There are many schools of thought on how to motivate another person. Some think that it simply can’t be done. That each individual is in complete control of the fire inside and only he or she can truly push on to conquer a challenge. On the contrary, others believe that the right jambalaya of words, pitch and passion can get someone to run through a wall for them. The truth most likely resides – as it so often does – somewhere in the middle.
On one side of the coin, if a person has no desire to do something, there is no magic spell you can put them under to produce action. And on the other, a fervor-packed speech might get someone to charge out of the tunnel, but it’s extremely unlikely that it will have any impact on their performance as the 4th quarter clock is winding down. At that point, rising to the occasion is being swayed much more by preparation, experience, and perseverance. Motivation can get a person jump-started at any point in an endeavor, but many other factors are at play if it is to be a success in totality.
So what are we to do if we want to fling someone down the path to a chosen result? It becomes more a matter of being an effective leader, colleague, partner, etc., than a round-the-clock Vince Lombardi. The skill lies in discovering what the other person values and then making him or her believe that if they complete the mission, they will get that carrot. You can’t force them; you can’t move their arms and legs like a puppeteer. It’s about being masterful in your support of everything you can control and then getting the “most” (as you define it) out of the individual. And then letting them show you what that "most" is.
Knowing the true nature of motivation will keep you from beating your head against the wall when results aren't matching expectations. But that's not to say it's a fatalist endeavor; there are many measures you can take to give you the best chance to reach the goal. Your motivation foundation is the environment you create and your ability to communicate effectively. And that communication begins in the mirror, by asking questions of your own competence in the matter:
How well are you conveying information so that the person saddled with your task knows precisely what he or she should be doing?
How well are you listening so that you can be malleable throughout the process?
Have you removed the doubts that act like mud preventing the person's wheels from advancing forward?
Are you exuding your trust and complete confidence in him or her so they aren’t stewing in negative thoughts?
Are you dangling the right compensation and appropriate recognition?
Is he or she able to draw on examples based on what you’ve done, and not just what you say?
Pick the right person for the task. Learn about what they want and what they value, and tie that prized meaning to the assignment. Then make sure they have everything they need to triumph, prior and during. Maybe it’s not as cinematic as a goose bump-inducing speech. But goose bumps are temporary. The success you are seeking is not.