Maintaining Motivation

Originally published: 06.01.08 by

Economic slumps take a personal toll on business owners. I’ve spoken with dozens of readers in recent months and their stories are proof positive that owning a business is not for the weary. For the most part, these owners are prepared to stay the course. In fact, some were excited about new opportunities. Others were in the midst of executing long-range plans that had prepared them for current economic conditions — plans that have positioned their companies to take advantage of competitors who did not have the foresight to do the same. But others indicated that all of the wear and tear of the current economic dilemma has caused their motivation and drive to slump. This column is dedicated to them.

Staying motivated over the long haul is difficult. As business owners, we’re constantly battered by anxiety, pressure, doubt and even depression. Owners shoulder a great deal of responsibility in the communities in which they work and live. Factor in family responsibilities as well as the responsibility to the families of those who work for you, and it’s easy to see why you feel like a punching bag at the end of the week.

What separates the highly successful business owner and the average one is the ability to keep moving forward—even if it’s only one yard at a time. The ability to motivate yourself and others is a critical leadership skill and one of the most difficult to master. Motivation comes in many forms, shapes and sizes and requires a delicate balance of communication, structure, goals and incentives.

Generally speaking, all of you are motivated individuals to begin with or you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur — and an owner. Moving forward from that premise is a bit easier because, like our businesses, our motivation also will have some peaks and valleys.

Motivation is the impulse to take action. Triggering this impulse generally happens when you have clear and specific goals. If you haven’t established a list of personal goals as well as company goals, it’s not too late to start. This is the key to moving the ball forward each week. A great place to start is aligning goals with your natural talents. It’s likely that because of these natural talents you’ve developed skill sets in certain areas of your business that seem to come more easily to you. These “easy victories” are what you need to start moving the ball.

Motivation is really a cycle consisting of desire, attitude, persistence, habits, and achievement.

Desire—Establishing the goal(s);

Attitude—Harnessing the mental framework that moves you forward;

Persistence—Working until you get it right;

Habits—Practicing the good stuff;

Achievement—Celebrating success.

Once you’ve started moving the ball, the ability to communicate short-term and long-range goals to co-workers is essential. They’ll need to understand the importance of the specific goals as they relate to individuals within the company as well as the overall good they produce for the company itself. Once the cycle begins, celebrate the success of achieving stated goals.

You’ve heard the old adage, “Nothing is more contagious than success.” It’s true. It’s also true that you need to start small and build winning attitudes by persistently practicing good habits — let the cycle begin.

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