Tag Archives: motivation

Are you losing air?

It is one of the most depressing feelings while biking. I can be riding along; happy, outdoors, feeling strong and having fun. Everything is in synch and flowing until I feel myself slowing down and I can tell I am riding on a flat tire. I may hear a loud pop and a fast “whoosh” as all the air escapes at once or a soft, almost evil, hiss as my tire gradually goes flat. Or I may hear nothing at all and just have a soft tire. Either way it means I need to stop what I am doing, assess the situation, and take the appropriate action to refill my tire so I can get back to riding. Bike flat largeSometimes I have just gone too long without pumping up my tires and I  need to use my CO2 cartridge and add air, other times I have hit an unexpected bump in the road or run over a small sharp object and need to patch a hole before adding air. Occasionally my inner-tube has been neglected and ruptured in multiple places and I need to completely replace it with a new one before I can add air.

We go flat in our lives when we lose our work and life balance. How you refill yourself depends on the type of leak you are experiencing. Paul Blatz, founder and president of Good Leadership Enterprises, encourages leaders to utilize his 7Fs Wheel to understand where they may be leaking energy or if they have a major rupture to repair! The seven Fs that help us stay positive and moving forward as leaders are:

  • Future
  • Fun
  • Friends
  • Fitness
  • Finances
  • Family
  • Faith (spiritual)

Over time we can get distracted by the regular demands at work and lose track of our daily choices that keep us fulfilled in all seven areas. Then we may just need to take some small actions that “refill” all seven. Other times we hit a major bump and need to focus on one area that is losing air fast. When I travel for work I tend to ignore my extended family relationships and I need to remind myself to take the time to call my mom and check-in with her.

The Seven Fs Wheel (Seven Fs Tool) is an easy tool to carry with you and use to keep yourself “pumped up” and rolling along as a leader. TT and Ellie bike

Todd Thorsgaard

Do we really mean it?

I got zapped a few weeks ago! I was facilitating a day long program and I had assurances that my participants could park in the adjoining lot and we would not be tagged. Look what we found on our cars at the end of the day. tickets2Oops, I guess the change in ticketing policy wasn’t backed up by a change in procedure for the parking attendant that was on duty that day. We all did what we thought we were supposed to do but we paid a price, literally!

A powerful way for leaders to evaluate whether a change effort has actually led to successful change is to examine your organizational policies and procedures. Have they been changed to aligned with the new normal? Do they reflect your new values and expected behaviors and reinforce desired performance?  Or do they make it hard for your people to “do the right thing?”

The nuts and bolts of daily activity are guided by the formal infrastructure you create. Your policies, procedures, handbooks, training programs, recognition programs and other guidelines are concrete examples of your culture. While culture can be hard to measure, policies are “black and white” and provide a clear picture of success or failure.

Don’t ticket your people for doing the right thing! Tickets1

Todd Thorsgaard



How are we doing?

High performance doesn’t come from pills and potions. It’s a product of dedication and discipline.

I follow Joe Friel @jfriel, an endurance sports coach who focuses on the science and art of training and performance, and the above tweet popped up in my feed a few weeks ago. Successful change, the kind that leads to action, also requires dedication and discipline during planning, engagement of your people, and the tracking of progress. On Monday, Anita highlighted the importance of goals that are immediate or have a result that can be seen right away. Tracking those results and sharing that information with your team reinforces action and provides information on what is working and what needs to be tweaked.

The sports world has embraced the idea of tracking progress to reinforce action and to analyze results. People are using heart-rate monitors, power meters, GPS tracking devices, activity monitors and watches. With sites like TrainingPeaks or Strava they get immediate feedback on how they are doing related to key measures of action. Here is an example of my training during August. training log



Earlier in my career I worked for a large health care organization going through transformational change. Our goals focused on providing safe, timely, effective and patient-centered care. We developed an easy to read set of reports that were shared each week on the key actions and results. Work teams could then analyze how their actions affected the results and what they needed to continue doing and what needed to be done differently. Tracking progress and sharing the information directly with people led to continued commitment for further action.

Breaking your change into shorter goals and tracking the results will help sustain the energy needed for action and successful change. I know that tracking my endurance training helped me finish my first triathlon in over seven years and by the end of the season, a medal! medal

Todd Thorsgaard

The road to change

road trip

In honor of Willie Nelson’s 81st birthday today, here is a quote from the great song writer and troubadour. Not very helpful in leading change but worth a smile!

I believe that all roads lead to the same place – and that is wherever all roads lead to.

In contrast to Willie’s philosophy, I am actually planning a road trip for later in May to the West Point Academy in New York to attend the 2014 graduation of a cadet. We will cover over 2500 miles and the roads we choose and the decisions we make during the trip will be very important to the success of our journey!

Recent work in neuroscience and leadership by David Rock and Elliot Berkman suggests that setting goals is much more like planning for and going on a long road trip than a one-time activity. For goals to be effective and lead to change they need to engage two parts of our brain, why the goal is important and how it will be accomplished. Yet our brains are not capable of engaging both at the same time. This means that our goals need integrate both aspects and make it easy for people to move back and forth when they get stuck during change initiatives.

Berkman and Rock use the acronym AIM and the metaphor of a road trip to help leaders set effective goals for change in the workplace. They propose an integrative model of goals and goal pursuit consisting of:

  • Antecedents – the pre-trip planning. Make the goal memorable, motivating and social.
  • Integration – the “rubber hitting the road.” Your goals need to make it easy to shift between the why and the how. Focus on the mile by mile choices, trade-offs and decisions that need to be made during long trips. Provide insight on how to step back in the moment and stay focused on the long run. In other words, stay focused on the road ahead and not the potholes!
  • Maintenance – using cruise control to stay on track. Include goals that provide rewards and build habits so that the change becomes “hard-wired.”

When I return from West Point I will let you know how well we did with the integration and maintenance goal process. Hopefully my three travel companions and I will make it to the graduation safely, on-time and still speaking with each other!

Todd Thorsgaard


Get up that hill!

Have you had one of those dreams where you are running and it feels like you are stuck in sand or moving in slow-motion while everyone else is going full speed? That was happening to me a few years ago and it wasn’t a dream. It was my triathlon season going down the drain! Every time I hit a hill during the bike leg my competitors were flying by me. My swim was fine, my run was strong and I was riding well on the flats but once I encountered a hill my race was as good as over. Something had to change! Silhouetted road biker going uphillI had a clear understanding of my current state (painful and slow) and a vision for my future state a strong ride and potential hardware at the finish!) Yet at my next race, even with my vision of victory, I still fell apart on the hills. What I needed was an achievable goal and a strategy to get to my future state.

The third element of successful change is setting a strategy and defining clear goals that will drive the actual behaviors required to implement and sustain the change. During April, Anita, Dee Anne and I will be sharing ideas, resources, examples and opening up a conversation with you on setting strategy and defining goals that will engage your stakeholders and initiate action in our organizations.

What about me, you ask? I set a goal that I would be going as fast at the top of each hill as I was at the bottom of the hill. Clear and easy to measure with my bike computer. Next I researched and created a strategy for a six-month training program that would build my muscle endurance, a key requirement for hill climbing in longer events. I certainly am not an elite racer but I did place in the top three in my age group in two races the next year. More importantly I was able to ride strong on both the flats and the hills! Translating my vision into a clear goal and a strategy to follow helped me succeed.

Todd Thorsgaard


What motivates people?

That is the question we are addressing in the class I started last week. It also is the question that has vexed leaders for all of recorded history. We all know what it feels like to be motivated and we all know what a motivated team can accomplish. But, how can we, as leaders, develop motivation in other people?

As I listen to conversations at work it appears that many leaders believe motivation is out of their direct control.  We assume that some people are just motivated and others are not, or that organizational pay systems and contracts are responsible for how motivated our people are. Others focus on the job mobility in their organizations or the most recent publicity, good or bad, as the driver of motivation. I have to admit that many of the headlines in the news encourage this type of thinking.

Yet, there is hope for us as leaders. Daniel Pink, author of Drive, describes in this Tedtalk  http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html, how many of our assumptions are wrong and gives us some straight-forward ideas on motivation. Leaders that encourage a sense of autonomy, provide an opportunity to develop mastery, and highlight the purpose of the work greatly enhance the motivation of the people they lead. These actions are all within our control as leaders! Even better, it appears that small consistent actions have a definite impact on motivation. We do not need to take on imposing initiatives but can focus on the day-to-day interactions we have with the people on our teams.

I had a chance to see this recently. As I was preparing for a large training program, many unexpected challenges popped up. This required extra work for one member of my team and potentially could have been de-motivating. As we worked together I made sure that I highlighted how her work was directly related to the success of the overall program, I forwarded several emails from participants that described how helpful the program was for them and I passed along updates of how well the program was going after it kicked off. Later she shared how much she appreciated that. I believe it was because it demonstrated the meaningfulness of her extra work.

What small actions can you take to fuel the motivation of the people you lead?

Todd Thorsgaard

Longing for the sea

SailboatThere’s only one quote posted on my bulletin board, a favorite by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

As a leader, that’s hard work. In between to-do lists, due dates, and overflowing in-boxes, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason behind all the effort.  What is it about our project that makes team members want to spend their valuable time working on it? What can I offer that makes people eager to come to work in the morning?

We work in an exciting field, with the daily potential to change people’s lives for the better. As the new year starts, let’s remember to look up periodically from the piles of wood, and enjoy the view from the deck.

Dee Anne Bonebright