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June 5, 2015

Build Your Business on Systems, not Motivation

Business is a fickle creature.

First, you’re going ninety-five on 95. You have the energy, the drive, and the determination to make it happen. Look at you go.

You feel like Bradley Cooper from Limitless – sights, sounds, and smells interpreted as data. You make good decisions, achieve progress, and things are looking up. You are moving so quickly, that at this rate, you will have your product, prototype, or plan condensed and ready to sell within a few weeks.

Everything is going so well.

Then, you hit a wall.

Suddenly, things unravel. You recognize the holes in your logic, the fallacy in your business plan, and the overwhelmingly large to-do list looms on your already cluttered desk. Motivation is gone, and your progress nearly halts. You just need to slow down, right?

Just take a break.

This is the most dangerous place to be as a small business owner or entrepreneur. I call it, Decaffeination Syndrome. The buzz has worn off, and you’re energy is low.

Do Not Expect People to Self-Motivate, Expect Your Business to Operate Regardless

Company culture is a buzzword that floats around a lot. There is good culture, bad culture, and incongruent culture. We’ve probably all been a part of poor company culture – which can create a cancerous defamation of processes and results. Sound business systems provide that strong foundation for your business and company culture, thereby perpetuating a motivational work environment.

If you’re primarily concerned with motivation of your staff, what business operations will you be missing?

Focus instead on making your business systems operate smoothly, the motivation will stem from working for a highly functional company and lead to increased output.

As a figure of authority, motivation is a tool, but it’s a blade that will only cut if the rest of the business is already built on strong foundations. In an interesting TED talk, there’s a breakdown of the things that motivate people to do well, and things that don’t. The findings are contrary to most operational structures that therefore fail to create a results-oriented workspace. One of the biggest misconceptions is that busyness equates to productivity.

Being Busy is Not the Same as Being Productive

Being motivated may encourage busyness, but productivity is the singular objective. Being busy is a trap; an illusion of production.

As a leader, build systems and set goals efficiently and effectively.

Motivation, when combined with unclear goals, can be a black hole to your business. Imagine how long it would take a plane to turn around if it missed the runway! It is well worth invested time to have clear, achievable and meaningful goals, even if it takes three or four times as long to define them. It becomes an argument of energy expensed versus energy needed.

When a team becomes decaffeinated, the systems that you have in place dictate whether things remain productive.

Plan for unmotivated teams and staff. Prepare yourself for that moment when they feel unproductive, and engineer a method that they can still create results. Perhaps timelines change, or orders are not fulfilled properly, effective and efficient systems allow you to continue moving towards your goal.

A strong business requires leaders to create means and methods for staff to get results despite feeling unmotivated. As the head of a company, or even a small team, your primary objective should be to create the means and methods for such a platform, secondary to motivating your team.

Motivation is the Handshake of Lethargy

I despise the way motivation is used in conversation. “I just don’t have the motivation.” It’s an excuse, and excuses are diseases to your business. When someone takes the easy out and says that they did not perform because they weren’t motivated, it’s your job as the leader of the organization to quickly erase the power that it holds.

Motivation is a state of mind, which is why it’s important to fight Decaffeinated Syndrome. When your team operates ONLY in a motivational state, you feel as though the buzz is standard. Don’t mistake caffeine for momentum. The crash will soon come.

Be mindful that a person can change from motivated to otherwise in an instant – motivation is can be ephemeral.

The Purpose of Balance in Motivation at Work

I certainly don’t always know where my motivation comes from, but I do know one thing: you, as a leader, need to create a balanced workplace, full of complementary individuals and balanced personalities.

Think of your business in terms of a chess game – a two sided, six pieced game. Each piece has its own strength, weakness and purpose, and your business should be no different.

I know a business owner that has his staff run through personality testing so that he can learn how to manage them better, know how to piece them together, and ascertain where their strengths are. I appreciate having a team that balances me as well, and the more I know about them, the better off I am to lead them.

I really appreciate this three-sided approach to leadership’s options to motivate.

In this roundup article from, some top entrepreneurs share their thoughts on motivation. Keep in mind, they already have a business system set up, and they use motivation to supplement the system. Their system is not supplemented by motivation.

When Motivation is Effective

Motivation is a great tool for company success. Remember to use it wisely and prevent yourself from basing your operations solely on something less substantial than efficient and effective business systems.

Let’s accept the argument that motivation is about a need or drive. As leaders, you may need to create these needs in the workplace.

I fully expect my businesses, my teams, and myself to slide up and down the motivational scale, but as I pursue work that suits my passions, motivation becomes a bigger player. I want to avoid the syndrome, but I also recognize the power of motivation in the constructs of a solid system.


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