fetching you a bottle of water does *not* motivate me

This is the story of an inspirational speech that, well – wasn’t.

I went to a divisional meeting recently – lots of people, lots of powerpoint. The topics were a bit dry, and the last speaker was clearly trying to drum up some excitement and enthusiasm.  He started telling us a story about Lance Armstrong.  “People think of him as this amazing solo performer,” he said, “but he relies on his team to make him a success.”  He goes on to tell us about the nine other people on the tour-de-france bike team with Lance.  They are so motivated.  They are so dedicated.  He tells us how they let Lance draft behind them.  He tells us how they sprint ahead to tire out all the other competitors.  He goes into this long sequence about how one of Lance’s teammates, tired as hell, still turned around, went back down the hill, grabbed eight bottles of water, and then sprinted back up the hill to give the water to Lance.  I have to tell you, the whole presentation left me flat – if anything, it unmotivated me.

Its possible I was just in a bad mood that day.  Its possible that I’m just not a big cycling fan.  (Heresy for a Redmond resident, I know.)  But really – if you want to motivate me, tell me that I can be Lance Armstrong – not just his waterboy.

Comments (4)
  1. Bob Riemersma says:

    You have to remember that "leaders" who trot out this sort of thing do it to aggrandize and gratify themselves, as well as to distribute responsibility. It isn’t really about those who are subjected to it at all.

    This is an example of the kind of thing that has fallen out of the B-schools now for decades, and arose to prominence during the Reagan-Bush era. It is all part of current "professional management" theology and is as much a part of fabricating cookie-cutter pseudoleaders as similar development theology is about creating clone developers from rough cloth by applying magic formulas.

    It is patently absurd, and the examples they trot out to support "team" this and "team" that just serve to illustrate the truth. Just look how often they pull these sports allegories out of their… butts. Note all of the "rah team, rah" while at the same time the real story is about the superstar. Who gets the recognition? The big bucks?

    You may have it pegged though. While I see these guys as wannabe Matt Foleys (’cause that’s what they were told they should be at their last management seminar) they’re probably really trying to rally the water carriers behind them… or is that the cannon fodder before them.

    Then again, I was just subjected to an afternoon of the same sort of thing this past Monday, and the taste is still bitter on my tongue. Lots of "own the problem" talk-talk. Hmmm, now WHO led us into this box canyon despite all advice to the contrary? Maybe next week I’ll have a better perspective on it.

  2. Darrell says:

    Not everyone can be an astronaut when they grow up. 🙂

    Of course, trying to con people into being your lackeys with a cheap motivational speech (it was free, right?) instead of cash or a day off or something similar is pathetic.

  3. Steve Hall says:

    Geez! Sounds like a LOT of ATTITUDE PROBLEMS that need to be CORRECTED! (er…bitch slapped into submission?)

    Methinks you should RUN and BEG for the $10K (or is it $20K? can’t remember…) to attend a weekend Tony Robbins "couples retreat"…’cause, afterall, it sounds like you’re bringing all your personal problems to work and they’re manifesting as anti-social, non-PC heretic speech! (The Church of Non-scientology would call these "blockades to achieving your life-goals"…)

    Of course, when your boss refuses to spring for that "holiday" to get yourself "cleansed" of these non-party-line (oops!…non-team-spirit) thoughts, you can then wave the "magic finger of blame" at them for "not being a team player".

    Unforunately, at my last company that wouldn’t have worked… A large reason that $2.5B company went down the toilet was due to upper management bringing in a quack clinical psychologist to try and solve/erradicate the disharmony that existed after a particular product development cycle was over. The company spent tens of millions on this guy’s notion that "everything in life is a CHOICE!"…including the little nuisance things like getting run over on the road, being mugged/raped, or getting cancer. (This guy was such a nut, he firmly believed in manifest destiny to the idiot extent of believing we have a choice of when and how we are to die… This "ultimate rah-rah" idealogy went over REAL well…)

    Of course, my refusal to attend that nonsense got me labelled a non-team-player. As a direct result of the "management mantra", which included being absolutely truthful about EVERYTHING (to the nauseating extreme), there were over a dozen divorces directly blamed on the "couples retreats", several dozen key engineers quit to chase bizarre career changes, peons were telling off their managers left and right, and a few wound up dead too early in life.

    Everytime I hear the word "team", my BS detector goes off and memories of that period of my work life resurface. I put up my shields full-force, and tell Wesley to haul ass Warp 9 outta there!

    The point is, it COULD be far worse. If the rhetoric ever gets to looking like a scene out of "1984" and it’s frequent, then you should transfer or quit. It’s not worth the pain to your soul to be on the recieving end of pap and BS!

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