The Ironic Truth

It’s Better To Ask For More

Ever been frustrated trying to motivate and inspire others? Or perhaps you needed help and couldn’t get others to buy-in? Well here’s an easy way to instantly motivate and inspire people to take action.

The irony of motivating people is that you’re better off asking for a lot than a little. That’s because people give their best when challenged. So if you’re only asking for something trivial, you’ll tend to see trivial amounts of motivation and performance. We see this happen irrespective to the reward offered. Meaning, you can offer up a huge reward with a small trivial task and still NOT see a higher degree of motivation. WHY?

The Irony of Asking For More

It turns out that as the assignment we have becomes more challenging, so does our effort and engagement improve.  Again, this is irrespective of the reward. Meaning, small reward with BIG challenging tasks works better for motivating people than, BIG reward, small task. 

Of course, this isn’t an ever increasing scale. The challenge we offer others must be within reason and give the person a modest solvable puzzle.

This is called the Challenge Effort Relationship and was famously highlighted by Yerkes-Dodson Law of Arousal. His model shows that we experience optimal performance with just the right amount of stress (i.e. challenge) – see diagram below.


The Irony of Asking For More

I’ve found Yerkes-Dodson Law of Arousal to be true with motivating myself, my kids, and clients. If the challenge is too small, performance suffers. If the challenge is too big, performance suffers. If the challenge is just right, then performance peaks.

I’ve also found from personal experience that you can boost this effect with one simple hack. I call this The Hero Effect (the red line in the diagram above). It’s simple influence hack that anyone can use to boost personal performance and influence.


The Hero Effect

When you combine moderate achievable challenge with sincere appreciation, you create what I call The Hero Effect.

That’s when you allow someone else to be your Hero. In essence, you present a challenge and immediately let the other person know how important they are to solving the problem. The key is to express these ideas:

  • we have a problem
  • we believe you can solve it
  • we depend on you to solve it
  • we know you can do it
  • so please SAVE us

The basic scenario is Damsel in Distress or Dude Down. We need your help, it’s important, and you are important. In short, you’re creating a perfect Hero’s Mission

Hero’s Mission is something challenging, solvable, and packed full of upside reward. Your Hero gets a reward for a job well done and even more important they experience someone being appreciative and thankful.

It Works, Here’s Why

I know this sounds basic, but it is a powerful motivator not only to others but also to ourselves. For example, I tell clients all the time that you can’t possibly get the best out of yourself without first having a Hero’s Mission. Again, your Hero’s Mission is something challenging, solvable, and packed full of upside reward. After all, Clark Kent doesn’t lose the glasses and become Superman until there’s an actual challenge that requires heroics.

And to our point, those heroics in real life don’t take place in a vacuum. They need an audience, somebody to save, somebody who’s going to be genuinely appreciative and thankful for being saved.

It’s this last ingredient that we miss in our lives, and it impacts our personal performance and our capacity to influence as leaders. You can confirm this through your experience. Just bring to mind a sacred and cherished experience. Chances are you contributed to someone else’s joy, happiness. AND… of vital importance the other person or people involved, appreciated YOU. Take away the appreciation, and you go from Hero to Hero Martyr.


The Hero Effect To Your Leadership Life

Applying the Hero Effect is pretty simple. You just need to sell in a non-manipulative way the value you see in others. Then point them in the direction of expressing their value through some achievable finite assignment. If you do this, more often than not you’ll instantly motivate and inspire higher level buy-in and action. And I do mean instant.

For example, one leader I coached vented his frustrations by referring to his people as zombies who care little about anything. Of course, this was out of frustration not being able to motivate and inspire his people. Our solution, turn zombies into heroes by challenging them and showing sincere deep level appreciation. He was hesitant at first, because how could he ask walking zombies for more.

He eventually checked his ego and expressed to his staff just how important they are. The instant result, a dramatic boost in morale and a motivated staff doing things they’ve never done before. My client ate his words but was happy to do it in the end.

I think this works for many reasons, but the biggest is that you’re giving your Hero a sense of purpose and meaning. That’s huge for most people because they don’t experience a daily connection to purpose. They instead operate on autopilot, just to get by.

That’s Why You Have to Get The Order Just Right

Because people are often living without purpose and feeling genuinely appreciated and of value, it’s monumentally important, you do things in the correct order. That means first expressing sincere appreciation of their value THEN giving them a challenge.

Most people are inclined to omit deep, sincere appreciation or hold their appreciation until after value rendered. That’s tantamount to saying Thank You. Thank you is good, but remember:

  • People are hungry for appreciation
  • People are hungry to contribute
  • People are hungry to know they have value
  • People want to be a Heros

So don’t make them wait. Don’t make them trust that you’ll deliver when their experience has been just the opposite. Break the mold and go first. Be a leader and invest in the other person. They will more than likely reciprocate because they NEEDED a Hero’s Mission.

The Power

of Letting Others Be Your Hero

There is tremendous power in saying, “Look, I need you, what you do is important, and can you help me?” This simple process jolts people into believing, if only for a minute, they do have a purpose and what they do is important. 

I believe this is a fundamental tenant of being a great leader who helps others connect their actions to something purposeful and meaningful. When you do this, people instantly become motivated, empowered, and ready to face challenges. At that point, the only thing left to do is to get out of the way and let your hero take over.

In fact, just recently I experienced this hack in full force at the Apple Store. All I did was give someone an opportunity to be my hero, and he didn’t let me down. He looked me in the eyes and said:

“Yep, I am a F*#king Hero” (see video here)

I felt a little shiver inside when he said it. It wasn’t from what he said, but it was that he believed it. Which by extension made me have even MORE belief in him.

And by the way, this is not only a very potent hack to lead others, but also to get more of what you want. I’ve received everything from free dinners, VIP treatment, and 1st class upgrades to skipping tons of red tape and being catapulted to the front of the line. Why? Because I gave someone a challenging Hero’s Mission.

With Great Power

Comes Great Responsibility

Some may say this sounds manipulative. I disagree for one BIG reason. Namely, I sincerely believe in the people I challenge to be my hero. I have a BIG need (at least for me), and I value their power to deliver what I need.

Further, I go in with a modest-solvable challenge. But once you open the door you can’t stop a hero from going all the way. Again, it’s because that’s what a hero was made to do, it’s what they want. I’d go so far as to say that’s what we all are made to do. To be other people’s Hero.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you want to be of value to others?
  • Do you feel your best when you’ve contributed to others?
  • Do you feel even better when others recognize your good work?

I do, and I know the people I allow to be my hero do as well. So from that perspective, it’s a win:win. My hero gets to connect to purpose, meaning, and to experience part of their true value. I get a motivated partner who can help me achieve my goals.

 P.S. I caution you to use The Hero Effect responsibly because it’s persuasively compelling.

Hero Effect Video