Everybody needs a good pep talk now and again, right? Whether we’re part of a team of sales professionals or product development, or a key executive player, sometimes on the journey to achieve the extraordinary leaders must step up to deliver a motivating speech that Inspires a Shared Vision. Most leaders learn this skill by emulating others, not as a result of any type of formal training. But, as it turns out, there is actually research—called motivating language theory—showing what it takes to psych people up for better performance.
Daniel McGinn, author of Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed
has extensively interviewed dozens of academics and practitioners in business, and studied the seminal work in this field by Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield. And in the most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, he summarizes the research and his own writing in his article, The Science of Pep Talks
. Here he suggests there are three elements that are key to delivering a winning pep talk
- direction giving that reduces uncertainty, describing precisely how to do the task and the criteria for evaluating performance
- expressions of empathy, giving praise and encouragement, or showing concern for the performer
- meaning-making language, which often includes storytelling that helps to explain why the task is important.
McGinn concludes that all the evidence suggests that once leaders understand these three elements they can learn to use them more skillfully. And for practitioners of The Leadership Challenge, leaders may find new approaches for turning an exciting and ennobling vision into action.