Millions of dollars are spent every year to motivate employees. Companies bring in motivational speakers and host key events to inspire their staff right before the company does a big push, at the beginning of a project, or right before the “busy” season. I know. I’m one of the speakers they will call. Yet, in doing so, we often miss the moments when motivation has the greatest impact—in downtime.
My wife, Wendy, and I had the pleasure of going on an Alaskan cruise some time ago. One of our excursions was to “The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show” in Ketchikan, Alaska. Outside the gate to the show was a climbing pole that, for a tourist-trap-rated price, you too could strap on a pair of spikes and climb the 75’ pole. I couldn’t pass up the challenge.
I strapped on the pole spikes, climbing belt and safety harness. It took a couple goes to get comfortable with driving the spikes into the wood and leaning back into the climbing belt. Once I figured out the mechanics, it was fun to act the part of a lumberjack and climb the pole. Up I went. Gradually, however, my pace slowed considerably.
Driving those spikes into the wood and slinging the heavy climbing belt up the pole was a workout. At about 35-40 feet up, I was spent. I started thinking to myself, “Why am I doing this? I’m on vacation. This is too much work. No one up here knows me. If I quit, no one will ever know, except my wife and she won’t care.”
Finally, I convinced myself. I stopped and rested a few minutes to confirm my decision with myself. I called down to my wife and said, “This is a lot of work. I think I’m done.”
Standing next to my wife was a gentleman who was watching me out of simple curiosity. He heard what I said and immediately responded, “You can’t quit now! You're almost there. Get up that pole!”
Sounding like a high school football coach encouraging his team to win the state championship, he kept yelling up to me and encouraging me to climb higher. He literally started grabbing people walking by and making them clap for me and encourage me.
What did I do? What else could I do? I CLIMBED THE POLE!
I made my way to the top and touched the finish line to cheers. I then began to make my way back down the pole. Upon arriving at the bottom, the only person there was Wendy. Everyone else had their own vacation to tend to. Once the goal had been accomplished everyone moved on.
I never got to meet the man who so enthusiastically encouraged me that day. I don’t know his name or even where he was from. However, he made a significant investment in my life.
One of the primary concepts I teach people about is the value of consistency of choice. We get to choose the opportunities we will have in life based on the consistency of our daily choices. We understand this when it comes to the big things. It is in the mundane choices of daily living where we often loose our consistency.
Like I was on that pole in Alaska, we see some of our choices as being inconsequential. Who will know? Does it really matter anyway? Why expend the effort? We don’t realize that its not the individual choice, but the consistency of choice that defines who we are.
I have always told my daughters that your success in life will be directly proportional to how well you can manage loneliness and boredom. Those are the times when most bad decisions are made. It is in the downtimes that we lay the foundation for the success or failure we will face in the future.
Also, like me on that pole in Alaska, it is during the downtimes that we are most open to the influence acts of encouragement and motivation can have on our lives. When there is no expectation for someone to speak into your life in a powerful and meaningful way, and they do…it makes an impact!
Most leaders rarely think of encouraging and motivating their teams in the downtimes. Then, we often wonder why the team was not prepared when needed. Companies are like people: both experience downtimes. People have to learn how to effectively navigate loneliness and boredom. Companies have to learn how to effectively navigate off-season and idle times.
We have a tremendous opportunity to make a significant investment in our teams and lay the foundation for success during the downtimes. The goal is not simply to have a ra-ra-ra pep talk every day, but to make an investment that develops a consistency of choice. By understanding the significance of every choice we are empowered to lay a strong foundation for the future.
Great leaders invest in their teams when they are most susceptible to being influenced, inspired and motivated to make positive changes in their lives. Downtimes are the perfect opportunity to make that investment. Greatness doesn’t just happen. It has to be chosen. Whether you are in the heat of the battle or on vacation, make a choice to invest in others and go be great!
About Warren Martin
WARREN MARTIN is a philosophy graduate of Texas Tech University. He is an author, teacher, minister, artist, quasi-philosopher and speaker known for his unique teaching style. His passion is to share the grace of Christ and to inspire & invest in the next generation of leaders. Learn more here:
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