Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why it is important to write motivational books

October 10 2007: Recently, American motivational speaker Tom Peters was in Kenya. Participants paid as much as Sh80,000 each to listen to him. That shows you how important motivation is. Whatever we do, either as individuals or business leaders, we need words of encouragement, of inspiration, of hope. Enthusiasm is growing worldwide on motivating through books. It’s so easy these days I have written one myself. It’s called Write that Story. But is it fair that people are fed ‘guides,’ ‘revision texts’ or ‘how to’ books, which, essentially are typically spiced up with common sense instructions and manuals on how to get good grades in school, or how to get a partner, or how to turn a struggling business into a Microsoft?Does motivation really work? Do motivational books play a major role in management? Does successful management depend on the level of motivation? Who should write a motivational book? All good biographies are motivating. One of the first books I ever read was Legson Kayira’s I will Try. It tells the personal story of a young man who, desperately in search of higher education, achieved the unbelievable feat of trekking across Africa. Kayira, a village boy in the remote heartland of what is now Zimbabwe, had won a scholarship to a British university. He had a plane ticket, but the nearest airport was in Cairo, over 2,000 kilometres from the southern African republic. After his studies, Kayira returned to his motherland and became a cabinet minister.Kayira’s story is characteristic of many high achievers and successful managers: relentless, go getting, determined, committed, visionary, unwavering. Managers constantly need a shoulder to lean on; they are frequently inspired by certain personalities or literatures that talk about high achievers in management. Today, for example, the story of acclaimed neuro-surgeon Ben Carson, as told in his books, Gifted Hands and Think Big, easily inspires 21st century managers everywhere to try and reach greater heights.So, what propels people to buy or write motivational books? One, they are often based on real life stories, hence there is a high level of reality in them. Two, they are easy to read. The ideas are arranged in simple, clear language. Like things you need to remember for an examination. The examination here ranges from life and death, to successful sales versus poverty or business failure. And that is why, more than anything else, they are embraced by managers, who are geared towards achieving tangible results. Another characteristic of these books is that they are written in an easy-to-understand, self help style. Mastery of communication skills is paramount. They list what are called ‘essential characteristics that make you and your business succeed. Nowadays, motivational books and motivational speakers poke at you from every corner like street banners and billboards. From evangelists to successful business people, the focus is on how you can manipulate your own attitude, your beliefs, your likes, to become a full blown business magnate in your own corporation, oiling your wheels with unmatched excellence.Their authors are best-seller prophets of success and achievement in today’s world of global cut throat competition. They are champions of a sizzling, red hot modern day industrial revolution that seeks to make everyone aim high.Debate on management has since shifted from the confines of boardrooms, academia, and consultancies to a broader, worldwide audience. After religion, motivation is top of the book sales chart in many surveys.Nearly all managers have one such book or other on their table at any one time. The late Peter Drucker, for instance, wrote more on this topic and his ideas have withstood the test of time. And Tom Peters, a consultant, columnist, seminar lecturer and stage performer has infused his energy, style, influence, and ideas to significantly shape our perception of management.And educators, too, have lurched into the motivation business, pushing students to conquer their own fears in order to achieve higher level performance. Did someone say motivation comes from within? No. It is now possible to become what Dave Durand calls a “Legacy Achiever.”They teach a form of ‘learned optimism, that success is a choice, that individuals can determine their own destiny without having to die first. That we should not be helpless in the face of defeat. That setbacks are challenges. Psychologists Martin Seligman sheds light on why optimists are the ones who succeed in life and provides real-world advice and worksheets to help you become an optimist. That attitude is everything, and that if we learn to change our attitude, we can not only change our lives, but the whole world as well. Now, that’s as much music to the average desperado as it is to managers who want to outwit the competition, to turn rejection into direction, as John Fuhrman puts it , and that you can be ‘anything you want.’With titles such as The Power of the Subconscious Mind, these kinds of books are hugely popular with managers, because they dwell on things that cannot be located in an organization’s structure. That is, they dwell on matters of the soul and spirituality. Suffice to say though, that there are certain psycho-social aspects of management that ought to make use of the material contained in spiritually motivating books.Counselling as part and parcel of management cannot ignore these books. Management, in an organisation follows a certain path of success. That is, there are people who act as role models to managers. Hence, it is only natural that managers read about people they regard as their mentors. There are all sorts of books like The Secrets of Success, or Create The Business Breakthrough You Want, which contains articles, biographies and videos of renown business leaders. It is through such readings that managers learn about ideas that their mentors have previously used to climb the ladder to success.Effective human resource management is not possible without an aspect of motivation. Firms hire motivational speakers to inspire employees. A dull workforce can easily compromise the productivity of an organisation. Employees who are not inspired cannot cultivate teamwork. As a manager, it is important to focus on inspiration levels of employees in order to ensure that teamwork and efficiency is maintained at all levels.At another level, motivational books are very crucial in enhancing an employee’s self esteem. Managers are interested in a workforce that can deliver results with minimum supervision. An independent employee usually has high self esteem. There are a lot of books which tell people how to build a strong sense of self esteem; an organisation whose employees have low self esteem cannot be as productive as projected by the management.Motivational Management: Inspiring Your People For Maximum Performance, by Alexander Hiam emphasizes the need to motivate employees to deliver the best results. This kind of book, if well used, can give a manager tips on how to improve the performance of an organisation by establishing certain motivational techniques such as praise, monetary compensation or long service awards. Vision is an important aspect of management, so the secret emphasizes the need to visualize continuous and consistent steps towards achieving one’s desires in life. Such a book can easily enable managers to keep on track, their organisation’s vision by continuously visualizing its goals and objectives.Motivational books also teach decision-making and how to make accurate and timely decisions. A book such as The Six Most Important Decisions by Sean Covey is useful for managers. Almost a rule book, it gives tips and provides a model that has been replicated in many organisations.An organisation adopts a certain behaviour depending on the style of management.A behaviour is something that an organisation has to work on for some time in order to entrench it. There are certain motivational books that specifically focus on aspects of behaviour that lead to effectiveness in management or life in general. For instance, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R.Covey, one of America’s most sought after speakers and consultants, is in this category of motivational books.The style of management in an organisation informs the behaviour of its employees hence it is crucial that managers adopt a style that informs good behaviour. Literature that focuses on desired behaviour is crucial to an organisation’s effective management. They can be used to shape an organisational behaviour that is desirable. At another level, such material is useful in management counselling. Such books are used by management counsellors to beef up their skills and techniques.A manager whose views are always antagonistic to those of the other employees is likely to bring down an organisation. This kind of behaviour can emanate from personal background challenges among other factors. However books such as The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Pearle can easily change mannerisms and perceptions of wayward managers. This book is a perfect model for behaviour change: some organizations are known to have a rigid management style that impedes rapid progress. It is evident that literatures that focus on positivity are vital to managers who have a problem with perception particularly with regard to an organisation’s challenges. Take for instance an organisation that is debt-ridden: a manager with a pessimistic attitude can make a firm crumble. On the other hand, managers who never say die, who always believe that something good will eventually surface are an asset to an organisation, since they keep it afloat even when things seem to be falling apart. And if books dwelling on positive thinking cannot be ignored in a management set-up, neither can we as individuals ignore them.Motivational books are part and parcel of management function. A poorly motivated workforce has no chance of survival and that is why organizational training cannot be complete without motivation. As managers, we must read to know and act in the best interest of the organisation. If books cannot motivate managers and employees to ensure high productivity, what will?The point is that it is not just top sportsmen and women, or Nobel prize winners, or former presidents, who can write How to be like me stories. Everyone has a story. And that includes you. - (BD, 10 Sep 07)

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