To transform your motivation to performance, you need to identify your intentions. Today’s guest is Dr. Nick Molinaro, a licensed psychologist with 35 years of experience. Dr. Nick discusses with Ben Baker how high-performing individuals set up a series of goals. They move into higher-level performance by using their intentions to drive their attention. Dr. Nick describes this as the three Ds: Deeply Dedicated to being Deliberate. Join in the conversation to learn more!
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How To Transform Motivation To Performance With Dr. Nick Molinaro
I have Dr. Nick Molinaro. We are going to have a conversation about connecting motivation and performance. Dr. Nick, welcome to the show.
Ben, thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m looking forward to our discussion.
I want to give people a little bit of history. We got on a conversation and you were generous enough to run me through a series of exercises. I’ve been through the Myers & Briggs and StrengthsFinder. I’ve seen DISC and you have your take on things. Before we get into that, why don’t we let people have a brief history about who you are and what brought you to this point? Let’s then talk about your motivation, performance and see where the conversation takes us from there?
Thank you so much, Ben. I’ll give you a brief history of my background. I graduated in the bottom 20% of my high school class and neither of my parents graduated high school. Getting into college, finishing my undergraduate, two Master’s, a Doctoral degree, postgraduate training, when you look at motivation, that’s an interesting link. I’ll explain how that took place. I started my work as a special ed teacher. I became a school psychologist, Director of Special Services. I started my Doctorate three times and then finally decided to finish it. From that point on, I started driving race cars. I had an accident coming downhill at Lime Rock, Connecticut. I wanted to race and I figured, “If I was going to increase my performance, I better figure out how to do that without getting hurt.” That’s how I started my whole work in Performance Psychology. That morphed into working with high-performing athletes, collegiate and professional Olympic level, and then transferred a lot of those skills into the business arena working in talent acquisition, identification, corporate culture development, and succession planning.Try to stay away from motivation as a process and look more at what the intentions are. Click To Tweet
Where you are in performance in mind, you’re taking people that are already motivated, excelling, great at what they do and making them better. Is that a good assessment of where you are in life?
For the most part, that’s true. Whether we’re working with athletes or in business, it’s people that are already at a point in their life who want to provide themselves with greater skillsets or development to get to the next level.
Let’s talk about the rest of us because 99.9% of us are not elite athletes. I’d love to be playing on the PGA Tour. I’ll never have the skillset. I’m too old anyway. I’d love to be playing on the Senior PGA Tour but that’s a different story altogether. I never had the motivation to dedicate myself to that excellence, to know that you have to be at the golf course 5, 6, 7 hours a day hitting ball after ball to be able to build that muscle memory to make yourself better, and I’m okay with that. I’m happy with the golf game that I am. I’m happy with where I am, but you always want to get a little bit better. Let’s talk about connecting motivation performance. How do we do that? As the average person, how do we sit there and say, “I want to be better and perform at a higher level,” either with business or sport? How do we get there?
I do work with individuals that are not performing at their highest level or not in those calibers of Fortune 500 companies or on the PGA Tour. It’s an interesting question about what is motivation. Most people look at motivation as an emotional process that’s going to guide you. The problem with motivation is it’s a construct than a process that if you’re not achieving, people will say, “You’re not motivated.” That’s an interesting concept. There are a lot of reasons why people aren’t achieving. It could be something like anxiety, which can be an inherent predisposition or the fear of risk-taking. It doesn’t mean that they’re not motivated. The problem with the concept of motivation is it looks at one factor in the complex that’s multifaceted. The one that we’re going to talk about is more of a cognitive process. I’m sure you’ve had the experience where you’ve read a paragraph and you don’t remember what you’ve read. If I said to you, “Ben, this is a new paragraph. I want you to find the two most important points.” Would you read that differently?
What we did was get you to intend on reading it. You might describe it as motivation. You could have done that before. When you’re not motivated when you started reading, I don’t know that you would have said that. I don’t even know that you would have been aware, “I’m reading the book. I believe I’m ready to get this into my mind,” but the intention didn’t direct your attention to finally execute the process that you’re skilled at in terms of gathering information, analyzing it, and placing it into long-term memory. I try to stay away from motivation as a process and look more at what the intentions are. When you look at high-performing individuals, they’re intending to fill in the blank, complete an assignment, and get better. It might be a simple example of that. When we look at what they’re doing, they’ve set up a series of goals because the intention is driving their attention and that’s how we move into higher-level performance. It’s a simple explanation.
To understand this correctly, your motivation could be, “I want to do this because of this. I want to be a better golfer.” I’m going to practice hard, but the intention is the detail that I take in the individual swings, and looking at the muscle mechanics, and taking a look at myself on tape over and over again, and doing the work that it takes to be able to be better. I may be motivated because here’s my goal. Unless I do that with intentive actions, I’m never going to get better.
That’s exactly it. I always use what I describe as the three Ds, Deeply Dedicated to being Deliberate. What are we talking about being deliberate about? In the example of reading a paragraph and not remembering it, you weren’t deliberate or deeply dedicated. You may have thought that you were, but that might not have even been in your awareness. Part of my work is to teach people what they don’t know. How do you know what you don’t know? It’s either you learn it or you discover it. In my process of working with individuals, I help them find ways to gather the knowledge and even more importantly, to discover what’s essential. In this example where you might be practicing your golf swing, but if you’re not intending on focusing on specific either micro-movements, breathing, concentration or intentional shifting, there’s a whole bunch of things you have to do. It’s not enough to say “I’m motivated to do it” if you didn’t know what you were doing. In the example of reading the paragraph and not understanding it and remembering it, it was a simple switch of your attention by using your intention.
Most people talk about motivation. They talk about it and say, “I’m going to do this because I want to do this.” A lot of people fail. A lot of people do it by sheer will. A lot of people succeed by sheer will because they’re overly motivated. Probably they do the intentive steps along the way to make that happen. Many people say, “I want the end goal in mind.” They don’t worry about the individual steps and how they’re going to get there.
The company that wants to be the $20 million company in a year, “Let’s break that down into how much per month, how much per day, how much per salesperson. What are the costs that we need to be able to reduce? What are the things that we need to accentuate? What do we need to spend our money on marketing and budgets?” They don’t look at the individual things that they need to do to have that success. They just say, “I want to be a $20 million company.” How do we make that mindset shift for people? How do we enable people to understand that being motivated is a good thing, but it doesn’t necessarily allow you to achieve the performance or the end goal that you’re looking for?
There’s been a lot of missed instruction about the use of goals because what most people do is focus on the outcome goal. The problem with the outcome goal is it doesn’t teach you the processes to get there. All the research is saying the same thing, if you’re focused on the outcome goal, you can’t be in the moment. You become anxious because the outcome has not taken place yet. The only time you can feel comfortable and reduce anxiety is when you achieve the goal. The problem is once that starts to take place, you upset your brain chemistry. When that occurs and you become anxious because you’re not at the end goal yet, then we have cognitive processes that affect decision making analysis, decision making speed, and the ability to organize data. For athletes, it tenses muscles that should be relaxed. In the golf swing, when you’re taking the club back, you relax some muscles and tense the others. On the follow-through, you do the opposite.
You do what I do and shank it off into the woods.
If you shank it off into the woods, you may become anxious because you were telling yourself, “Don’t hit the ball in the woods.” You’re looking at the outcome versus what you have to do. In being deeply dedicated to being delivered, I would have you focus on one specific aspect. Maybe we’ll take a look at your wrist, if there’s a bow in it, we’re making it flat or where your hips are at execution. We focus on one specific thing, drive your attention because the intent is to focus on one thing, and then performance increases.
It’s the same thing in business. There’s an outcome goal. We need to set up performance goals for these revenues. The one that’s getting missed here is the process. What do you have to do, moment to moment, day to day to get those things taken care of? When we now drive our attention to what we’re intending on doing each day, it will modify the responses dramatically. You can chart the progress by looking at performance goals and seeing the changes. How much time you’re on task? What would you evaluate in terms of the amount of focus and effort on a scale of 1 to 10? We have specific techniques that apply in business as well as they do in sport.
Let’s focus on business because a lot of the people reading this are leaders and future leaders within organizations. They’re sitting there going, “We want to reach these goals. This is where we want to be. The company is a $10 million company and we want to be a $20 million company.” That is a pie in the sky. The question is, how? How are you going to get there? What are the things that you’re doing now that are keeping you from being there? What are the steps you need to take along the way? There’s another factor that needs to be dealt with and that’s the psychology of change within an organization. Not only do you have to have intentional steps, but you need to be able to manage that change amongst the people and manage the fear of that change amongst the people. How do you help people get out of their way and realize that these intentional steps are going to help them get there and alleviate their fear of change?
I am a performance psychologist. I’m not an organizational psychologist or an industrial psychologist. What I do in organizations is assess individuals to find out what factors are significant and important in having this change take place. For example, people that are high risk-taking or low risk-taking are going to make that change differently. People that are anxious versus less anxious people. People have certain values change or the value of fear. We have to look at all those different factors. We go into an organization. We evaluate several different spheres of the individuals functioning and in the team. We then show the leadership about things that they need to do. Also, we show what happens with the subordinates and the interaction that is taking place between the leadership and the subordinates and the team. It’s a complex process but it’s formulaic and it’s data-driven.
You ran me through your psychological process and I loved it. As I said before, I’ve done the Myers Briggs, DISC, and StrengthsFinder. The problem is you get pigeonholed. You get put into a box, “You are color blue. You are this or you’re that.” People start referring to you in the thing. Some of your characteristics might be true and a lot of your characteristics are not because we’re individual human beings. I want you to talk about how you help leaders understand the individual motivations of their teammates, whether it be other leaders within the organization or people that they lead to be able to sit there and say, “This is how we need to work with this person based on what their psychological needs are.”
Even companies that are asking us to come in are open-minded to see what we’re doing. That’s the first place. Change isn’t going to take place automatically. I look at the five factors of change. Maturation is an important piece. You can’t ride a bike when you’re two days old. Maturation is supporting. Coercion, we’re not going to use that for change. We’re not going to use crisis. Those first three are not the ones that we’re looking at. The next two are the ones that I look at for leadership and teams. It’s how uncomfortable are people? If they’re too comfortable, they won’t change. If they’re too uncomfortable, they won’t change. It’s going in and assessing the levels of comfort. What’s going on within the individual and the culture? The last of the five components is the act of the will. You might describe this as motivation, “I’ve decided that this is what I’m going to do.”
Discomfort might be a motivating factor. Those things as we’ve already suggested are not the factors that produce the change. We go in after we’ve done the analysis and then look at the individuals. We find individuals who might be creative but anxious, people that are creative, anxious, impulsive and take risky decision making. We start to analyze all of those pieces and then we develop a playbook for the leader to work with their mentor, staff or team. Sometimes we’ll go in and do that. It’s a step-by-step process of understanding each individual.
As you experienced, you couldn’t just get a report from me. I could not give you the report until I debriefed you myself. One of the benefits of the assessment tools that we use is we’re not just sending reports out. It’s a detailed debriefing individually. We’re not going to put people into categories of colors, letters or numbers. We’re going to demonstrate to them how they make the decision. This is what we would describe as someone being empathic. Empathy is seen as let’s see how Ben’s feeling today. That’s nice but let’s see how Ben makes decisions. Let’s see how the team makes decisions. When you start showing that you understand the decision-making of the individuals within your team, all of a sudden, bonding takes place because belonging is contingent on being understood. When you look at the whole process here, we’re diagnosing, giving prescriptions and specific tools. We’re aiding in the culture by allowing people to bond with one another because they’re feeling understood. It changes the dynamics of the team dramatically.
I tell people all the time, “People need to be listened to, understood and valued.” If you can do that, it’s amazing what happens to corporate culture and organizations when people are listened to, understood and valued. When we’re looking at the individual assessment itself, it’s interesting because it comes down to a series of numbers. It wasn’t that I was a 42. It’s I was a 42, which is a range between this and this. It wasn’t one number. It’s how does this number relate to this number and this number? It was taking a whole bunch of different factors and be able to look at it. You were also able to sit there and say, “Ben, you’re blocking. Because you’ve answered this and this in these five different categories, this particular number makes no sense whatsoever.”
That enabled you and me to have some interesting conversations about what did that mean. What did that mean about how I was feeling? What were my motivations? What were my intentions? What were my goals? That’s interesting because when you get these standardized reports, it paints people into a corner and it says, “You are like this.” What it’s saying is you’re like the ten million other people that took the report and are somewhere in this quadrant, instead of looking at people individually. My question to you was, how do you sit there and help leaders understand how this particular number set leads to the intentions of an individual?
I remember some of your scores. One of the things that came clear to me was that you’re a self-reliant individual, grid-based, and what we would describe as self-efficacy. I don’t call this confidence because that’s a poor judgment of performance. We could have that discussion for hours. What I was able to help you see about yourself is that I knew that you were self-reliant but you don’t like to tell people that. You’re not a braggart. When we started looking at the elements, we’re clear about your high-level performance and how you hold yourself to a high standard but you wouldn’t tell anyone. It wouldn’t show up on a test. It may appear as confidence but that’s not important. What’s important is the way in which you relate to people is you don’t want to be known as a confident person. Confidence is not the issue. You don’t have to brag about yourself. One of the things we’re able to do is to give you that information.
Imagine now going into a corporation and you find someone who is highly introverted. This person might not be as interactive or as social, a person who doesn’t share very much. I’ll say the scores are showing me. It’s not on every introvert. He’s a high introvert, which means that he’s self-reliant but he might be a high extrovert, which means he’s an interactive person. Other people might not be as interactive. Some people are going to assume that if they’re not interactive, they don’t like people.
Part of what we have to do is demyth the perspectives of what people are looking at as factors that are influencing performance when they’re not. We go in because as a science-minded, we’re a data-driven boutique company and we can show you the data for each individual. As we do that, the leader is going to understand what that person’s intention is. Trying to get someone to talk about themselves who does not need to do that won’t make them more social. You can understand what might happen if a leader thinks that because they’re introverted, they need to become more socially part of the team. They don’t need that to be part of the team. Those are the things that will help this whole process of understanding. As you said before, that’s the one thing that has to take place.Drive your attention because the intent is to focus on one thing and performance increases. Click To Tweet
It’s not just looking at an individual in isolation. It’s understanding how does that individual with all their wants, needs, desires, insecurities or whatever relates to the other members of the team either as a leader leading that team or as a team member being part of that team. It’s enabling leaders to understand how to get the best out of those individual people based on their psychological makeup. Am I understanding that correctly?
That’s correct. What you went through was a process of looking at how you made decisions. The things that we didn’t look at are what are the cognitive processes or the value systems? When you put together the trifecta of what we’re using here, we can tell you which individuals use tactics versus strategies. We can tell you which individuals have a great sense of belonging and which people have a fear of belonging or fear of being rejected. Wouldn’t that be an interesting thing to know about team members? More importantly, we can tell you what your values are and we also can tell you which values you would reject.
When we go in and do the 360s, we construct our questions with 360s. We use an assessment to help us understand which people might be biased. What do we do in the evaluation? Let’s say someone doesn’t appreciate your altruism. How would you think that they might react in evaluating you on your leadership if you were generous towards others? You can see that there’s a bias that might come as a result of the questions that are asked. Now we understand that there’s a valuing system that might bias that. That’s all the information that we’re going to provide for leadership, individuals and how the team functions. We then get the culture for that team.
Not only are you getting the intentions of these people but you’re also being able to look at the biases that could lead to either somebody being either promoted or not promoted, given more responsibility or not given more responsibility, how they’re viewed within the team group or within the larger organization itself. Being able to understand those biases from an organizational point of view allows you probably to make better hires. How would you take that information from a macro point of view within the company and be able to allow people to understand what the biases are and be able to overcome those biases? Those biases exist. It’s getting people to understand and then transcend them.
We go in and we evaluate the high performers. We now have a system where we’re doing individual norms for that company. We have them for industries, but we can go in and individually evaluate that for the company. As we’re gathering that, we’re also gathering the value system process, we could then see whether or not their bias even to people that they might be hiring. As a result of that greater understanding, here’s the process that we see with the high-level performers in this company or this department. If they’re looking to hire someone, are they all going to be the same? We might need some diversity. We look at that and we say, “Maybe we need to help the leadership find a more effective way of being open-minded to other people?” We go into the company and say, “If this individual has difficulty in delegating, we need to bring someone in who’s high in the delegation.”
We can look at those processes over and understand that the person who’s not delegating felt that they were giving too much work to someone else versus, “I want to control everything.” They may have been based upon a valuing system that they’re putting more stress on somebody else. There’s more than one way of explaining how come a person is doing what they’re doing. Wouldn’t that be essential in understanding them, not only for evaluations but for succession planning of knowing how come that person is not performing at that level? There may have been a misinterpretation of the system that may have been driving it, which may have been value-based and not cognitively based.
When you’re dealing with somebody who is a driver, somebody who is very A-type, self-assured, wants things their way all the time continually, and has a strong bias about what is right and what is wrong, how do you use the testing in the information that you’re doing to be able to help them, first of all, see their shortcomings or their biases, and be able to use that information to enable them to be a better leader?
Some people aren’t going to be open-minded. I can tell before I’ve walked into the door whether or not this is going to be an easy one or not an easy one. Trying to highlight with them things like, “Your test is explaining to me that you don’t like to talk about this portion of your functioning.” A lot of people will say, “You’re right.” They’ll say you have high control needs or perhaps your rigid thinking. You hold yourself to a high standard so you hold everybody to high standards as well.
Now that we’ve got them to say that what we’ve been able to identify with them is true. If that’s true, what does it mean if you’re with people that perform on another level? Individuals who are looking to achieve at a higher level are open-minded to understanding that this is the case. If we run into a situation where the person is close-minded, I would say, “Good luck,” depending upon where they are in the hierarchy of leadership.
I worked with a company and they had an individual that was hired before I came to connect with them. I explained that within the next two years, he’s probably going to cause some difficulties so be prepared. Within a shorter period of time, he’s no longer with the company. We’re able to identify that and have the company become aware that they needed to be prepared about how to handle him, how to handle the exit as well, and how to get people into the next spot, and not making the same mistake in choosing someone with processes like that.
There are challenging employees at all levels, from CEOs all the way down, that has a rigid sense of thinking, an overinflated sense of self, and all these different factors. Either they can be motivated, retrained, and be able to see how their particular actions are not healthy for the organization or not. If you are dealing with a person that has those character traits and is not willing to change and they’re causing grief within their particular structure line, it’s letting senior management know about this in a way that the situation can be managed around it. Either manage them up or manage them out in a humane way.
My question to you is about diversity, inclusion and dealing with human resources. In the end, we’re dealing with people. How do you help the human resources who are normally not given the seat at the table that they deserve at the board and the tools that they need to be able to make the justification of why diversity and inclusion are important? How do you bring this thing forward within a company-wide rollout for modifying hiring processes?
That’s a very complicated question because we are talking about values issues here. One of the first things I would do is since they are consulting with me, I would go through this values program that we use and help them understand that they are willing to talk about what they’re rejecting by taking the test. We can tell whether or not there’s a voracity when they’re taking the test. This is a system. It’s systemic within the individual because values are a system. The values are based upon beliefs and beliefs predict behaviors. Beliefs don’t tell us the truth. People go to war, die and kill other people based upon what they believe, which turned out to be values. There does seem to be a value bias towards people X, Y and Z. It’s not even so much about cultural diversity. It’s about the valuing system of the way in which they interact with people. Part of the confusion about the whole diversity issue may be that there’s a value that doesn’t have to do with cultural diversity. That may have to do with the diversity of thinking.
That’s the crux of it. It’s how people think. If we can get people to understand why they think the way they do, then we can have a conversation about changing the way that people think. Unless we understand the motivations of the individuals, “Where did they come from? What brought this to the table? What are the factors that make them think this way?” It’s difficult to change anybody’s opinion because you don’t have a common language to have the conversation. My assumption is that the work that you do enables that to happen in a healthy way.
We try to use a process of critical thinking and metacognition, thinking about your thinking. Someone will say, “I’ve made a decision.” “How did you get there?” “No, I don’t.” “How did you get there?” Sometimes it’s intuition. That’s a complicated issue. When we start looking at how a person thinks, we can show them that there are missing links to the process. Some individuals use a heuristic thinking process, “It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s a duck.” That’s effective in Think, Fast and Slow, Kahneman’s work. Sometimes we need to think slow. If an individual has a system that they believe, it doesn’t mean that it’s true, we then have to show them that it might not be founded in truth. It may be founded in a repetition of the process that they’ve come to rely on in spite of the fact that it’s not even effective. We then start looking at critical thinking, metacognition and give them skills about how to think differently.
All this has been fascinating. We could talk forever. You and I could sit down and have a conversation that lasted for hours. I want to thank you so much for at least opening our eyes to a different way of thinking. I love the fact that it’s about intuition and intention rather than ￼motivation. I have one last question I want to ask you before I let you go. When you leave a meeting and you get in your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?
Innovation and I’m innovative.
You most certainly are. Innovation allows us to think differently, grow and expand. We all need that. Dr. Nick, thank you for being such an amazing guest. Thank you for all your insights. Thanks for taking the time.
Ben, it’s been a pleasure. I look forward to speaking with you in the future. Thank you very much.
It’s my pleasure.
- Dr. Nick Molinaro
- Think, Fast and Slow
- Performance In Mind
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- Twitter – Performance in Mind
About Nick Molinaro, Ed D.
Dr. Nick Molinaro is a Licenses Psychologist with specialties in Performance and Sport Psychology. He is well known for his work with professional golfers having made numerous appearances on The Golf Channel, Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio, FOX 5 Sports, etc. His experiences in other sports includes National Champions in Lacrosse, USA Women’s Slope Style and Big Air Team, Olympic Trials, USA Men Olympic Track and Field, MLB, etc. In the corporate world he consults with Fortune 500 Companies if Finance, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, Professional Services, etc providing talent identification, acquisition, succession planning, etc. You can learn more about his work at Performanceinmind.com
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