Ever been frustrated trying to motivate and inspire others? Or perhaps you needed help and couldn’t get others to buy-in? Well here’s a simple way to instantly motivate and inspire people to take action.
The irony of motivating people is that you’re better off asking for a lot than a little. That’s because people give their best when challenged. So if you’re only asking for something trivial, you’ll tend to see trivial amounts of motivation and performance.
Conversely, as the assignment becomes more challenging, individual effort and engagement improve. Of course, this isn’t an ever increasing scale. The challenge must be within reason and give the person a modest solvable puzzle.
The above “Challenge Effort Relationship” was famously highlighted by Yerkes-Dodson Law of Arousal. His model shows that we experience optimal performance with just the right amount of stress (i.e. challenge) – see diagram below.
I’ve found this to be true time and time again with myself, my kids, and clients. If the challenge is too small, performance suffers. If the challenge is too big, performance suffers. If the challenge is just right, then performance peaks.
I’ve also found from personal experience that combining the right amount of challenge with a simple secret ingredient further boosts performance and motivation. I call this The Hero Effect (the red line in the diagram above).
When you combine moderate achievable challenge with sincere appreciation, you create what I call The Hero Effect.
That’s when you allow someone else to be your Hero. In essence, you present a challenge and immediately let the other person know how important they are to solving the problem. The key is to express these ideas:
The basic scenario is damsel in distress or dude down in need of expert help. In short, you’re creating a perfect heroes opportunity. An opportunity that’s challenging, solvable, and packed full of upside reward. You Hero gets a reward for a job well done and even more important they experience someone actually being appreciative and thankful.
These are powerful motivators not only to others but also to ourselves. I tell my clients all the time that they can’t possibly get the best out of themselves without first having a hero’s mission. Something challenging, solvable, and packed full of upside reward. After all, Clark Kent doesn’t lose the glasses and become Superman until there’s an actual challenge that requires heroics with somebody to save and to thank him for doing it.
Applying the Hero Effect is pretty simple. You just need to sell in a non-manipulative way the values others have to offer. Then point them in the direction of expressing that value through some achievable finite assignment. If you do this, more often than not you’ll instantly motivate and inspire higher level buy-in and action. And I do mean instant.
For example, one leader I coached vented his frustrations by referring to his people as zombies who care little about anything. Of course, this was out of frustration not being able to motivate and inspire his people. Our solution, turn zombies into heroes by challenging them and showing sincere deep level appreciation. He was hesitant at first, because how could he ask walking zombies for more.
He eventually checked his ego and expressed to his staff just how important they are. The instant result, a dramatic boost in morale and a motivated staff doing things they’ve never done before. My client ate his words but was happy to do it in the end.
I think this works for many reasons, but the biggest is that you’re giving your Hero a sense of purpose and meaning. That’s pretty big because most people don’t experience a daily connection to purpose. They instead operate on autopilot, just to get by.
There is tremendous power in saying, “Look, I need you, what you do is important, and can you help me?” This simple process jolts people into believing, if only for a minute, they do have a purpose and what they do is important. I believe this is a key tenant of being a great leader who helps others connect their actions to something purposeful and meaningful. When you do this, people instantly become motivated, empowered, and ready to face challenges. At that point, the only thing left to do is to get out of the way and let be the hero.
In fact, just recently I experienced this hack in full force at the Apple Store. All I did was give someone an opportunity to be my hero, and he didn’t let me down. He looked me in the eyes and said:
“Yep, I am a F*#king Hero” (see video)
I felt a little shiver inside when he said it. It wasn’t from what he said, but it was that he believed it. Which by extension made me have even MORE belief in him.
And by the way, this is not only a very potent hack to lead others, but also to get more of what you want. I’ve received everything from free dinners, VIP treatment, and 1st class upgrades to skipping tons of red tape and being catapulted to the front of the line. Why? Because I gave someone a challenging hero opportunity.
Some may say this sound very manipulative, but I disagree for one BIG reason. Namely, I sincerely believe in the people I challenge to be my hero. I have a BIG need (at least for me), and I value their power to deliver what I need.
Further, I go in with a modest-solvable challenge. But once you open the door you can’t stop a hero from going all the way. Why? Because that’s what a hero was made to do. In fact, that’s what we all are made to do. A few questions:
I do, and I know the people I allow to be my hero do as well. So from that perspective, it’s a win:win. My hero gets to connect to purpose, meaning, and to experience their true value. I get a motivated partner who can help me achieve my goals.
P.S. I caution you to use The Hero Effect responsibly because it’s truly powerful.