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When to Motivate with Fear

Posted by Jody Urquhart on Mon, Aug 07, 2017 @ 05:17 PM


During the riots in Baltimore, Toya Grahamn emerged as a surprising leadership figure.

Watching her 16-year-old son from a distance, she saw him pick up a brick to join the riots. She immediately marched up to him, grabbed him and passionately beat him over the head. Her clear goal was to get him to stop making what could be the mistake of a lifetime. 

After the YouTube video spread, Toya became a national icon and people called her mother of the year. 

Toya boldly went after her son without reservation. Some parents would step back and later punish their children. Instead, Toya risked it all, jumped in and made her sons decision to retreat for him. 

Normally beating your child wouldn't earn you the mother of the year, but I think people admired her decisive boldness. It's painful to watch your kids make mistakes but it's even more painful to watch them suffer tragic consequences. 

It reminds me how motivation by fear is very powerful. If she were to march up to him and try to motivate him, empower him or plead with him to retreat, it wouldn't have been as successful. 

Beating him over the head showed her son how painful hurting others is and made him fear the consequences of his actions. Some parents or leaders tend to dance around conflict and poor behavior and coddle people to encourage them to change. 

If employees continually make mistakes or disregard their job or others, it would be more effective just to enforce change or show them the consequences of bad decisions. 

If you were unreasonably committed to your team goals and an employee was preventing the team's success, what would you do? Use fear to force them to change or attempt to inspire them to higher ground?

Leadership styles have changed a lot over the last couple decades. It used to be that leaders were more militant, direct and bold. Staff did what a leader wanted without needing to negotiate, be appreciated or coached along the way. 

Now leaders require soft skills like listening, negotiation, appreciation and more to navigate the terrain of a much high maintenance workforce.


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