But that’s where you come in.
A good pep-talk gives “meaningful direction” that reduces uncertainty, and uses empathetic language that addresses their self-interests. These are the essential psychological nutrients that a good pep-talk must include.
Without meaningful direction, your enthusiasm and optimism just confuses people.
Meaningful direction explains not just “what to do”, but “how to do it”! It’s clear and immediately actionable.
For your directions to be meaningful, you have to explain the importance and reasons behind your direction. They have to know “what to do”, “how to do it”, and “why they’re doing it”.
You have to explain your confidence in their abilities. You can’t just say, “I know you can do it!” You have to explain “why they can do it”.
A retired four-star general, Stanley McChrystal—who oversaw special operations in Iraq and Afghanistan—sums it up this way:
“Here’s what I’m asking you to do. . . Here’s why it’s important. . . Here’s why I know you can do it. . . Now let’s go and do it!”
They don’t need a “rah-rah speech”! You don’t have to be passionate, emotional or eloquent. Your pep talk can be very matter-of-fact.
Your tone should be empathetic, measured and direct. Set the emotions aside, and present a rational case for action.
Just follow this simple formula -
- Give meaningful direction;
- Use empathetic language;
- And give people a reason to act!
Good pep-talks take skill to deliver, so you’ll have to practice. You can mentally rehearse your pep-talks, and a good way to practice is on yourself! When you’re facing an uphill battle, your self-talk is key. Just think of yourself in the 3rd person, use empathetic language and offer yourself some meaningful direction.
Everybody’s situation is different, so you have to tailor your pep talk to the individual.
Then evaluate your pep talks after the fact. Don’t expect an immediate reaction, but focus on what happens next.
You can’t just give one pep-talk. Good pep-talks are actually a series of messages that include timely feedback and positive reinforcement.
Remember, when people are lost, they don’t need an empty pep-talk or a “rah-rah speech”. They need meaningful direction, empathetic language and a reason to act!