Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

Motivation is, by it’s very nature, personal!

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We’ve just come back from climbing up to the crater rim at Mount Rinjani, on the island of Lombok, Indonesia. At 2671 metres, it’s a serious walk / scrabble and with the different weather challenges of tropical rainforest at the bottom and relatively cold at the top(at least for us thin blooded tropics dwellers), challenging for all of us on different levels. It was a great family experience and one that we’ll repeat in the future to manage the needs and expectations of three (almost) teenagers and the ravages of age for my wife and I!

There were also some interesting things to learn in terms of motivation from observing the various members of the family and indeed myself. For my wife, her role lies in risk planning, mitigation and management. This corresponds well with her own values and sense of self. Whilst it does generate conflict occasionally, particularly with the more ‘gung ho’ elements of the family, it is an important counterbalance. For her, I suspect that the motivation to do this type of activity from a personal perspective is around the experience but also around the collective safety of the family..she feels that responsibility very personally.

For my eldest, in the midst of his teenage life, there is a constant conflict between what’s going on in his head and what’s going on his body. The physical release of this type of exercise seemed to create a single purpose and to use a much hackneyed expression, he seemed to enjoy the ‘journey’ as much as the end goal. Interestingly, and perhaps I’m reading too much into this, the experience led to an increased level of creativity and innovation…for several days afterwards, he was generating ideas and concepts, almost as though the relaxation of the mind during the climb, enabled greater performance later.

For my middle son, he seemed to experience some kind of endorphin fuelled rush as part of the climb…clearly a remarkable and probably a first such experience for him. In his words, there was no effort involved in the walk no matter how steep or how challenging. His keenness to experience this again as a result is extremely high.

For my youngest, the walk was a significant physical challenge, she is 11. In her case, the drive to complete the challenge was a psychological one..and having completed it, the return journey had no fear and she virtually skipped down the mountain. In her case, the fear of the unknown had been conquered.

For me, the role was not one of leadership…that rested with our guide. Nor was it one of motivation, each of us found our own deep resilience to deal with it. Perhaps the lack of a clearly defined and perhaps anticipated role was my greatest challenge (beyond that of original architect), leaving me with the purely physical to deal with…a challenging place to be!

The analogy with complex programme management and the teams that come together to deliver these is perhaps too obvious but the learning opportunity is not. As a leader, understanding what motivates team members on an entirely personal basis is fundamental…and you never know, you might learn something about yourself too in the process.

Categories: Complex transformation, Functional Leadership, human behaviour, Human Capital, Learning, Project Management, psychology

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2 replies

  1. Ben, Interesting blog. I was interested in climbing Mount Rinjani as I have declared a desire to the family to climb the major volcanos in Indonesia. Maybe it’s to prove that I’m fit enough to do it. I was thinking of doing it with my 13 year old son. It’s not one for my wife. Simply a desire that’s yet to turn into an actual plan.

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  2. It’s a beautiful place Toby, albeit blighted by too much insensitive human traffic. If you need a recommendation around who to go with, there is a very good company that is eco friendly that I can give you. Your 13 year old will have no problem!

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