I just can’t seem to motivate these people.” I often hear this from leaders. Here’s what I tell them: “Stop trying! You’ll never be able to motivate them!”

The advice of a quitter? Not at all—because the next thing I tell them is this: “You can’t motivate them because they’re already motivated! Find out what it is that motivates them, and use this knowledge to channel their energy in the direction you want it to go.”

Some people are like water in a faucet. It’s already motivated to flow, but it doesn’t have the opportunity until you open the tap. Your people may be bursting with energy and waiting only for you to provide them the opportunity to use it constructively.

Others are like mountain streams, which flow swiftly but follow their own courses. If you want them to turn your wheel, you have to provide them with a channel. Your organization may be full of people who are moving energetically toward their own goals. Your challenge is to open up inviting channels that will focus their energy on your collective goals.

Remember that people don’t do things for your reasons. They act for their own reasons. Your challenge is to provide them with good reasons to do what you want them to do.

Those reasons may involve either gain or pain. When the gain from changing a behavior outweighs the comfort of remaining in a rut, a person will change. When the pain of remaining in a certain behavior outweighs the discomfort of leaving the rut, a person will change.

Pride is a powerful motivator. Everybody is proud of something. When you know what makes your people proud, you can use that insight to channel their motivation.

The key to “motivating” people, to harnessing the enormous energies of a large group of people who are pursuing their individual goals and dreams, is to understand them, one by one. And that means understanding each one, as a unique individual. They are already motivated: your only question is, by what?

Remember, you cannot change people. You can only change their behaviors. To change their behaviors, you must change their feelings and beliefs.

You may think that what they feel and believe is wrong-headed and preposterous. But to them, perception is reality, and what they perceive seems perfectly reasonable and rational. Understand that and respect their perceptions. Then you’ll be in a better position to align them with the reality you perceive.

You consistently get the behaviors you consistently expect and reinforce. Look for ways to reward your people for doing the things you want them to do. You’ll find yourself leading an organization of motivated employees with energies focused on the things you want to accomplish.

NIDO QUBEIN is one of the country’s most illustrious
philanthropists and businessmen. He is President of the National Speakers Association
and President of High Point University in High Point, NC.