Encouragement as Confrontation

I was talking to a friend this morning who was admitting that perhaps he isn’t very good at confrontation. He’d prefer to avoid conflict, and admitted that it may come from a certain theological background (he grew up Mennonite).

In the course of the conversation, I said to him something like “You know, encouragement IS a form of confrontation.” I surprised myself with this statement, because I’ve never thought about it this way before. But I’m convinced that I’m on to something!

When we’re having a tough time, we need to be encouraged because without some outside help, we’re going to get stuck in negative self-talk. Encouragement tells us we can go another mile in the marathon. It tells us we can get back up, dust ourselves off, and get back on a horse. Someone who encourages us confronts the self-defeating negativity and says “NO” to it.

We may not see it as a confrontation because it may be preemptive. Ideally, we’re getting encouraged even before our brain says “I want to quit, I want to give up, I want to be comfortable.”

When was the last time you told someone they are pretty? (And really meant it.)

“Oh, I’m not — I’m not as pretty as so-and-so.”

You know you’re getting enough encouragement when you can just say “thank you” after being confronted with some truth about yourself. Encouragement is just an exercise in confrontation that says “I believe in you. You can do it.”

Get lots of mini-interventions, it’s like health food for your brain… and your soul. And give them out, too.


New Release: Positive Cultural Impact

You’re leading a team: could be you and one child, or you and a sales team, or you and a massive corporation or nonprofit institution. In any case, you have a culture you want to build, values to instill. But how?

For the last few months I’ve been blogging less as I was working to refine a concept into a concise e-book which details my formula for making a positive cultural impact in the form of a cycle which I very creatively decided to call the Cultural Impact Cycle.


Last Friday I published this e-book, reasonably priced at $2.99 USD. Here’s the link: How to Make a Positive Cultural Impact.

In a recent discussion with a random stranger, I told the stranger I am a life coach.

“What do you teach people?” he asked.

“Coaches don’t teach… but I’m also a writer,” I said, and proceeded to give him the elevator version of the cycle and the book.

“So, it’s the simple things,” he said.

Yes… it’s simple. The concepts here aren’t complicated. It’s implementation that may be difficult… perhaps even challenging enough you’ll want to work on them with a coach.

There’s more to come. Soon I’ll have a video course available for purchase that includes a workbook and an online forum. In the meantime, you can check out the book itself, it’s a short read at 8,300 words.


–Adam G. Fleming

Motivation Myth #1

Let’s bust some myths about motivation.

Here’s the first myth: Motivation is supposed to be like a big secret. It’s something somebody else out there has, and you don’t, something elusive, mystical, a mythical super-quality carried by super-speakers and super-coaches, something people are maybe born with. You have to have charisma, and if you don’t, you can’t do it. We’ve fallen in love with this idea that a lucky few are born with mystical super-qualities, and we think it’s like being an artist, which is code for “that’s not me”. That last part is the myth.

It may seem off topic but bear with me for a minute because we’re coming back to motivation, I promise. To bust the myth, we have to look at what it means to practice an art.

Who knows that General Custer nearly failed West Point? That he was at the bottom of his graduating class?

Was he a bad strategist? Arrogant? Poor grades in tactics? Did he have Badly grammar? No. it’s because Custer refused to learn how to draw. Not his firearm: I’m talking about draftsmanship. Back then there was no such thing as photography. You couldn’t stick a camera on a satellite and fly it overhead to see if the enemy had weapons of mass destruction. An officer on the front line had to be able to see what the situation was and draw, yes, with lines and shading and all that mystical art stuff, draw the battlefield accurately and quickly to dispatch a scout over to their commanding officer to give a report and then get instructions. To be an officer in the United States Army, sketching was a must. Not a mythical thing, it was something they knew you could learn to do and assumed you would learn to do if you wanted to succeed. It didn’t mean majoring in art, but you could get the job done when it was time to represent reality in two dimensions with pencil on paper. What I understand from a little research on Custer is that he thought there were only two places in a class, the head and the foot. He later became known as a great self-promoter, someone who could always find a way to get himself in the news. Being the head of the class is noteworthy, but requires a lot of effort and brown nosing. He was bound and determined not to be the head, so he earned himself 726 demerits in 4 years at West Point, that’s one roughly every other day. I’m fictionalizing his character now to make a point: Why should I learn to draw? I’m a winner, drawing is for planners and organizers and people too scared to just act. Sending reports to the commanding officer is for people who can’t figure it out themselves. Besides, I’m going to be a General. People will report to me, they’ll be serving me, I’ll be in charge. I won’t have to report to others. Drawing is for second-rate, second-tier commanders, middle management… those guys are all losers Good guys finish last. I am not a good guy, I’m the best.  Ok, I don’t know what his deal was, but we can guess. There was something he didn’t value about being able to draw. He was motivated by being well-known, a.k.a. notorious. It was more important. So he didn’t learn to draw!

What do we learn from that? First, that nobody thought the basic elements of drawing were hard to learn. There was no mystery about drawing in those days. Nobody thought art was a mystical thing only a few gifted people could do. But that idea was growing. Before TV and mass media, everyone danced at a party. After mass media, everyone said “I can’t dance like Fred Astaire, so I won’t dance at all”. You’re missing out! Some will do it with more beauty than others. Chef Gordon Ramsay plating food makes it more interesting than me nuking a burrito – but I can cook, okay.

You can learn the basic elements of drawing or cooking, if you want to. We’re going to see that motivating people works that way too. It has very little to do with having a big-stage personality. In fact, sometimes that big-stage personality doesn’t work as well with normal people. Are you aware Michael Jordan ended up being a lousy basketball executive, he couldn’t put a team together because all he understood was superstardom? Have you ever met a sales manager who was massively successful as a salesperson but they couldn’t understand why half their team wasn’t breaking records every quarter?

We’re very progressive as humans, which is why we now believe that not only drawing,  dancing and cooking but motivation, as well, are in the realm of the mystical and artistic and require a super-human to do it. I bet you know some names of motivational speakers who are more famous than I am. But it’s a myth that you need a superstar with personal charisma out the roof. My assumption is like West Point’s assumption about learning to draw: The best motivators are pretty normal people and they understand the struggle the average person on their team is dealing with. They might not even be team leaders, but they’re going to be motivating others by the end of the day, and that’s going to motivate them in return. The process for motivating superstars isn’t different. But if you can motivate normal people, your superstars will get inspired by that!


The Motivated Locomotive

Once upon a time there was a train full of toys, stuffed animals, dolls and balls. “Wouldn’t it be great,” said the Clown, CEO, “if all the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain had our goodies, toys and treats any time they wanted?” Everyone agreed. So they roughed out a Vision statement which said “Develop, deploy, and manage a diverse set of strategic logistics tools to serve our customers, improving overall satisfaction among our diverse customer profiles.” It sounded very business-like. Everyone knew what it meant, right? “Take a variety of toys and sweets over the mountain that all the kids will like.” Also, they decided that a good mission statement would be “seamlessly operationalize market-driven global opportunities,” which pretty much meant “get in the black asap” and they got to work.

The CEO pointed out that the most likely market was over the mountain, and besides, there was a railroad right over the top already, so the company loaded a train with anything they had in stock and set off to make their mission a reality. Which was great, until their engine broke down a mile out of town. Nobody had bothered to see if it was in working condition. So the CEO started doing some quick headhunting by tapping his network.

“hey, I need a loco-motivated guy here who can get us over this mountain,” he said. He tried to lure away people from some major logistics companies, one that specialized in heavy brown and yellow packages, and another that specialized in speedy delivery of red and blue envelopes, but nobody he went to business school with was interested in working for a startup, for half their current pay and dubiously valuable stock options.

Finally he found a kid who was just out of college. Let’s just say she was a little green behind the ears and hadn’t quite stopped watching videos with talking trains who rolled their eyeballs around and bantered with their cabooses and obeyed a clown in a top hat. She was what we’d call an “idealist” and a “go-getter” and she’d never had an opportunity before. She was hyper-motivated; even loco-motivated because she loved the vision. Her motto was “I think I can” and with a lot of effort she made it over that first mountain and delivered the goods.

The end, but not quite. Using some lingo she thought the CEO would understand, the Little Engine Who Did, said “that mountain is a silly hilly hill, homey don’t play that,” and to the board of directors she said “our methodology is unsustainable, has anyone even bothered to think about what our values are?”

Everyone said “What do you mean? We have a vision, a mission, a motivated general manager, and we’re in the black. Keep doing it!”

The Little Engine Who Did, and was happy to keep doing it, too, if only it wasn’t such a damn uphill struggle half the time, said, “We have vision: we know how we want to change the world for the better; we make children happy. We have a mission: to deliver toys to the town on the other side of the mountain. But I’m not motivated to keep making that climb, over and over, when I think there might be better ways to deliver that fit who we are more appropriately. Did anyone think about the tracks?”

“The tracks were just there,” said the giraffe, who spoke up because he always had an easy time getting a bird’s eye view, “and based on a cursory inspection they do not appear to be broken.”

“It’s not a matter of being broken or not. It works, but I’m wearing out quickly. I don’t get to see my children much, and when I do, I’m so exhausted I fall asleep before we’re done eating our KFC. I really want to do what we do, but I don’t have a high value for our traditional methodology.”

“How else could we do it?” said the CEO.

“The first two options I see are blasting a tunnel through the mountain or building a track that goes around it. Then we could consider getting a ship and sailing around to the east, or flying some of the goods in by air. Some of those methods will cost more, some will take longer, but just getting it done isn’t going to work. We need to look at other values besides just doing it this way. In this case, there isn’t a right way to do it, just different ones.”
So they wrote it out:

Vision, or how the world will change if we succeed: Kids will play and grow!

Mission: What we are doing now: Getting toys and fruit to children.

 Values: How we do it and why we do it the way we do it. Where the train tracks go and why they go there.

“We have not thought about these very carefully before,” said the CEO, who felt his suspenders had broken and his pants were falling down, because they were. Hee, hee.

And that is when they called a coach to help them talk it over. The Beginning.

What do I need motivation for?

I love Dan Pink’s book Drive  … his basic premise is that for great motivation we need a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

I began to consider this question: what are the main things we need to be motivated for? In other words, these are things that we need someone outside ourselves listening, encouraging, supporting and holding us accountable. They must, by nature, not be things that are coming easily to us, but they must also be things that we’ll want bad enough that the outside perspective isn’t using cattle prods to get us there. Nobody can make us do it without some level of internal motivation, but on the other hand, if our internal motivation is sufficient, those items don’t really go on this list. They’re changes we’re making easily enough on our own.

Here’s my incomplete list, and I invite you to comment and add your own thoughts to the discussion. What would you add or subtract?

  1. Things we want to do with excellence
  2. Things that will take a level of endurance
  3. Unpalatable tasks we must grind though
  4. Things that will involve taking a certain degree of risk
  5. Things that will require us to practice values to which we have previously only aspired to live, but now want to live out
  6. Things that we want to be intentional about living through our work and family life, in our margins, hedgerows or sabbath time
  7. Transitional elements which are naturally exhausting

The Art Of Motivational Listening

A publisher called EntrustSource has asked for my next book. This is NOT an indie project, but it’s a small publisher so they aren’t dumping a huge ton of money on me as an advance. In fact, there’s no advance at all. Here’s my Kickstarter project. My goal is to have $2000 in pre-sales by June 30. Learn more about it, see a really ridiculous video, and even get an early copy or contribute to the project here!

Here’s the “more serious” version of the video. If you want to see the ridiculous one, then you need to go to the Kickstarter campaign itself (via the link above) and check it out there.