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The Top Five Ways To Motivate Behavior

Updated on May 15, 2010

Understanding The 5 B's of Motivation

Whether you are a manager, a supervisor, a little league coach, or a parent; you probably interact with people that you would like to inspire to take action. This lens contains five specific ideas you can apply to improve in this area.

Many people talk about "motivating" other people. While the tips come from understanding motivation principles, the real idea is learning to inspire people. Use these tips to accomplish that goal.

The 5 B's of Motivation

It's not true in every organization, but it is true in many. Managers often don't understand their employees. They don't know how to motivate, inspire, and correct people effectively. As I work with my clients, I hear the same questions repeatedly: "How do I get my employees to...

...quit complaining?"

...do more than the bare minimum?"

...contribute in meetings?"

...show up on time?" etc.

I also hear all kinds of answers for each situation. Some proposals are good, and some are not. The good suggestions show an understanding of human nature and an effort to apply behavioral principles. The bad ones usually feel good to the manager, but they violate some basic principle of human relations.

Human behavior is a complex subject. However, events that appear to be random, isolated behaviors actually fit into predictable patterns for most people. If you understand the patterns, you will know what to do in most situations. I've developed the Five Be's of Motivation to reduce these patterns to five easy to remember and apply principles.

So, let's get started...

1. Be Positive

People do things for one of two reasons: to avoid pain or to pursue pleasure. As a manager, you constantly work between these two options. If you use negatives - like verbal reprimands, threats, or other punishments - to drive behavior, people will do just enough to avoid the pain. You will condemn yourself to bare minimum effort from your employees. If you focus on rewarding good behaviors, you improve the odds that you will get cooperation and extra, discretionary effort rather than conflict, complaints and bare minimum performance.

Noticing unacceptable behaviors and stopping them with punishment is easy. It takes effort to recognize good behaviors and praise them. You need to do both; but the more you recognize the good, the less likely you are to see the bad.

2. Be Specific

Make sure you speak only about specific behaviors. Whether you administer discipline or offer praise, the more specific you make your words the better.

Emotional involvement (anger) from a negative situation often makes specificity a bigger challenge during discipline. For example, one of your employees consistently challenges you in meetings. Many people get angry at the situation and tell the employee to "stop being rude and inconsiderate." Well, "rude" and "inconsiderate" are interpretations of behavior, not behaviors. A better statement would be, "I don't appreciate it when you interrupt and challenge me. I see those behaviors as rude and inconsiderate. I won't do it to you, and I don't expect you to do it to me." (I suggest you do this in private.) Depending on the situation, you might take further disciplinary action based on company history and workplace rules. Whether you take further action or not, focus on specific behaviors and not interpretations.

Here are some examples:

  • Rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, arrogant, obnoxious, flighty, unfocused, smart aleck, and pushy are interpretations.
  • Interrupting, rolling eyes, speaking loudly (or softly), shrugging shoulders, looking away, walking away, and tone of voice are specific behaviors.

3. Be Certain

People act based on what they expect to happen to them in the future. Whether it's avoiding pain or pursuing pleasure, it's still about expectations. Your employees need to know - without a doubt - what to expect from you based on their actions.

Make sure that everyone clearly understands the rules of conduct in your workplace. Ideally, you will write down anything that is mission critical to your operation. I don't suggest that you make your employee handbook look like the Code of Federal Regulations, but you should have a few well-written and clearly defined behavioral expectations for your business. People need to know the rules. They need to know what to expect when they follow the rules - and when they don't.

4. Be Consistent

Consistency works in close partnership with Certainty. It is Certainty's twin in the daily struggle to create a high-performing, results-oriented team. If you don't consistently apply your workplace rules, your employees will never develop a sense of certainty.

Consistency applies to both positive and negative behaviors. If you say that you will reward certain behaviors, then always reward them. If you say that certain behaviors are unacceptable, always act to stop them.

5. Be Immediate

Act now. When your employees do something worthy of praise - do it now. When they need correction - do it now. Delayed consequences have very little impact on behavior.

I'll illustrate the point with my behavior.

I like cheesecake. Eating cheesecake offers me both immediate and future consequences. The future consequence is negative - I could develop a weight or blood pressure problem. The immediate consequence is positive - it tastes good and gives me pleasure. When I have the opportunity to get cheesecake, I find it difficult to resist even though I understand the negative consequences. Why? The immediate, certain positive tends to overshadow the future, possible negative.

Acting immediately has an added benefit when the behavior is inappropriate. If the behavior continues without correction, you are likely to get angrier every time you see it. As you get angrier, you will probably have more difficulty keeping your response proportional to the behavior (i.e. - not blowing your stack). Act now and you will be better able to maintain self-control.

Let me know what you think, what you would like to see, suggestions for improvement, etc.

Your Comments. Let me know what you think? How have you applied the 5 B's?

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    • corteeze profile image

      corteeze 6 years ago

      Great lens! All these B's are important, but I especially like Be Certain. Internal communication strategies not only consider how to deliver a CLEAR message, but also outline the expectations and objectives associated with the task.

    • ZablonMukuba profile image

      ZablonMukuba 7 years ago

      i agree with you about being consistent

    • profile image

      qlcoach 9 years ago

      Excellent job about the power of motivation and finding positive solutions to all problems. Thanks for sharing it. Feel free to see how I try to help others in new way too:

      http://www.squidoo.com/ebyway

      Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist

    • profile image

      qlcoach 9 years ago

      Excellent job about the power of motivation and finding positive solutions to all problems. Thanks for sharing it. Feel free to see how I try to help others in new way too:

      http://www.squidoo.com/ebyway

      Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist