$0.25 = I Can

(Old Post from 2007)

Does money motivate you? Does it call to you in the middle of the night and say feed me? If it does, then you might want to get checked out because that's not normal. All kidding aside, money can be a strong motivator for some individuals. In business, we often see that people jump from job-to-job because of money or stock options or other great perks; however, You can't pay potential to just show up and do your work for you, you have to put in hard work and discipline, but sometimes removing something CAN be a best motivator.

During my coaching tenure I was struggling with the ever present de-motivator of the word, I CAN'T. If “I Can't” is just another contraction in the ever-increasing vocabulary of the English language, then why is it so detrimental to someone's success? The answer, its not just another word in the English language, it serves as the backdrop and excuse for why individuals choose not to follow their dreams and embrace their potential. Once I realized that removing this word could drastically change how my teams performed I was ready to try anything to help them be successful. Enter the “I CAN'T FUND”. The “I Can't Fund” was started to help the girls bring attention to the idea that every time they used the words they were sabotaging their own success. One afternoon we sat down in a classroom and put our goals on the whiteboard – dream and reality – and I asked the basic of all questions “CAN you achieve these goals?”. The answer's came back mixed, but the one that kept popping up was “yes we can” to which I responded “why?” This response took a little bit more thinking. Some of the responses included “because we know we can” or “its something to shoot for”. From this point, we went into personal goals where they put a dream time and a realistic time down on a piece of paper so they had a physical goal to chase. After asking if they could achieve it some said “I don't know” or “I'm going to try”. Confidence breathes success and I realized that if I didn't squash the negative thinking now, our season of chasing another league title could be over before it began.

Hearing girls say “I Can't” run any further or “I Can't” make it to practice today or “I Can't” get that grade led me to establish a fund for breaking down “I Can't” syndrome. If they were caught saying the word, they had to pay $0.25 – if a captain was caught – $.50 – an assistant coach – $1.00 or me, the head coach – $2.00. The goal was not to say it, but if they did they had to pay up. At the end of the season, we would take the money and go to dinner however much that was. Let's just say that I was able to feed 14 girls a dinner at Black Angus on the “I CAN'T” Fund. I myself put in close to $60. There was no restriction on the use of the word, because I wanted it wiped from their vocabulary, and apparently mine as well.

Bringing conscious awareness to the positive word “I Can” versus the negative word “I Can't” changed their whole philosophy. Their grades started improving, their relationships meant more, and their goals became bolder. Why you ask, because they no longer had barriers to achieving potential. The words play havoc with your mind and destroy your perceptions of situations. They take away your capacity to dream. Motivating individuals and helping them to see their best means guiding them to remove the negative perceptions they have of themselves and the situations they are in. In Ken Blanchard's book “Whale Done”, he explains that the Sea World Killer Whale trainers only reinforce the right behavior. If they do something bad it is ignored and eventually the whale gets the picture. Our job should be to reinforce the good and right behavior in people so that they see their best. Now, it does not mean that you do not help guide them back to the good behavior. If they just keep doing the same bad things over and over, then they never learn – so the trick is helping them re-learn the right behavior.

Popular strengths guru Marcus Buckingham stipulates that we should build upon our strengths and ignore our weaknesses. I agree with this philosophy and it is something that I try to implement in my own life. I realize that I am not strong in financial skills for work, so I should not get a job as a financial analyst – I have no passion for it. On the other hand, I love people and love working with people so I should continue to enhance my skills along this line. I have understanding of financial principles, but I would not want to do it for 8 hours a day. So it is with coaching or mentoring, to bring out someone's potential you have to identify their strengths and weaknesses, so that you can build upon their strengths. When re-learning needs to take place it needs to be couched in such a way that is affirming and not degrading. Just as the Sea World trainers reinforce good behavior, they help the whales obtain that good behavior through re-learning.

If we are to be great leaders, coaches, and mentors, we need to be good readers of people and observe what they do best. Tell them when they do right things. Strengthen and mold their minds to see that they can be great. Most of all, their potential is inside them, they just need say “I CAN” instead of “I CAN'T”.

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I help facilities manager and planner create spaces that are backed by research, engage employees of all generations, and drive business objectives. I am also the founder of Dave's Book Club – a once per month reading experience designed to help professionals grow their influence.

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