I can’t work this week, my goldfish has chicken pox

Motivation is the key to team growth

You recruit, train new team members, hold team meetings, and work as smart as you can. You study and read good books. Your goal is to give your team high quality information and wisdom. As hard and smart as you work, you’ll have moments when you feel like you’re beating your head against a brick wall.

For example, a team member calls you in utter despair. She expresses frustration because her business seems to be stuck in the slow lane. She shares some of her challenges, concerns, and reasons why her business isn’t growing.

A friend told me about the best excuse she ever heard. “I can’t work this week. My goldfish has chicken pox.”

Supporting and motivating a robust team can be a challenge in the face of creative excuses and overwhelming discouragement in your team members.

Hear what I mean, not what I say

The joke at our house is when I tell my family, “Hear what I mean, not what I say.”

This is a great skill to learn when trying to motivate your team. Understanding the fear behind their reasons will help your team grow faster with less effort.

What are they really saying?

  1. What they say: “I’ve exhausted my warm market and have no one to sell to.”

What they mean: “Three people told me ‘no.’ It felt so awful that my entire warm market might as well have said ‘no.’ I’m hopeless and scared to talk to anyone.

  1. What they say: “Everyone says it’s too expensive. I can’t find anyone who can afford it.”

What they mean: “I’m still working on my own testimony of the product. I’m not completely convinced that the price is equal to the value. I need to use the product more consistently and get my own story. I also need to know that I can help others have success. I need to know that my customer service and product are well worth the price. I don’t have a firm belief that people will really find the money for the things they most want.

  1. What they say: “I don’t have time to work my business. I have so many things going on, and I can’t sacrifice any more time away from my family.”

What they mean: “I don’t believe that the effort I put into my business will translate into success. Not reaching my financial goals makes me feel guilty for being away from my family. As much as I want this business to benefit my family, I don’t believe that I can have the success that others are having. It’s easier to quit.

  1. What they say: “I’ve decided this isn’t really what I want. It’s not worth the time and effort I’ve invested into it.

What they mean: “I’ve forgotten my big ‘why.’ Even if I remember it, my fear has overpowered my excitement and hope. I doubt I can be successful.

Responding to what they say

It’s natural to hear only what they say. When you don’t hear what they mean, you may think they need better “business coaching.” You share with them how to find new customers, generate repeat business, find recruits, and book more parties. As you do this, they come up with an excuse for each tool you offer.

Responding to what they mean

By listening past the excuses and hearing their frustration and fear, you can make a real difference in their desire to keep trying. Use these suggestions to turn their fear into success:

  1. Validate their fears, feelings, and frustrations.

Until you validate what’s going on with them, you won’t get past the distress that’s consuming them. Try saying, “I understand. That can be really difficult. It sounds like you’re discouraged right now.” Once they know you understand what they’re feeling, that you aren’t minimizing or dismissing their discomfort, they’ll know it’s safe to listen to your suggestions.

  1. Revisit their WHY

Ask these three questions and their hope will soar. “Tell me why you started with this company?” “May I ask what keeps you with the company? Is your reason for staying now different from your reason for starting?” These questions are designed to help them remember their dreams and goals. They’ve gotten buried in fear and can’t remember the dreams that kept them going. By asking them to remember their goals, you’re helping them reconnect with the enthusiasm they began with. Hope rises, your conversation is charged with positive energy; they will be more willing to listen to your ideas and suggestions. As they open up to the possibility of renewed success, they become less prone to leaning on excuses and more open to finding solutions.

  1. Make a mini-plan

You’ll be excited to hear the return of faith in their abilities and hope in their business. But without action, hope fades quickly. Face this challenge by helping them make a mini-plan to take small steps toward success. Promise that you’ll support them all along the way. There is power in having a short-term goal and a plan for achieving it. Their mini-plan might be to contact a few people in the next 3 days. Ask them if they’ll text you each evening with the name and results of their efforts. If they want to visit with you, make sure they know the best way to reach you. Tell them you’ll call them to discuss the challenge in 3 days to check in with them. By doing this, you’re encouraging them to create building blocks for a new, stronger foundation of hope. Repeat this process, stretching the goal to a week, a couple of weeks, and out to a month.

If one of your team members tells you that they can’t work because their gold fish has chicken pox, you’ll know exactly what’s going on. And you’ll know what to do.

Motivating effectively takes a little time, patience, and the ability to hear what your team member really means. Validate them where they’re at. Revisit their ‘why.’ Make a mini-plan. And help them on their path to success.

Michelle Withers