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The power of progress

Money is an external carrot-motivator.  It hangs out there offering a prize for a job well done.  On the other hand, fear of staying late to complete a project is an external stick-motivator.  Its dark voice grumbles, you better get this done or you’ll be here all night.

“Carrot and stick” motivators are powerful forces that trigger hard work.  However, I’m thinking of something more powerful than carrots or sticks.

A sense of making progress is the greatest motivator of all. So says Daniel Pink in, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

Every list-maker knows the power of making progress.  Checking off another item on the list energizes them to attack the next task. Conversely, your worst days at work are days when you don’t make progress. No or slow progress DEmotivates.  Feeling stuck discourages us.

Let’s apply Pink’s research to leadership.

You have the power to motivate
others by highlighting their progress.

Make progress by making “progress” the topic
of your feedback to others.

Check out See it say it for a concise explanation of giving feedback.

  1. Make positive comparisons between the present and the past
  2. Joyfully use the expression, “you’re making progress”
  3. Remind someone of a skill they recently developed
  4. Say, “we’ve come a long way in a short time”

Your sons or daughters need a good word.  The people over you need a good word.  Your colleagues and employees need a good word.  Highlighting progress is a good word.

Leaders reach higher by highlighting progress.

Warning:  Heavily focusing on the past while talking about the present may come off as a backhanded compliment.


Can you think of other ways to celebrate progress?


Leadership Freak

Dan Rockwell

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