By Gidge on October 05, 2008
"How do you motivate people?"
I've been asked this multitudes of times recently. Standard interview fare I suppose. I always say the same thing - I learn why they are here, why they are doing what they are doing.
It seems like such a simple answer but people are always surprised.
I'm not surprised, though. Not knowing why people are doing what they are doing can be damaging.
Take Wilbur for example. Wilbur was a girl I knew in middle school. She was fat, frumpy, wore thrift store clothes despite living in a nice condo community. Her mother gave her an unfortunate home-haircut that made her look like a boy trying to wear a Dorothy Hamill cut. Plus, obviously Wilbur wasn't her name. Her name was Stephanie and the kids all called her Wilbur - as in Wilbur the pig.
Which is unbelievably unkind - and worse, she was so desperate to be included she answered to it.
She was so desperate for attention - and to be part of the group that played together after school, condo kids all of us, that she'd do anything.
Eventually we learned - she'd even steal.
Now, we didn't KNOW she was stealing. She'd just say she was going up to the drug store and did we want anything. I even remember the first time it happened - some of the kids just joking said a bunch of stuff. Candy, hair bobs, etc.
She came back with them.
It happened a few times - she'd come back with Lip Smackers tubes, and give everyone one of them.....or other things. It wildly increased her social standing - but it always made me a little nervous.
Don't get me wrong, I ACCEPTED her lip smacker or coke or box of candy or whatever it was. I wasn't SUCH a little angel that I was "ABOVE IT" but, it was the first time I'd ever watched anyone behave this way.
Then she got caught.
And the drug store pressed charges.
She got into big trouble.
That was my first experience at understanding what motivates someone.
She wanted to us to be nice to her, and let her play TAG with her for christ-sake. And she was willing to risk getting expelled, risk time in juvie to do so. Because we were such little jerks that we made her feel that she wasn't good enough.
Making her feel like that made us feel superior - better than someone - that was our motivation.
After she got back from "being in trouble", we didn't call her Wilbur anymore. She wasn't allowed to hang around with us - her parents felt it was all our fault. They probably didn't understand WHY it was our fault though.
We didn't send her, but we also didn't stop her.
I'd watch some of the other condo kids wave, call her Stephanie and try to engage her - and I could see the need in their eyes. They'd lost their someone who made them feel good about themselves. But she wasnt biting - and I was always proud of her for that.
So yeah, when I manage people.....I like to know why they are doing what they are doing. Because not knowing can ruin lives.
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