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If you have been in one of my programmes, this information may not be new to you: Before a programme starts I offer 30-minute-pre-meetings to all participants be it modular management/leadership workshops or the Solution Circle. This helps me find out what’s “on their plate” and where their pain points are. From those meetings I decide what materials to include in the workshops.

Very often I hear “motivating my team members” is a particular pain point, however, rather than providing a list of “how to motivate your team”, I approach it from the other way around.

My question is: Where does motivation to perform come from?

In the graphic below (originally published by Reinhard Sprenger) you can see that there are three main contributors to performance – desire, ability, and permission. You can also see that there is a split responsibility between the manager and the employee:

Let me elaborate:

Desire (the motivation to perform)

Picture the first day of a new starter: They come to their new place of work, are super motivated, excited to find out what they can contribute, keen to meet their new manager and colleagues, in short, they want to do good work. Your job is not to demotivate them (the small slice in red in the graphic).

Ability (the ability to perform)

Now, this is a split responsibility; ability is primarily about skills and experience. As you can see in the graphic this is truly a 50:50 split – it is the employee’s job to contribute with their strengths and develop their potential. It is your job as their manager to support them in their development, to constantly challenge and stretch them so their potential can come to the fore.

Permission (the opportunity to perform)

It is for the employee to choose or agree to the right “playing field”. They need to seek discussion with their manager and convey what that playing field is. The graphic though also shows that the main responsibility here is on you: You need to make sure that once you have assigned a task or a project that you get out of the way and that you clear away barriers that could obstruct the employee.

Getting out of the way can mean taking as risk, it means not requiring constant reporting, abstaining from the urge to interfere or control or changing the goal-posts. In the best-case scenario, this will increase productivity and performance as your staff spends less time reporting their every step. Importantly, employees need to feel they are trusted.

Sounds easy? Reflect on what your interaction with your staff is like. How much time do you spend helping them with their ability to perform, i.e. supporting them in their development. How often do you get in the way of them doing their jobs instead of removing barriers?

What are your thoughts about this concept? Please share them with me by sending me a note on

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If you find this inspiring and you would like to explore further how we could work together, I am delighted to meet with you for a 30-minute-free-of-charge-info-session


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