Where does motivation fit in the ART of Performance?

I was asked a powerful question today at the conclusion of an ART of Performance masterclass for HR Directors: “Where does motivation fit in all this?” The participant went on to explain that while he recognized the importance of having the skills to act powerfully, relate well and think straight, he also believed that these skills were useless without the motivation to apply them in one’s role.

I answered this by referring to the principle of ‘run a better race’, our shorthand for the mastery motivation that the greatest competitors bring to their event, the ones who stay at the top for years. To unpack this a little, Mastery Motivation underpins a great athlete’s whole approach to their sport. When expressed in a healthy and rounded manner, it shows as a positive and professional attitude to both training and competition. Athletes actively seek out competition and look forward to it positively rather than with any sense of fear or threat. Competitive results are still important, but they are seen as a consequence of confidently delivering a well-planned performance, rather than results being a requirement for self-confidence. Confidence that is over-dependent on competitive results is fragile and prone to negative spirals (slumps) when results inevitably slip. It’s more about seeking mastery over oneself and the event (running a better race) than simply beating other people. After all, winning a race with a poor performance is a bit like eating fast food – initially it’s fine but soon leaves you feeling dissatisfied.

What does this mean in business?It means not getting distracted by comparisons with others, focusing your efforts on the things you can control, and setting your own high standards for getting things done rather than settle for mere compliance to process.With this motivation it’s far easier to find a stable, confident stance from which to work, influence others and make a positive contribution.