Saturday 30 May 2009

Motivate yourself

Last week Botswana was “lucky” enough to host another royal visit from yet another esteemed motivational business speaker but I have a confession. I really don’t understand what motivational speakers are for. Yes, you might say that they exist to motivate. But who, why and, critically, for how long?

What’s the point of motivating someone to change if the companies from which they are sent aren’t prepared to change? I sometimes think that the reason companies waste vast quantities of money sending their teams to these ludicrous events is the same reason they send them on pointless customer service training courses. So they can SAY they’ve done so. When the MD, CEO or Board of a company asks the HR Director what he or she has done to improve service delivery they can be reassured that the customer service team were sent to spend a day listening to some buffoon droning on about what a visionary he is or they’ve had to endure 5 days in a classroom watching a sequence of cretinous presentations on customer needs.

It gives a company and it’s managers that curious satisfaction that they’ve spent some money on a problem and as many companies seem to think, money is the solution to their problems. Particularly when it isn’t actually their own money.

I suspect that often the reason a company punishes it’s poor, suffering employees by sending them to these events is the idea that if their competitors are sending their staff then they’ll lose out if they don’t send theirs as well.

But none of this actually makes any sense, does it? If I’m right, and of course I always am, then there really are no reasons to waste your time and money on attending any of these things or of sentencing your staff to do so. All you’re doing is throwing money in the direction of an over-paid ego.

What’s more, you realise, don’t you, that these are people are professional speakers. They’re rarely professional managers or HR or financial management professionals, they’re usually not even professional customer service specialists. They’re trade is talking. As a trade they are closer to preaching than business.

The link with preaching is interesting. There are many parallels between these speakers and cult leaders. They both talk nonsense, they take people’s money for attending their high-energy, low-content events and they don’t actually deliver anything concrete or valuable.

Last week’s visitor was Michael Jackson. No, not the weird singer. I have no evidence to believe that this one throws his children out of windows, changes his skin colour or has more plastic in his face than human flesh. He does come up with some curious lines though.

I may be doing him a disservice by quoting the publicity surrounding his presentation rather than having actually been there to hear it for myself but what do you make of this?

“Organisations are made to survive on the terms of the customers”.

Yeah, whatever.

What about this pearl of wisdom?

“Business should strive to understand and implement the concept of being truly competitive.”

Truly inspirational. That’s in the same category as “business leaders must remember to breathe out after breathing in”.

Like many of these people his message actually seems to have been quite simple. It’s that technology and the economic crisis make it very important for companies to be competitive. The trouble is that this message is buried in a couple of hours of waffle about destiny, mindsets and challenges.

I believe that the whole motivational speaking industry is based on a deception. It’s based on the idea that you actually benefit from paying money to listen to someone whose only qualities are confidence, an enormous ego and a web site.

It simply isn’t true.

A company will only benefit from listening to, working with and learning from someone who has actually done it, someone who has actually transformed a company, someone who has actually improved the quality of service in a company, not just someone who has the ability to persuade people to give them their cash in return for a couple of hours of half-baked platitudes about how technology is the answer to everyone’s problems.

These speakers rely on our laziness. They rely on us believing that we can get away with spending a few bucks on something quick rather that really undergoing a transformation. They allow us to feel as if we’ve achieved something when, in fact, we just thrown away some cash.

If you seriously want to change your organisation or learn about how to improve the quality of the service you deliver start walking round and opening your eyes. Go to places where you know the service is great and start using your senses and your imagination.

And finally I want to issue a challenge. Can any reader supply me with any evidence, and I mean real, scientific evidence that engaging any motivational speaker, anywhere in the world, just to speak has actually achieved anything? It should be fairly simple to provide the evidence. Find me an example of a genuine improvement in the service delivered by a company and a subsequent increase in profitability that was clearly and obviously caused by the staff of a company attending a motivational speaker’s pointless presentation.

Surely if these speakers were actually worth the money they charge there would be such an example but I can’t find one and that’s probably because they don’t exist. Don’t waste anyone’s money on these stupid events. Either spend it on booze for the company Christmas party or just send it to me so I can drink it for you.

This week’s stars
  • Priscilla at FNB Main Branch for service above and beyond the call of duty to support a customer with very special needs.

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