Nearly every football player that played under Vince Lombardi’s coaching speaks admiringly of their leader.
Lombardi was not perfect. He was often overbearing with many players. He didn’t always know that different players required different types of motivation.
Lombardi had traits that he was born with. He had philosophies he grooved for decades. He was also willing to adapt when he heard the right feedback.
Famously, Bart Starr went to Lombardi early in their time with the Green Bay Packers. Bart requested from Lombardi a different type of treatment. Not special treatment. He wanted Lombardi to be hard on him. Perhaps more than any other player. Starr told Lombardi about his relationship with his father. One with zero praise heaped on Starr despite many accomplishments.
Starr needed to hear that he was doing some things correctly. He needed it from Lombardi. Even if it were to be in private. They came to an agreement. It worked. The team won 5 NFL Championships including three in a row and the first two Super Bowls.
Inspiring motivation and success in a team doesn’t have a specific set of rules. But here are a few common things most successful leaders seem to do.
1. By Example
If you’re audacious enough to want to be a business leader, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard. Especially to a higher standard than those on your team.
It’s easy to feel the opposite. Reaching a leadership role is an accomplishment. And when we accomplish things it can feel that we deserve things. Respect, possessions, even the ability to be lacking in our effort. Or lacking in the details.
In the NFL, there have been few players that have played past the age of 30. Often it’s due to physical reasons. Some uncontrollable by players. But some players that have played a long time have said that as they got older they worked harder than ever to keep their bodies in shape.
When you reach a leadership position, you have to work harder than you ever have. More time. More energy. More thinking. More details.
You can inspire your team this way. You can motivate them to see what it takes to succeed. It’s not a guarantee, but it is one way to do it.
That’s right. People need 5 times more praise than criticism for optimal performance. This gets back to what Bart Starr was telling his coach. He needed to hear praise. At least some mixed in with the criticism.
We’ve all been with people that are critical. Maybe they feel it’s constructive criticism. But the thing is, if all you hear is criticism, each of those gets lost in the shuffle. You start to tune it out.
When there is praise, the criticism stands out. We listen. We take action.
If you have an employee that is doing great work and you’re telling them about it, and then you point out one thing they did wrong, they are going to listen. It will shock their system. They will trust that you mean what you’re saying and that you’re not just doing it to be mean or anything like that.
Praise your team. It will inspire them to do good work.
3. Raise Expectations
Expectations are a fickle thing in life.
If they get too high and unreasonable, it’s easy to fail and feel like a complete failure. And that is difficult to come back from.
But it’s also difficult to become successful if you feel that you can’t be successful. If you feel that you’re only capable of reaching a certain level of success in life. If the people you observe and model yourself after reach a certain level and you reach that level.
One common theme with Lombardi, again, was that his players almost all felt that they could do great things. He would tell them so. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to sense when a young player was feeling like they were reaching their highest level of achievement and he would jump in and tell them how good he believed they could be.
Not overnight. But with consistent dedication. Over time, he believed they could become really good. Better than they thought.
Now imagine an entire team feeling this way. Feeling that they could be better than they ever thought.
4. Share Stories
Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of human communication. We’ve evolved to listen to stories and pull our own lessons out and apply them to ourselves. To our own lives.
When you’re with your team, tell stories about yourself. Tell stories about people you’ve worked with. People you’ve been around and spent time with. Have others come in and speak to your team.
Don’t necessarily have a key lesson or point to the stories. Let the team consider for themselves how to apply the story to their own lives.
The best stories, movies and books and whatever are often the ones that simply tell a story. No lessons. Just a story. One that people can take in and dissect for themselves.
The more stories we hear, the more we’re often motivated to change or to do more or to be better.
It’s not easy to inspire motivation. There are different ways to do it. It’s not the same for every individual or for every team. But these are some common threads:
- By Example
- Raise Expectations
- Share Stories
If you’re a leader and want to inspire motivation in your team, try these out. They should provide some results.