"When a computer application freezes, your cursor turns into this nasty little multi-colored wheel that just spins round and around. You don't know what's happening. There's no sign of progress, and you lose all sense of control. It's very demotivating. In a recession, your employees can feel that very same way.
There's something else a computer does, when you download an application there's something called a 'progress bar' and it shows how fast the software is loading. Even if it's going slow, you get to experience progress being made. It's comforting. You see what's happening, and it feels like you have some control.
In challenging times, you want your people to experience the progress bar and not the spinning wheel. When people experience progress, you've got different ways that you can use feedback, focus, and goals to motivate them. I want to explain.
I used to run a lot of marathons, and early in a race, I wasn't thinking, 'okay, I have 22-miles left, 21-miles left, now I have 20-miles left.' Because, trust me, that's not very motivating! I was thinking...'that's 4-miles down. Okay, that's 5-miles down. Okay, good, that's 6-miles down'.
When you still have a lot of progress to go, the progress you've made is much more motivating than the progress you still have to make.
Progress can also be the basis for feedback. If I got halfway through a marathon in 2-hours and I felt good, I could take that as positive feedback. But if I barely made it halfway in 2-hours and I felt like crap, I knew I had to take that as negative feedback.
The feedback I got halfway through each marathon impacted my goals. If I was struggling, I'd set a very specific short-term goal, like, 'slow your pace and just get through the next mile, then let's see where we are'. That was a lot more motivating because it felt doable. It felt realistic. When I got towards the end of a marathon, I'd shift my motivational technique. I'd shift my focus from progress that I made, to the progress remaining. I wouldn't think, okay, that's 24-miles down. I'd think to myself, 'there's only 2-miles left...now there's only 1-mile left'. If I was getting positive feedback. Say I felt good at 24-miles and my pace was good, I'd revise my goals and try to set a better time, finish in a better time. I'd really begin to push myself. I'd set a goal that would push myself.
Now, I didn't develop these motivational strategies on my own. I tested them out in a lot of marathons. In fact, 41 of them. They were developed in our performance lab, and each technique is backed by empirical scientific research. These strategies help me run marathons, and they've worked for our clients. Clients that have led their companies, their divisions, and their groups through very challenging times. And they'll work for you, too."
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