Bare Knuckle People Management is the top solution for the most common people-management issues. It provides the specific distinctions needed to turn your management into leadership. Read this book and watch your teams succeed!

—Justin Sachs, bestselling author of The Power of Persistence and Your Mailbox Is Full

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Inspiration and Gimmick – Finding the Line

3 Questions to Determine Whether Your Rally Cry is Inspirational or Gimmicky:

  1. Is it personal to your team?
  2. Is it unique and meaningful (or is it another in a long list of contrived attempts to motivate)?
  3. Does your team embrace it and add to it so it evolves organically (or is it solely your creation)?

This morning at the gym, I saw a moving piece this morning on Sports Center about a Tennessee high school football team that found inspiration in a teammate, Dylan, who was diagnosed with cancer and extended his battle right up to the day the team won the state championship.

Much to the chagrin of my elliptical machine mates, I found myself blubbering like a baby. (“Uh, Sean, are you crying?” “No, my eyes are sweating.”) I really lost it when they showed Dylan’s best friend and teammate giving his impassioned speech before the championship game, in which he implored his team to selflessly fight like Dylan fought for his life and in his last hours asked about his team. Needless to say, the team charged out of the locker room and thoroughly romped their opponent to claim the team’s first state championship in 58 years.

Dylan’s courageous battle was truly inspirational to his team – they cared for their friend, they knew he wanted them to win, and they rallied behind him. It appears, at least, that Dylan’s battle motivated the team to perform beyond expectations.

Coaches (and managers) constantly and ineffectively try to manufacture this type of inspiration to motivate their teams, and instead of inspiring, it gets dismissed as gimmick. Every college team these days seem to have a black band or teammate’s number or the water boy’s uncle’s initials patched onto their uniform, purportedly in the interest of motivating the team.

There’s nothing wrong with seizing upon a life circumstance is personal, meaningful and embraced fully by a team to help it outperform. But events like Dylan’s are (thankfully) rare. As a coach or manager, when you go to that well too often or frivolously, the message rings hollow, and often distracts you and your team from rolling up your collective sleeves and doing the real, hard, day-to-day work that makes you better.

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