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October 16, 2018
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Anyone who claims to be a motivational speaker is a fraud. No one can motivate you. Motivation is intrinsic. You can be. inspired by what others have done. Do not confuse that with motivation. Find your own reason and your life will have a purpose. How did I arrive at the position? I am amazed at the number of billboards and posters advertising events where self-professed ‘motivational speakers’ would be addressing the audience and deliver them from all their earthly worries. What I found more worrying during my research is the way people fawn over the ‘motivational’ speakers as if they possess some form of messianic transformative power! I have had the privilege of meeting some of these speakers at close range. Emboldened by my strong conviction, I posted the statement on my Facebook and LinkedIn timeline. The response has been phenomenal and enriching. Some contributors agreed with me, some took a middle-of-the-road stance, while others disagreed vehemently. I thank everyone that contributed to this intellectual exercise. It all goes to show that there is still a lot of room for further research in this area in the light of modern influences on the theories of motivation that were conceived majorly in the 1940 and 50s.

Before I add my thoughts, let me review some of the responses (intalics) to my post. Olaseni Fawehinmi pointed out that ‘others can ignite the spark, but you have to fan the flames, nobody can do that for you’. Matt Ocheme said that a lot of pastors of the so-called new generation churches who claim to be motivational speakers are far from it. From his personal experience, they are breeding a generation of followers who don’t think of working hard to get to where they want to be. Tanko Ahmed buttressed Matt’s point by referring to them as ‘manipulative speakers’. Osila Obele-Oshoko saw it from the perspective of semantics saying that perhaps it’s a wrong choice of word. She is of the opinion that they may not be out to defraud but rather help you ignite the passion within that has been lying idle. Bankole Olomu echoes her thought process by saying that are they not basically inspirational speakers?

Gbemi Adetola feels that there is a very thin line between motivation and inspiration. She stated that one needs some form of motivation to get the inspiration, however the ultimate is that the end effect lies within you. She concluded that though some speakers are over the top but you (individual) choose who to listen to or follow their advice. She put me on the spot by saying that many may see me as a role model and are motivated to aspire to become successful like me in my chosen field.

Fifehanmi Bankole read my mind well when he said he has a feeling someone messed up. He went on to say that one can be motivated when one hears inspiring stories or something that helps one come out of ‘learned helplessness’ or helps one shift paradigm. He thinks the real issue is ‘these folks reading a few books and then grabbing a mike!’. Fife said that if you are gifted with above-average speaking abilities and you understand how to wield that power of influence, you are much better off and more effective sharing your own struggles and success stories rather than regurgitating the stories of people you don’t know, don’t understand their milieu, their beliefs, their context etc. I like the part where he says words change people – however you look at it. He added that after all said and done, motivation can [and should be intrinsic] but most people need an external force/stimuli [remember Newton’s Law of Motion!!!]… He concluded by saying that for as long as there are people to be motivated, there will be motivational speakers because it’s a huge industry!

Eminent and erudite legal practitioner, Prince Yemi Adefulu expressed full agreement with Gbemisola Adetola and Fife Bankole that there is a thin line. He added that at the end of the day, the speaker by whatever name called will not do a trick. He stated beautifully that the receiver must have a fertile soil ready to receive, a sieve ready to separate the chaff from the seed. Powerful words! From his experience, to every original there is always a counterfeit. I am persuaded by his concluding statement that the gift of inspiration is given to some people.

Idris Akano noted that many times people have got their intrinsic value, strength that they doubt in themselves but need words of belief and encouragement to actualise it and make it an achievable dream and stop being a ‘donter’.

Kunmi Olasanoye disagreed with me. She said every positive, motivational and inspiring word spoken to someone else is way better than none at all. There are thoughts that mae us sometimes doubt our own abilities, strengths and potential but when we listen to others speak and encourage us, it tends to help is awaken the giant within. She posed a question that if motivational speakers are fraud, it goes to say self-development books are fraud because one thing motivational speakers and self-development books have in common is to help every individual identify their potential and do all it takes to develop such without giving room for doubts, but rather reinforcing the resolve that “Yes I Can and Yes I Will”. She concluded beautifully that a good word spoken is better, and has a better effect than one thought but not spoken.

So, what is motivation? It is defined as psychological forces that determine the direction of a person’s behaviour, level of effort, and level of persistence. It is management conceit to believe that one can motivate others. For years, managers accepted as truth the belief that people must be motivated through a combination of promises of reward (carrots) and threats of punishment (sticks). The truth is that both carrots and sticks don’t work (except for short term, non-complex conformity) and they are detrimental to the relationship between (a) the so-called ‘motivator’ and the one to be motivated (2) the one to be ‘motivated’ and his or her peer. Remi Adegboyega explained this by saying that ‘To believe that pay motivates people is to believe, quite cynically, that people reserve a certain amount of effort to be left unused until it is bribed out of them’. It is often said that the simplest method of getting someone to move is to kick him. However, if you kick your dog it moves, but was it motivated to move? It would certainly be motivated to move away!

Motivation Theory is concerned with what determines goal-directed behaviour. It is about: (1) how behaviour is initiated by needs and by expectations on the achievement of goals which will satisfy those needs; (2) how the achievement of goals and/or feedback on their achievement reinforces successful behaviour; (3) more importantly, it is about how belief in one’s ability will activate behaviour expected to achieve the successful performance of that task. Eminent motivation theorist Herzberg argued that “motivation is not some substance we can infuse from the outside, like a heart transplant”. Take the case of the Nigerian football team at the Rio 2016 Olympic football competition. Everything that could go wrong went wrong with their preparation. The sports ministry and football federation outdid each other in the bungling and blame game. What kept the boys going? What gave them confidence to arrive in Brazil a few hours before their first scheduled match and still beat Japan? The team went on to win the bronze medal. Their success was primarily motivated by self-interest. They knew scouts from leading club sides from the major football leagues in the world were in Rio to spot new talent. With or without the support of the Nigerian football federation, they were determined to play well and showcase their skills in front of a global audience with the hope of launching international club football careers. Their experience validates the belief held by some researchers that managers can do more to frustrate the motivation of their subordinates, but the focused employee will still find the inner strength to succeed.

When an individual is fired up with self-conviction (motivation), he (1) uses his talents every day, (2) delivers consistent levels of high performance, (3) seeks opportunities to build connections and professional networks, (4) has high energy and (5) broadens what they do and build on it. Henry Ford captured the link between Expectations, Motivation, and Performance through the concept of Self-fulfilling prophecy when he said: “If you believe you can, or if you believe you can’t, then you are right”. If you think you will be successful, then you will be.

It has been scientifically proven that people start out motivated. What happened to that original intrinsic motivation? The truth is that at some point, like Marcus Buckingham observed in his award-winning video, The Truth about You, the environment you operate in (family, friends, colleagues, managers, pastors, society, government) frustrate that motivation by telling you what you cannot do!

Is there any point attending a ‘motivational’ session if the individual has not realized that Performance is the result of Ability × Motivation × Resources? For maximum performance levels, all three factors must be present and high. Each person has to create or identify a NEED that must be fulfilled – (is it food, friendship, recognition or achievement?) In terms of behaviour, you need to cultivate an attitude that results in actions to fulfill needs. I will conclude by saying that motivation is when people do something because they want to do it or because they believe it is necessary to do it. I like a beautiful quote from Sophie Okonkwo which says: No one can keep you from success…except YOU!’ It’s that simple.

Thank you all.

Victor Banjo, mni

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