academic research

Three Elements of Motivational Speech

Motivating a workforce is one of the most persistent challenges that managers face. Even at the most mission-driven companies, it can be hard to bring people together to put their energy toward a common goal.

According to research conducted by husband and wife team, Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield, there are three key elements that must be balanced in order to achieve this group motivation.

The first, “direction giving,” is an essential tool for any communicator. In the case of a motivational speech, this can take the form of a challenge. Rather than encouraging your team to “increase sales,” one might lay out a task: “Call 20 potential clients.” This challenge is specific and actionable. It’s a lot easier to get aligned and motivated for a task that has already been outlined than for a task that is theoretical.  

“Emotional acknowledgement” is an element of motivational speaking that is familiar to most managers, but can be easy to neglect when deadlines are looming. That being said, this element is as easy to add as saying (and genuinely believing!), “I understand this is not easy, but we are in it together.”

Last and certainly not least is “meaning-making language.” This is often the missing ingredient when managers communicate with their teams. While we can always pull up our company website and read off the mission statement, it is worthwhile for you to articulate to your team the “Why?” of your organization. Think of it as a rejuvenating practice--you have a captive audience, remind them why they actually want to be achieving!

Utilizing these elements in tandem can be difficult. Speaking in terms of big picture “meaning-making” can make it easy to breeze over the more personal “emotional acknowledgment.” Focusing on “direction giving” can minimize the “meaning-making” you want to accomplish. It takes practice and determination to learn how to be a good manager, but with an intentional approach to development, it is possible!

Let Your Managers Fail

Leadership development continues to be a crucial priority for organizations as demographic trends constrain the available talent pool. Although the nature of leadership remains a fruitful area of academic research, the challenge talent development teams face is not simply “What should our organization’s leadership competencies be,” but “How do we develop those competencies?” When it comes to leadership content, talent managers may choose from a wealth of options. But when it comes to learning methods, even with the advent of new learning technologies, satisfying solutions are rare. 


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