Saturday, July 11, 2009

Put. That. Coffee. Down. Coffee's for closers only.

The 'motivational pep-talk' Alex Baldwin's character Blake gives to the sad sack realty sales office in Glengarry Glen Ross has been on my mind of late. It's a great performance, Baldwin's only scene in the movie (character and scene don't even exist in the original David Mamet stage play). The words are even better. Mamet, who wrote the screenplay as well, is one of my literary heroes (one of the few who ply their trade in the world of screen and stage plays rather than books). But I digress. The reason that the speech has been resonating with me lately is because despite the vitriol tone, it is a motivational speech and I've been attempting to try and understand all of the ways that individuals can be and are motivated.

"We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

Now that's motivation.

Keeping your job might be a very primal motivation, but it's not a very uplifting one. Still, variations on Blake's talk likely took place in offices the world over this past week and sometimes for good reasons. Blake hammered home the overriding priorities in case there was confusion ("Always Be Closing" because "it's 'fuck' or 'walk'"). Sometimes it takes a punch in the stomach to wake a person up. God knows there are people where I work that I'd like to stick in a room with Blake and let him loose.

I'm looking more for the empowering, want-to-take-ownership kinds of motivation and how to instill that at the grass-roots level in an organization.

Time to look beyond Blake. I've poured through most of the "motivation" and "leadership" literature out there (Jack Walsh, Fearless Change, and 20 others not worth mentioning). Like most things in life, no silver bullet. Also like most things in life, I think it boils down to something much more simple: just find out what motivates you and then go to the employee directory and find out the same for each one of them. Probably the best thing I've read in this area is Andy Hunt's Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: he' talks about the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition and what motivates an Expert in a particular skill is not the same thing in general that motivates a Novice.

Quick, favorite "one scene" movie characters:
  1. Winston Wolfe, Pulp Fiction
  2. Captain Koons, Pulp Fiction
  3. Blake, Glengarry Glen Ross
  4. Vincenzo Cocotti, True Romance
  5. Drexl Spivey, True Romance
  6. Bunny Lebowski, The Big Lebowski
  7. Harry Lime, The Third Man

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