Category Archives: Motivation

The Most Important Question To Ask Yourself

“What did you learn today?”  It was a question I was often asked at the end of school days.  It was a question I heard often in my corporate years, after completing training or implementing a new process.  It has become a central question for me in undertaking any new endeavor, personal or professional.  It’s a key question to ask oneself when faced with successes or failures, achievements, or disappointments.  “What did you learn?” implies identification of what worked and what didn’t and defines the path forward.

The need to learn is a given.  Without learning, say goodbye to growth, evolution, personal and professional development, and constant improvement.  More importantly, say goodbye to your business if learning is not a constant.

Learning is a strategic initiative, and arguably the most critical component for a company’s growth and success.   And it can never stop.  Employee training and development is essential, but if training doesn’t result in demonstrated learning, it’s just lip service.  For a company or an individual, learning must be greater than or equal to the rate of change.

Educator Neil Postman stated that “children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.”  In many instances, the same can be said for adults entering the corporate world.  It is imperative to keep the question marks on the forefront.

So how does one go about making sure that employees are learning, learning, and learning without cessation?  This is where training comes in.   Training must be meaningful to the employee, not a formalistic exercise to satisfy a regulation or required hours.

All training programs have learning objectives, but every training program ever designed and conducted must include this objective:   To generate thought.  Thought leads to understanding and awareness, which leads to paradigm shifts and inevitable growth.  Growth is the greatest ROI there is for an individual or a company.  Think about the difference between a degree and an education.  Getting a degree means attending classes, obtaining the required credits, and passing tests.  Obtaining an education requires critical thinking and understanding.  Author Wallace Wattles stated: “There is no labor from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consecutive thought; it is the hardest work in the world.”

In educating people on content, trainers must never lose sight of the intent, which is to generate thought and increase learning.  Learning needs to be integrated into all processes and outcomes.  Too often, training and subsequent learning is in reaction to something that failed.  If a valued customer is lost due to poor customer service, it’s easy to mandate customer service training . . but it’s also too late.

At Learning Dynamics, we customize each learning solution to ensure that participants are challenged to think, learn, and grow. Our goal is to have them answer a key question:  “What did you learn today?”

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Don’t Wait to Give This

Black Friday is just behind us, and Cyber Monday is off to a record-breaking pace as everyone searches for holiday gifts at the lowest possible price. Then we will wrap them up and give them to our family, friends, customers, and coworkers over the coming weeks. It’s a fun time of year, for sure.

Our employees are deserving of something, too. We aren’t talking about a box of chocolate or a gift card, but recognition. In nearly every survey and study of the workplace, employees say they wish for more recognition. Giving it, and meaning it, can make the difference between a healthy, vibrant team and a place of drudgery and high turnover.

Here are some of the keys to offering recognition:

Be Timely. The best time to give recognition is when it is earned. Don’t wait. As a leader who is working to generate energy and build a high performance team, you should take a moment to offer recognition while the positive behavior you have seen is still fresh and memorable. If you wait a day or a week, your recognition will be less powerful. The right words at the right time have impact.

Be Specific. They don’t give out the Oscars to actors, directors and the rest without mentioning the film that is being honored. That would be ridiculous. When offering recognition, mention something specific about the performance. “I really appreciate the dedication you showed by staying late to work on that customer issue.”

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For more on building high performance teams, see Hire It & Inspire It.

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Link It. Take your recognition to the next level by linking the positive behavior to some immediate or future benefit. Make the connection for your employee so she will understand not just the fact that you appreciate some specific behavior, but how it will affect the company and its customers in the future. To add on to the statement above, “I’m sure your work will improve our relationship with the customer and lead to future sales.”

Be Personal. When offering recognition, make it clear that you, as the employee’s supervisor, personally appreciate the effort made. This one-to-one relationship building will prove valuable over time, especially when you have to ask for some extra effort in the future. Your team members are more likely to perform in a pinch if you have this leadership equity with them.

Be Public. Leverage is the idea here. Public recognition makes the experience that much better for the person receiving it, and it helps others. They can learn what’s important in your firm and how to earn praise themselves. They might even be inspired to perform better. Your public recognition can be delivered in person – maybe a brief department meeting or a stand-up huddle – or any other way that works for you. If you have a multi-shift operation, written recognition on a bulletin board or electronic resource (e.g., email, intranet page) could be appropriate.

Recognition is powerful. It’s free, it’s meaningful, and it works. Give that gift of recognition right now. Make regular, consistent recognition part of your routine to build your high performance team.

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Learning Dynamics helps leaders at every level learn to be better leaders. Bringing Out the Best in Others teaches participants leadership skills to enhance teamwork, morale, and organizational performance. Ask for more information today.

Hire It and Inspire It

Motivation is a topic that is included in several of our most popular Learning Dynamics training programs, and it is always a conversation starter in our classes. The question is this: Can you motivate others?

Class participants think long and hard about this before answering, and most groups are split with their answers. Some say, “Yes, of course.” Then they attempt to explain their reasons.

The other side, of course, says, “No way!”

Whatever your opinion, consider the idea that leaders – managers, supervisors, peers, even people below you in the organizational hierarchy – do not actually create motivation within their followers. Instead, they create the environment in which others can be motivated to bring their best and perform at high levels.

This is the big idea behind employee engagement. How do you get people to do their best, especially when there are so many companies filled with good, smart people who never rise to excellence?

First, think about going to the very beginning of the process. Whether you have a super star or a stunning dud on your team, someone hired that person. What went into the decision making process? Many organizations are placing greater emphasis on personality testing and cultural fit. And it’s for good reason.

Employees will excel where they are given the opportunity to do their best work in environments in which they can thrive. Find the people who will work in your organization as it is, not as you wish it was. And stop trying to pound the square-peg candidate into the square-hole job. If you aren’t sure about fit, get others involved in the selection process. Peer-level interviews can uncover all kinds of things that might not otherwise be discovered.

Once you have the right people, give them the tools, resources, training and empowerment to do the job for which they were hired. These inputs, combined with a strong, recognition-based culture will do wonders for most employees.

In the end, we all want to be included on a team that is aligned with our heads and hearts. Find those people, inspire excellence with leadership support and coaching, and motivation will multiply. Leaders, you cannot motivate others, but you can lead in way so others can find their own motivation.

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Bringing out the Best in Others is one Learning Dynamics training program that teaches leadership skills to create a motivating workplace. Contact us today for more information.

Thanks for Moving us Forward!

Thanks!This week is the time for taking stock of our lives and being thankful. For all, this thought rightly includes our personal lives: family, friends, health and everything else. For leaders, it could and should include some reflection on the contributions that followers – individual contributors and junior leaders – make to create organizational success.

As our consultants facilitate training programs with leading companies, we are always impressed and inspired by the energy that people put into their work. The conversations and insights generated by our classes make it very clear to us that many people, especially those selected for participation in professional development initiatives, put everything they have into driving their organizations forward. They really do care and want to do well. They give a lot of themselves every day.

Another valuable observation that we make is that these people, many leaders in their own right, value the power of a thank you. Simple, free, specific recognition – a note, an email, a phone call, a literal pat on the back – gives these motivated team members the fuel they need to keep contributing at the highest levels.

It is a simple idea, but one worth remembering during Thanksgiving week. As a leader in your organization, don’t just be thankful for what you have. Be thankful for all that everyone does to help you and your company grow and thrive. And be sure to share your thankfulness with those who deserve it.

We at Learning Dynamics are thankful for the opportunity to help our clients build better and stronger organizations by Investing in PeopleTM. Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Learning Dynamics offers customizable learning and development programs to help your organization grow and succeed. Bringing out the Best in Others is a powerful training session that will help your supervisors and managers learn to recognize and reinforce the behaviors your company needs to succeed.

Mixed Messages Hurt Motivation

We frequently hear blunt, unvarnished truth when conducting training classes. A recent class was no exception when we discussed employee engagement and recognition. Many in the class were sharing positive examples of things their companies do to encourage engagement. One did not.

The message was something like this: “We have a terrible work environment, and management tries to whitewash it with meaningless recognition programs and short-lived efforts that don’t help.” How many of us would like to hear this from our people? How many managers will get the opportunity?

This comment, and the heads that nodded in agreement, illustrate an important point. Employee engagement does not happen by accident. It requires work. Managers have to create and foster an environment in which people are recognized for their contributions and feel that the work they do is important. Leaders must provide the tools and support to help employees be successful in their jobs.

Quick-hit programs may be nice for the short-term, but they cannot be used in place of the much more challenging job of building culture. A company-logo water bottle or “Pizza Friday” will not replace genuine, specific feedback and appreciation for a job well-done.

Hopefully your organization does not have people who feel this way, but it might. Why not find out? Start asking questions or take a survey to give your people the chance to tell you how they feel. Given the right venue, they will share, and you will have something to work with.

Trinkets and swag do not drive engagement. Meaningful work that makes a difference does. Create a culture that uses tools to reinforce and enhance strong culture, not one that encourages a conversation about mixed messages.


Learning Dynamics can help your organization with coaching skills and ideas to develop high performance teams. Visit our programs page for more information.

Three Critical Motivators

Do you know what motivates your people? It has often been said that the key to managing and motivating others is to know the person you are working to motivate. Knowing each person’s experience and skills is the first step. Step two is more important: Know what drives and motivates your people to succeed.

In the literature, there are three critical motivators every manager needs to understand. Most people fall into one of these three, or some combination, to varying degrees:

Affiliation: Some people seek out others for validation. They are happiest working in teams and belonging to a group.  They thrive on and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being associated with others. The socialization and interaction with team members feeds them well and becomes the prime reason for their success.

Achievement: These individuals are driven to succeed and be rewarded based on their own contributions and ideas. Recognition and goal attainment are critical to their success. They are propelled by a desire to be better, succeed and make a difference.

Power:  This category states that having influence and control over others is critical to their internal drive. They thrive on being in the spotlight and climbing the ladder of success to the top. They are usually self-involved and driven to succeed.

Do you know your direct reports? Are they motivated by Affiliation, Achievement or Power? These are not difficult to understand but they do make a difference when trying to motivate or encourage them. Apply your tactics and approach to fit the needs of the individual. This will go a long way in getting better results for you, the team and the company.


Written by Barbara Phillips, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Learning Dynamics. Barbara, like all Learning Dynamics team members, offers extensive professional leadership experience to benefit our clients.


Do you supervisors and managers know this? Could it help your organization if managers knew how to understand and inspire their teams? Contact Learning Dynamics to learn how we can help your organization grow by Investing in People™.