All motivation is self-motivation

March 30, 2015 at 12:49 pm 10 comments

headshot of suzanne allenI’m a Tom Peters fan, and have been since that day in 1982 when a graduate school professor assigned his new, best-selling book (In Search of Excellence) as required reading. I’ve since read all his books, disagreed with several, listened to him speak (and rant) in person and on cassette tape and subscribed to his weekly email blast.

His picture even sat on my desk, until a custodian refused to empty the trash can in my office. The custodian saw me with my husband, and assumed that I was being unfaithful to the man on my desk.

A recent email blast was particularly poignant. In it, Tom reminded me to “Never forget when exhorting your troops: ALL MOTIVATION IS SELF-MOTIVATION. PERIOD. (Boss ‘just’ creates platform, offers encouragement.)”

tom peters and book cover“All motivation is self-motivation.” That’s a powerful statement, and although I hadn’t quite looked at it through that lens, it is so very true. And while there are great books and articles that you and I have read, written by creative and highly educated folks that promise you can “Motivate Your Employees in 10 Steps with Pictures” or “Motivate Employees in Less Than 5 Minutes,” there’s more to it.

It is about self-motivation – not ten steps with pictures – and the more I think about Tom’s quote, the more I realize that he’s right again. It’s about believing viscerally in what we do and what we value that is motivating. I see this around the state in the offices, towns and cities of our members. In fact, in a recent lunch meeting a foundation president and I had a hard time having a conversation because so many people stopped to say hello and ask about some project the foundation is involved in.

In a tour of another foundation’s office, it was clear from the front door that the foundation cared about its employees and its grantees. There were pictures everywhere and the tour included explanations of many. The staff had pride in their work, a platform created by their leader (Tom calls this the “smell test” of organizational culture).

8 lessons in search of excellenceTo quote from his 1982 book, “Our excellent companies appear to do their way into strategies, not vice versa. ‘Doing’ things (lots of experiments, tries) leads to rapid and effective learning, adaption, diffusion and commitment; it is the hallmark of the well-run company.”

So many, many of you around the state are “doing” great things and are examples of self-motivating platform- builders. You know what this intuitive thing is and that it’s the feeling we get when we are doing the right thing and are doing it for the right reasons at just the right time.

That’s the sweet spot for a leader, and if you’ve ever hit a tennis ball in the sweet spot on your racquet, or hit a golf ball in the sweet spot on your driver (the only sports I’ve ever played) you understand this – when you are motivated, that motivation radiates and builds the platform for encouragement. I could go on, but I want to hear from you. How do you motivate yourself so that you can be motivational?

Stay tuned, I’m expecting great responses!

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

Entry filed under: Management, Professional Reading, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

In Memoriam: Michael G. Shinn, CFP 5 practices to change philanthropy from the outside-in

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rlrieck  |  March 30, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Couldn’t agree more! Great post!

  • 3. Louise Kuhns Harvey  |  March 30, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    So very true. Especially like “boss creates platform, offers encouragement.” Truly successful people are self-motivated. When I read the blogs written by you and your colleagues,I almost wish I was not retired! Philanthropy can be such a rewarding career.

    • 4. Philanthropy Ohio  |  April 2, 2015 at 11:43 am

      Thank you Louise! I always say it’s a great day at Philanthropy Ohio, and it truly is!

  • 5. Ray Davis  |  April 1, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Reblogged this on The Affirmation Spot and commented:
    A fantastic reminder for leaders (and aren’t we all?) or anyone else. Motivation is not a gift that is bestowed. You must stoke the fires in you.

    • 6. Philanthropy Ohio  |  April 2, 2015 at 11:44 am

      I couldn’t agree more Ray! Thanks for re-blogging!

  • 7. Jim Kandrac  |  April 2, 2015 at 8:49 am


    I remember taking a T or F test in a Management & Labor Relations Class at CSU in 1983. The question was: Managers motivate subordinates? T or F – Being the know all 21 year old, I selected “True”. Received the test back and my answer was circled with a big red circle as being incorrect. Not believing and always up for lively conversation, I approached the Professor after class about the question … there “must” be a mistake .. surely managers motivate subordinates. The Professor calmly listened to what I had to say and then responded with “Managers can be the topping or icing on the cake, but motivation “MUST” come from within”. He then suggested I call him back in 20 years.

    Fast forward 30 years and I absolutely agree … Motivation comes from within.

    Thank you for the post. Excellent.

    • 8. Philanthropy Ohio  |  April 13, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Great anecdote! And thank you for the kind words!

  • 9. Rene Delane  |  April 7, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Suzanne, as a leadership consultant addicted to the neuroscience of brain change (and chocolate) your focus on “motivation” really resonated with me. Getting, keeping and staying motivated is found in triggers that connect me with my inner voice – my heart and my smarts. But it is my responsibility to continually seek out the triggers that fan the flames of motivation. For me it is inspiring stories of people who have overcome challenges of color, culture or gender to lead lives of success and significance.
    Thank you for a great blog topic.
    Oh, and… loved your “trash talk” story!

  • 10. Philanthropy Ohio  |  April 13, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Glad you enjoyed both topics, Rene! Thanks for stopping by!


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