The Balance Of Motivation & Pressure

August 6, 2013

Getting the right balance of motivation and pressure on each member of your team is a vital management skill. Managers that put people under intense pressure do not turn them into diamonds they just make them ‘flat’. On the other hand staff members who experience no pressure at all will become lazy and weak.

A visit to the gym is designed to put our bodies’ muscles under controlled strain and pressure in order to keep them strong. Our minds work in a similar way as they also need controlled strain and pressure to keep them sharp and active.

The modern day method of keeping a little pressure on people is the Personal Development Plan (PDP). Unfortunately in most organisations these are just forms connected to annual salary reviews and don’t get looked at from one year to the next.

A true PDP is a living, breathing  and constantly evolving document that plots personal growth within a business, a bit like the ‘red books’ young children are given as part of their medical history.

Great managers are great people developers, as they resist the urge to do the task quicker themselves, opting for the initially longer route of showing someone how to do it. Of course the time spent is an investment not a cost as once you have skilled the person to do it you can delegate the task next time.

Piling On The Pressure                                       

So how much pressure can an individual take? Well, back to the gym analogy, it depends on their individual circumstances, size, fitness and technique. In business it is often a trial and error situation at first which is why an open & honest dialogue is needed at all times. One person’s motivation is another person’s bullying. Ask them what they are comfortable with and make it clear you will not be angry or upset if they ask for more time or to work on something a little less ambitious.

As a great people manager it is your ‘connectivity’ and ‘empathy’ with staff that will set you apart from the average. This is often referred to as your EQ (Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence). If you have high EQ you will instinctively know what is the right amount of pressure to place on someone, if not you will need to work on that over time.

Finally on this piece I want to add that leadership should never be about creating people in your own image. Leadership is about developing people so that they can create their own personal identity and values.

Many thanks

Alan Mace

Training Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Michal Marcol at

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