photo credit: Alexis Brown @alexisbrown - unsplash

“You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.”
Alan Loy McGinnis

Whether we are talking about employers trying to motivate their organizations, parents trying to motivate their children or teachers trying to motivate their students, the cry is the same “we’re having trouble motivating them” or “we’re having trouble getting them to perform”. Not everyone has this difficulty. There are people who are able to get more for the people they lead. These people seem to have a knack for bringing out the best in people.

The book entitled Bringing Out the Best in People, by Alan Loy McGinnis, lays out twelve principles or guidelines to help people produce extraordinary performance while being ordinary people. These skills help the reader “master the art of motivation” (p. 16).


The Amazing Power of Motivation

The conventional idea of motivation is that all motivation must come from the inside. But is this really true? Think about some things that have motivated you. Perhaps it was watching the Olympics that encouraged you to get out and try a sport. Maybe it was listening to a concert that encouraged you to take up a musical instrument. The fact is, we are influenced and motivated when the motivation (or influence) comes from an inspiring source (be it an event or a person).

Think about Winston Churchill, who, against all odds, was able to rally the nation of England, though it was a sitting duck, to stand up to the Nazi threat. And England was able to call this moment in time “her finest hour”.

Everyone longs to be inspired, to be a part of a vision. It is erroneous to think that people are unmotivated (p.18). it is more accurate to say that a  person is not motivated in a particular situation.  Bored school children and “uninspired ‘workers have something in common. they uninspired by their environment and tasks. So, if we want to motivate people we need to find out what fuel their engines, so to speak, what would ignite the spark plugs.

Expect the Best, Get the Best

If we want to bring out the very best in people around us, we need to first and foremost believe in and expect the best from them. We need to see the potential in them and draw it out. focusing on the strengths of the person. There was a play written by George Bernard Shaw called The Pygmalion which illustrates this concept of bringing out the best in people. In the play, the main character is Eliza who seems to have nothing going for her. She is uneducated, poor with seemingly very little in the way of gifts and talents. One day a professor decides to take her under his wing and transform Eliza into a lady.

Through patient teaching and profuse encouragement, the professor gradually brings out Eliza’s talents and cause her to truly believe that she is an educated lady. He focused on her strengths, uncovered hidden talents, and built her up into something so much better than she ever imagined. This is the power of expecting the best to get the best.

Motivate People

How often do we hear teachers and parents alike lament how difficult it is to motivate children and teenagers. How frequently do we hear people speak about their job or job environment being unmotivating and that they feel disheartened to try harder? When we think about motivation, we tend to think of terms of ourselves being motivated to do a thing or lacking the motivation as if it were all on our shoulders. Teachers, parents, and employers try everything they know how to do to “get people to perform”.

However, the concept of motivation is more complex than simply ” I want to this or I don’t want to do that.  Other factors are in play. Sometimes failure to be motivated is a result of a clash between needs and expectations. Sometimes there is a difference in the belief system or values or between what one person considers important versus another person. And we can not forget that just as people change and grow, so do needs and perception of needs. Motivating other people should necessarily include dialogue about what is important to each person and their needs at any given time.

Set the Bar High

Bringing out the best in people should also include having high expectations of their potential. that is to say, we should believe that they are able to go above and beyond where they are currently at. Setting the bar high for people requires this solid belief that they have both the potential and the ability to reach their potential. With regards to people that we oversee such as children, employees or students, we need to give a clear portrayal of what is expected as well as a clear direction of how to reach these expectations for their benefit.

To help people reach their potential, we may need to step into the role of mentorship to provide encouragement, course correction, and feedback. We need to have a long term vision and see the path ahead (have an objective perspective) in order to help the other person avoid the landmines and press on to achieve what we believe they can achieve.


“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”
Alan Loy McGinnis


Failure Must Be Part of the Plan

No matter who we are leading or influencing, people are people. they will trip up and fall. They can also get back up and continue on their way. When we are seeking to bring out the best in people, we should create an environment that sees failure as a necessary step to success in whatever the person is trying to accomplish. Failure and setbacks need to be factored in and even encouraged.

It is useful to help people see that failure such as rejection, errors, mishaps, and poor judgment or whatever else classifies as a step backward, are learning experiences necessary for course correction and doing better the next time. People naturally tend to see failures as somehow reflecting on their own ability or lack thereof, so it is very important when helping people to be better, to encourage them to see failure as positive.

What to Do

How can we take concrete steps to motivate, encourage performance, and embrace failure as positive? The very best way is to notice and point out any successes. Highlight and praise even the smallest achievements going in the right direction and minimize (but not ignore) and negative performance. Be on the lookout (be a scout) for improvement in any shape or form.

Of course, as was explained, failure must be recognized as integral to success, but it is also not to be overemphasized especially in a negative light. The whole point is to help people become more confident in their abilities and believe that they can improve and succeed.

What Not to Do

Avoid flattery

It is one thing to highlight achievement and notice improvement. It is a whole different matter to praise for the sake of praising. Flattery flatters no one and can be very destructive to the relationship. People can see through the veneer of the superficiality of flattery and they will not appreciate you for doing this and, probably they will trust you less as well.

Don’t Compare

No one, I repeat, no one appreciates being compared to other people. Comparing people sends the message that they are not good enough, that they have not met our standards. In their mind, it also sends them the message that the person they are being compared to is somehow better than them.

Avoid Manipulation

Manipulation can take different forms: overt manipulation through threats and bribes or covert (less obvious) manipulation in the form of guilt imposition, or passive-aggressive behavior. Manipulation is controlling and operates in complete opposition to the goal of bringing out the best in people.

Some More Tips

The following site, Next Level  lists 10 ways to bring out the best in people:

1. Think how, not what – How are they doing?

2. Work it out now – conflict now

3. Just say thanks – simple sincere appreciation

4. Take action inclusively – teamwork and collaboration

5. Turn up the differences

6. Make a point of asking- what do you think?

7. Tell stories – become a positive gossiper

8. Engage people in return – take the time to listen

9. Show your emotions

10. Be the real you


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Diane Lynne enjoys traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her at