Management Can Not Motivate
SALES MANAGEMENT’S MOST DECEIVING ILLUSION
Dave "Giff" Gifford
(excerpted from Giff’s “The Graduate School For Sales Management”
Was former General Electric CEO Jack Welch a great motivator? If, as the record shows, his
inspirational leadership influenced people to do what he wanted them to do, most business
people will agree with that characterization.
But by that standard alone, so too are the 230 celebrated individuals (past and present)
listed in the left hand columns of this brief—an intriguing list that includes Ghengis Khan,
Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Osama bin Laden along with Abraham, Buddha, Jesus Christ,
and the Prophet Muhammad.
It is my view that none of those notable figures "motivated" anybody. Jesus Christ and the
Prophet Muhammad never motivated anybody? Preposterous! Read on and allow me to
disabuse you of that notion, fair enough.
Despite the many thousands of people I have managed, consulted and/or whom attended
my seminars and speaking engagements over the years—hardened in their conviction I
motivated them personally—I never motivated anybody in my life and, as a sales manager,
neither have you or will you.
My workplace thesis? No sales manager can motivate an unmotivated salesperson!
For the purpose of clarity, here are six absolutes for what follows:
1. Management can not motivate.
2. Management can only activate.
3. Management can not change attitudes.
4. Management can only change behavior.
Motivate: To provide with a motive
Activate: To make active or more active
Attitude: A settled way of thinking or feeling
Behavior: The way in which someone behaves
From this point on I invite you to "argue with the author". Me! That is, you to play judge and
jury as if I were presenting my case in a court room. Are my contentions correct or incorrect?
It's your call.
Well, I’m getting a reaction already because I hear someone grumbling, "Those are just
your opinions, Giff!" Actually, they are not just my opinions. The question, for example, as
to whether or not a sales manager can motivate their salespeople, is still debated among
human behaviorists…most favoring my position.
So, who am I to get in a debate in the company of such credible sources as Peter Drucker, the late guru of management gurus; Warren Bennis, known for his watershed books on leadership; behavioral scientist Abraham Maslo; clinical psychologist Frederick Herzberg; social scientist Douglas McGregor; and John Adair, one of the world's foremost authorities on leadership and leadership development.
I'll lead off with one indisputable fact. The above scholars agree that people will not do what you want them to do, willingly, without their consent. Willingly!
Years ago, Bennis defined motivation as communicating a vision others can believe in,
then helping people convert that vision into organizational gains. But what if the vision sent
is not the vision received primarily z because the recipients don't buy into that vision and, therefore, its conversion into organizational change is impossible? Was it the fault of the motivator, “alleged”, a flawed vision, or a poorly communicated vision which renders Bennis' definition incomplete.
Drucker counseled that if you "manage-by-objectives" (MBO) you motivate by encouraging communication at all levels. Although I manage by a delineation of MBO—MBP: Management By Priorities—I am at a loss to understand how encouraging communication "provides with a motive". What if the communication is miscommunicated?
The failure of a vision sent, but not received, is usually the fault of the sender owing to the fact that all communications are totally dependent on the words one chooses, the order in which one places those words, and how one says or expresses those words. Clarity! Wrong words and/or wrongly placed words and/or wrongly expressed words are what miscommunications are all about.
As a practicing student as well as teacher of management for over 50 years, my
experiences, plural, have taught me that in every management-employee communication,
there are "senders" and "receivers". And, given the hired-fired laws of leverage are
(written by the employers), management's role is mostly that of the "senders", with their
employees the intended "receivers". Not surprisingly, it is mostly a one-way communication
and sender-based only, with no consideration whatsoever for the unwillingness of certain
receivers (non self-motivated sellers) to be motivated by anyone.
Why did you get up this morning? You didn't get up to fulfill the company's "mission
statement", did you? Nor did you get up for your boss, your salespeople, or the "team",
true or false? No, you got up for yourself, and hopefully for whomever is dependent on you.
Is it any different for the salespeople who work for you?
As a sales manager, what capacity do you think you have to motivate your salespeople? You
might indeed posses a certain magnetic charisma and—through your inspirational
leadership, exceptional communication skills, proven ability to persuade, and backed up by a
track record for establishing the team-building, cheerleading magic it sometimes takes—you
you remain convinced you motivated them. Motivated or influenced them?
Sales managers do have the capability to influence salespeople. Which ones? Your self-
motivated salespeople or your unmotivated salespeople? What if their vision is exactly the
same as your vision? In that context, you didn't provide them with a motive. At the outset
their motive was a shared ownership. In effect, all you did was prompt self-motivated
salespeople to "take action". Not all that difficult, right? In that case, all you teally did…was
activate the mechanism of self-motivation. That is, you re-cocked the trigger of a self-
motivated individuals. Therefore, inasmuch as it is impossible to "provide a motive" already present, you didn't motivate them, you "activated" them. That is not motivation, that is activation.
Maslo, Herzberg, and McGregor—the nay-sayers in this "Yes You Can" vs. "No You Can't"
discourse—all agree that inasmuch as motivation has to come from the psyche of the individual, motivation in the workplace (as we think of it in its conventional context), cannot be achieved without first satisfying an individual's higher needs—the "want" satisfactions as opposed to the basic need satisfactions of food, water, shelter, and clothing.
Adair's take (his "50-50 Rule") is a modification of the 80-20 principle of Italian sociologist
and economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), popularly known as Pareto's Law (80% of the
effects come from 20% of the causes) in that motivation is dependent on an individual's
Inasmuch as managers push from behind and leaders pull from up front, leadership in the words
and actions of people exampled by Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Moses, Doctor Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Che Guevarra, Mahatma Ghandi, Cesar Chavez, Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi, Lee Iococca, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and, regrettably, Adolf Hitler—all leaders who did indeed achieve "organizational gains" for each of their respective constituencies. Therefore, it would appear that their acclaimed ability to motivate is the sum of the power of their positions, their irrepressible personalities, and their gift to inspire action. Key word: inspire!. Not “provide with a motive”.
For example, what commonality did the German people share to so eagerly respond to Adolf
Hitler's leadership? Mired in a deep recession, bitter over the perceived unfairness of the Treaty
of Versailles that ended World War I, staggering under an unstable government politically
threatened by communism, and uncertain of Germany's place in the world as a former world power, they German people were starved for leadership, any leadership. A responsive chord Hitler’s propaganda machine tapped into to convince Germans they were the “master race”—a timely, intoxicating notion, to say the least.
Was it the "Big Lie" message (absent an elusive national identity) there was clearly a chasm deep void longing to be filled by a most receptive populace), or was it the messenger? Fact: The nationalistic motivation for gaining respect as a country was already present. All Hitler had to do was to fill that void with his patented fiery, inspiring oratory?
As it turned out, Hitler had no more capability to motivate people than you do. Which is why, after the internment of political enemies in concentration camps (not all Germans were “receivers”) followed by more than 40 assassination attempts on his life by his own military (for which 5000 officers were executed), and then extending his reign of terror by
ordering (The Final Solution) the extermination of the whole of European Jewry, most
German citizens were managed by fear, not by motivating anyone.
My supposition is that human beings respond to sixteen predominant personal pressures—the stimuli of atoms that make up motivations—all conveniently beginning with the letter "P”.
PREDOMINANT PERSONAL RESPONSE PRESSURES
4 PARENTAL PRESSURE
4 PEER PRESSURE
4 PARTNER PRESSURE
Despite our powers of persuasion, if our salespeople are not "self-motivated" with a driving, inner urge to succeed, there is nothing—as an external force—we can say or do to put in what God left out It will not graft! It will not take! Period. Is there not a difference between the desire for Power (motive) and the achievement of Power (actualization)? Yes! Suggesting, does it not, that the fundamental difference between underachievers and achievers is that the latter group are self-motivated to actuate their desires.
Whereas, as a sales manager, you can train, teach, demonstrate, influence, challenge,
coach, predispose, prompt, push, prod, incentivize, reward, give recognition, encourage,
and inspire your salespeople, even the best sales managers can not motivate an
unmotivated salesperson. The motive must be theirs, not yours! What better way to
explain the high turnover of sales personnel in the Radio business? The #1 reason
salespeople fail is because they were not committed to the job in the first place! Hiring
failures, flat out!
Point: Management must recognize its limitations.
People who succeed in life succeed for only one reason: they can't help themselves. Just
as I have an obsessive need to influence, successful salespeople need to succeed.
Some determinants for success are more important than others. Here are the five
interdependent commitments that make the difference:
1. The resolve to make a total commitment to succeed!
2. Commitment to a "game plan" that puts you into a position to succeed.
3. Commitment to focus on what it takes to succeed.
4. Commitment to stay on plan,
,, ;,, &n, bsp; 5. Commitment to work your butt off!
Where does that commitment come from? It comes from within!
Given the statistical record of how few soldiers have jumped on live grenades to protect
their buddies on the field of battle, one might conclude that those who failed to take the
same action responded to different motivations. Assuming they were actually aware of the
impending danger at the time, what motivations? Probably, given there is no greater
interest than self-interest, probably by an instinctive desire to live rather than die. Whether
their response was motivated by instinct or by a conscious decision, either way their
strongest impulse was self-motivated.
If you analyze only the most successful salespeople you have managed, chances are they
all shared one commonality: they all had a success-driven orientation to begin with. And, because of that inner self-confidence, their personal pride, their competitiveness, their need for recognition, their commitment to self-improvement, their sheer will and determination, over time they developed an ability to communicate in such a way their desire to be respected as great salespeople was achieved. Whatever methodology
they followed to achieve self-actualization, they became successful not because of us—
however damaging that may be to our egos—but because of themselves!
But, what about those situations in which one of your salesperson made positive changes in their performance only because of you? Change in their attitude? No! Change in their behavior? Yes! Management can change behavior. Management cannot change attitudes.
Why not? For the same reason you're the only one who can change your attitude.
Point: Management's responsibility is to manage each salesperson's behavior, not their attitudes. You hire attitudes!
To buy into this hypothesis fully, especially when it comes to attending seminars advertised
to be instructional—but which turn out to be instruction-less—whereas motivational
speakers can not motivate and unmotivated salespeople, they do have the ability to
The problem is, far more often than not, a good night's sleep wipes out that inspiration over
night. Unmotivated salespeople come mostly for the "high" he or she gets from yet another
desperately needed over-dose of inspiration—self-motivated salespeople come primarily
for information he or she did not get. Nothing but a quick-fix-mix of junk food inspiration
instead of providing lasting advice to functionally improve attendee lives.
Do I have a solution to this over-population of unmotivated salespeople? Yes! Replace them with self-motivated salespeople. Which is precisely why I wouldn’t hire anybody today without first putting them through some kind of psychometric testing. And there is the irony…
Without exception, the success of very company in existence today, from a sole proprietor
to General Motors is totally dependent on its salespeople. Yet only an infinitesimally small
percentage of operating budgets include an allowance for testing of any kind.
Incomprehensible! Face it, you are more dependent on your salespeople, than your
salespeople are dependent on you!
One final related point…
Your salespeople don't need inspiration, they need inform-ation! If it’s not relevant to helping
salespeople make more money, its irrelevant, and a total waste of your company's money!
SIX LESSONS IN SUMMARY :
1) Management can not motivate.
2) Management can only activate.
3) Management can not change attitudes.
4) Management can change behavior only.
5) Test (finalists only) to hire "self-motivated" salespeople.
6) If you hire self-motivated salespeople in the first place the debate as to whether or not
you can motivate someone else is moot.
I rest my case.