Archive for 2010/01/22

Getting inspired and feeling the flow

I’ve just gotten home from a really inspiring seminar, held by MIL Institute here in Stockholm. The title was I want to!

Anders Colstrup gives classes in athletics psychology, coaches athletes, mainly professional golf players but are now also coaching business leaders. I can understand if he’s successful. I was hopeful going to the seminar but it was better than I could ever have imagined. I guess I’m not the best of mothers writing this blog post fresh out of taking him from daycare, but I need to summarize. So here goes.

If we look at motivation factors, they can be internal or external, they can be positive or negative:


The idea behind Colstrup’s coaching is creating the bottom left corner – how to build internal positive motivation.

Colstrup asked us to spend a couple of minutes discussing what motivates us and then we could share our views. Besides listening to the different reflections, it was interesting (as Colstrup pointed out), that you get motivated by talking about motivation. And this is also why Colstrup works so much with the constant talking of the motivation factors – the actual talking builds motivation.

Colstrup then discussed the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and you decide to reach a goal. Inspiration is when an idea get hold of you, and when the idea in itself is guiding you. Feeling inspired is a reward in itself for those who share that feeling.

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly talks about flow and has also written a book on the subject:

It was a bit funny when he mentioned that book since it has been on my Want To Read List for a while. Mihaly (I’m going to use his Christian name here for some reason) describes flow as feel that your capability is enough and that you can focus on the exact now to reach where you’re going. You know exactly what your next step is and can focus on that while at the same time reaching your goal. Colstrup mentioned successful climbers as excellent examples of this but many of us has felt The Flow.

But the flow is not only about having the capability. There must be a challenge. There must be an objective and you need to balance that:


Colstrup then asked us to think about what we feel when we work. Again, he showed a matrix:


The matrix requires some explanation. The “positive” and “negative” is more how likely you are to be working for common objectives. People can of course be negative if they believe the objectives or the road is “wrong” but some are more rooted in the negative tree and would probably be negative independent of the current objectives.

Colstrup said that his experienced gave the following numbers in many organizations:

10% are low performers

70% are average performers

20% are high performers

The lower 10% are mostly on the Negative row of the matrix. Depending on the culture, managers tend to focus on different groups in the matrix. In Sweden, many managers spend too much time on the negative crowd, but what message are you then sending? That you get more attention if you’re negative? A good manager spends time trying to help those who are positive. The active ones might need some cooling down and the passive might need some spice. Focus your attention on the wanted behavior!

So, what to do about the negative? Well, what you can do? Try to figure out why they act as they do. In too many cases the basis for a negative attitude is the leader himself.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my notes with some findings concerning the importance of goals and how to form them.

Categories: Leadership