Threaten people with success!

As a coach, mentor and trainer it is normally my job to get people to do things which otherwise they would not do. Motivation is the word which is used and abused, but how is true motivation achieved? There are two schools of thought on this.

Pleasure vs pain concept of human motivation. This method of motivation concludes that the avoidance of pain is a greater motivation than the desire to experience pleasure.

Taken to a very basic level, we see this very often in parenting scenarios….”clean your room or else……..”. Most parents agree that the stick works better than the carrot with kids……Well most parents I know. And it actually does make sense, after all, the offer of a bribe (the carrot) to clean ones room does not take anything away if the room is not cleaned and kids quickly realise that since they are certainly no worse off, the option of doing nothing is cool. BUT if the stick is used then the child knows something “bad” will happen if they defy their parent. So avoidance of pain outweighs the seeking of pleasure. Result? Room cleaned.

But how does this work in adults, when the scope for threats is limited? Well first thing is the threat of “pain” takes a different shape. No longer is it likely to be punishment based, rather we focus on the ‘pain’ of failure. In my early days as a coach I was taught to spend time exploring the consequences of failure with my clients. The idea was to frighten them into action, purely because they wished to avoid the consequences of failure. Sure we’d also highlight the benefits of success, but make no mistake the ultimate objective was to instil a chilling fear of failure which would drive their every action.

However recent research has highlighted a folly in this method of motivation and now coaches are encouraged to approach motivation slightly differently…and with good reason. The researched showed that humans tend to dwell on possible negative outcomes, so much that it actually affected their overall performances. In other words concern over failure induced failure.

So the next time you wish to motivate your staff, focus their minds on the rewards of success, rather than the fear of failure. Not only will they do better, but you’ll be a nicer person for it.

Home Vs School!!

Last night I found myself having a very familiar discussion ..."School is responsible for our kids, because they spend more time at school than with us." 

So what's the truth about time spent in school? 

In the UK children are supposed to attend 190 school days per year. I can hear some people now saying "ah that proves it, because that only leaves 175 days for parents".......No. Slow down. 

If I concede that during school a parent has no control, then you must concede that once out of school the tone of the environment surrounding the child is up to the parent. We agreed so far? Good. 

You see of those 190 days only 7 hours per day is spent in school and another 2 travelling to and from. So each day we parents remain responsible for at least 15 hours. Lets say 8 of those hours is spent dead asleep, then each school day you are responsible for (LOL) 7 hours. 

So you own 7 hours times 190 equals 1330 hours where you are solely responsible for your childs environment. But we've left some thing out. Let's not forget the 175 days when your child is not in-school. Again lets give them 8 hours sleep. That leaves a staggering 16 hours per day during holidays and weekends where you, yes you, are responsible for the environment directly around them. 

So lets sum this all up. 

In school 1330 hours per year - Schools in charge

In an environment which you are responsible for? 1330 plus 16 times 175. 4130. - Your in-charge

Yes folks, you and I have over three times as much time as schools. 

Sure you have to work....but are you saying while you work you are not responsible for your children? Your children are not something you can afford to ignore just because you are at work, down the gym, at your mates or watching TV. YOU are responsible for creating a nurturing environment for them at all times. Yes that's difficult and even more so if you are doing it alone, BUT it is totally doable. How do I know this, just look all around you, Blaming of schools is the last resort of desperate parents when the proverbial has hit the fan. Few parents look inward at how they handled business, after all schools are such a big target

I always knew we held the key, but to be honest even I was a little surprised just how much of the time it's all down to us. 

One last thing. You can only reap what you sow. As parents we need to be a little more careful what we sow in those early years 0-5. It's those years combined with school and the environment we surround our children with that really shapes them. 

PS No I have not forgotten about the media. When I said we are responsible for their environment out of school, that included the media they are exposed to and how they understand its messages.

Written by Paul Lawrence. Email him at