I was at a Christmas wreath making workshop on Friday and I met a lovely group of 6 people. One woman kept on going on about how “old” she was. I realised towards the end that she was a year younger than me. I don’t feel in the least bit old. I’m aware of my mortality a bit more than I was but nearly 50 for me isn’t old. I have a young daughter who is nearly ten and have just launched two businesses.
So what is age and how do you make people feel they are young rather than creeping towards retirement? How do you increase engagement and motivate staff who have been doing the job for longer than they care to remember?
One of my first jobs out of drama school was to work at the National Theatre on the Southbank in London. I was old starting as a professional actress as had already gone to University and worked in the BBC for two years. We were all ages from teenagers to octogenarians. Sometimes the “youngest” people in the room were the “oldest” and vice versa. It made me realise age was a mindset. Just like the roles we were playing, age was a role we took on.
However we do get stuck into a way of thinking. My business two years ago was really hard work juggling my main business and the local voluntary work I was doing. I said to my friend, who is 15 years older than me, I was going to start taking it easy. She said why? I couldn’t answer the question. She said if you’re fit and healthy why take it easy? Now is the time to do something challenging because later you might not be able to. I could sit back on my laurels and do what I always have done but this gave me the impetus to be brave and challenge myself.
As we approach the later half of our life, finding our motivation and vision for our future can be challenging. Our parents may be getting ill and we need more time to care for them. We are becoming aware of how aging is affecting our bodies. Our children, if we have them, are growing up and into the “fly away” mode. So what can we do to find or keep our motivational mojo?
1. Be Present. One of the things acting teaches you is to live in the moment. To listen with your whole self so you can react to what is around you. As a manager it is essential to listen not just to the words that people are saying but to their change in body language or behaviour. So often we don’t feel heard and it is a managers role to listen out for challenges their staff might be facing.
Only when we are present can we listen to our instinct more closely and be bolder in our choices..
I was coaching a manager who every day came down the stairs to see her staff in action. She was worried about morale. The staff cringed every time she walked down the stairs, expecting to be told they were doing this and that wrong.
The manager was challenged to go into the room keeping a simple phrase in mind: “go into the room looking for something that interests you”. With this phrase she walked down the stairs and rather than telling the staff what to do, she watched and listened and praised the staff for what they were doing. This new approach changed the way she managed going forward. It kept her in the present and helped her listen.
We can also do this for ourselves. Go for a walk – even if it’s on the way to work or lunchtime. Take just 10 minutes and be present. Now look around. Find the things that interest you. Be present.
2. Be Spontaneous. If something interests you say YES to it – you never know where it might lead you
Just the other day, I took a detour on my journey home to look inside a building I’ve always been curious about. It felt uncomfortable but my curiosity keep me looking for a hall I’d heard about from other locals. Sure enough 30 seconds later I bumped into a neighbour. It turns out they may be looking for nursery places for their staff and I have just opened a nursery with my business partner. If I hadn’t listened and acted on that moment I would have missed the opportunity.
You can even read a whole book on it. One book is about persuasion called “Yes – 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion” by my favourite persuader, Robert Cialdini. This is a great introduction to his work. Or if you’re looking for something more light hearted and fun Danny Wallace’s book “Yes Man” looks at a year in his life where he chose to say “Yes”.
There is so much about saying YES in theatre too. The rule of improvisation is the phrase “Yes, and”. Aim to say yes to what you’re given and then add to it.
So what can you say YES to that will support and help you? And no that doesn’t mean you can say yes to every Christmas drink and canapé going!
|The building I popped into|
3. Speak the values of others. We all give hints about what our values are. We are motivated by what is important to us. So if someone talks about their family time or their hobby time a lot, you can pretty much guarantee that it’s important to them. So align a work goal to a value goal and you are more likely to get buy in. It starts with listening and then requires you to link the two goals.
One of our staff members is thinking of retiring in 10 years. She had started doing some work for us on a temporary basis and was looking for full time work. An opportunity came up for a full time place in our office. To motivate her to think about taking the role we aligned her passion of training to the role alongside a 10 year prospect of achieving a goal to be a trainer before she retired. She enthusiastically took on the new role.
How can you align what is important to you, into everything you do, to keep you motivated? A great exercise is to simply write down one hundred things that are important to you in your life. Then take the next few weeks to contemplate on it. See if you can reduce it down from one hundred to ten. Notice you can’t just jump to the ten you have to take time to write the hundred first! The way our minds work is we often put the front of mind stuff down first eg make money, family things, dream things and then once we get passed 20 we start to get down to what is really important to us. Try it out.
The great thing is we can do this immediately. Be present by looking around you. Look for things you’ve not seen before, look for the detail or things that interest you. Find the beauty in what you see. It can sound corney but it can unravel you out of your patterns. It can free you up to concentrate on your vision and goals and it can keep you young and curious!