This week I spotted a new comment on an old post I wrote on the Xero blog a few months ago about the need for continual focus on goals.
The commenter referenced Zig Ziglar's thinking about "vacation attitude" where in the week leading up to a holiday, people are likely to be much more productive in order to clear their decks before taking a break. For to leave your post in a mess and then have all hell break loose while you were away would not be a good look, nor career enabling.
I haven't read the book in question but presumably Ziglar encourages adoption of this mindset on a permanent basis - not just when you're actually going on vacation. I suppose it's impossible for everyone to be 200% focused every day as if it was the last day before a vacation, but managing it for more than three or four days a year would be a good start for some.
In most everyday business scenarios the stakes are usually very low. And I've been frustrated in the past when confronted with the kind of attitude that can prevail when particularly tough challenges are shirked low stakes contexts.
"It's too hard.."
"It probably won't work..."
"We don't have enough (insert variable) to make it happen..."
The new "vacation attitude" comment on the blog post this week reminded me that in my early management days I'd rather crudely countered this kind of groupthink with:
"If we had until 5pm on Friday to fix this or the business is closing down / we have to make a bunch of people redundant / some other unpleasant outcome... then we'd sure as hell find a way..."
Aside from the above being a great if somewhat clumsy example that visionary thinking needn't always be positive, I was actually just unwittingly pushing back on this low stakes / high stakes thing.
However as an optimist, I am actually more likely to use positive motivation to push people through tough spots. I believe the correct, accepted term for this is "success visualisation" where you train your thinking to focus on a future feelgood feeling or sense of acheivement you'll have at having overcome a challenge, rather than allowing your current attitude succumb to the present shitty situation you happen to find youself in.
My mind is split on exactly how much this approach is really just pimped-out form of denial, but I've used it personally since I was a teenager - before I'd learned of it as a technique - and it's a great motivator for teams struggling to find the motivation to literally not quit, let alone nail everyday challenges.
But it's definitely all about stakes.