For those that don’t know, before I started tutoring full time I had a 15 year career in sales and leading sales teams. While I was a top 10 producer at every company that I sold for, I personally think I was a better leader than producer. The reason I bring this up is there was one thing I did differently than most leaders, that I can directly account to the success my teams had. The key was figuring out what motivated each member of my team and directly relating the work to whatever the motivating factor was for that individual team member. Some were motivated by money, that’s easy… Produce more and you’ll make more money! What do you do when someone isn’t motivated by money or what is “normal”?
I had a team member who went through a really tough time with their family. Charleston is very prone to flooding and unfortunately this team member’s house saw some major damage after a storm. I knew how much this weighed on him, and putting “everything” into his wife’s hands (in addition to her taking care of two kids under the age of 5!) wasn’t an option. So, we worked together to get some extra time off, found him some housing while repairs were being done so that his family didn’t have to live out of a hotel, and assured him that taking care of his family was more important than any job. While things started to calm down and he was able to get back into the office on a more regular basis, he was still having to leave early due to family constraints. It was causing some talk around the office and some resentment from other team members, and while I was incredibly empathetic to his situation, we were getting close to a breakpoint. So, what was I supposed to do? Should I have drawn a hard line in the sand and said “I’m sorry for everything you’ve gone through, but if you can’t be in the office then it might be time for us to go our separate ways”? Should I have gone to my bosses and pleaded for more time and leniency due to special circumstances? When I weighed those two options, it felt like a lose lose situation. I decided to go a different route. Knowing that providing for his family was what really motivated this young man, I took the route of showing him how if he was able to get back into the swing of things, his production would actually help his family more than the time off he was taking. It was one of the most difficult conversations I ever had as a leader. At the end of our conversation he looked me dead in the eyes and said “Thank you, I really needed this!” and came out and set company records over the next 6 months.
The reason I tell this story is that there is a direct correlation to working with students to improve their grades or their SAT scores. It is important to realize that each student has different motivations and it is crucial to relate the work that you are doing to the student reaching that goal. It is also important to realize that every student SHOULD have different goals. Not everyone can score 100 on every test or a perfect 1600 on the SAT. Pushing some to that standard will result in amazing output. Others will completely shut down and doubt their ability. My goal with every student and family that I work with is to help them reach their goals. I’m reminded of an amazing TED talk by Simon Sinek, “Start with Why” (if you’ve never watched this, stop reading right now and watch it!). Understanding someone’s internal WHY will always yield better results than assuming that their why is the same as yours! Here is a small sample of some of the “WHY’s” I’ve been able to uncover for some of my clients...
-Wanting to go to nursing school
-Applying to a private school that has high standards for admittance
-Becoming a pilot but only being able to do that if the student has at least a B average
-Student Athletes that need a certain GPA or SAT score to maintain eligibility
-Putting in the hard work but not seeing the results that the work should yield
-Filling in gaps from prior classes to build a foundation for future school work
-Increasing SAT scores to increase chances of acceptance to their “Dream” school
Again, this is just a small sample of students I’ve worked with over the past 6 months. But take a good look at this list. If I tried to go the route of getting into college for a student that wants to be a pilot, what would the results be? Not great! What about the athlete that isn’t really thinking about what comes after playing ball? Should I push them to drop their dream/passion and be the bearer of bad news that they are not going to play professionally? No, my job is to find out what THEIR big dreams are and show them how succeeding in math or the SAT will help them to reach THEIR goal. Not mine. Not their parents. I’ve found this more of a challenge for the parents than for their children. Parents many times have this dream or route that they feel like their kids should take. Is it wrong to want the best for your kids? Absolutely not, but I believe that now more than ever, it is imperative to ask questions and have the conversations to understand that we are in a different world than when the majority of us were our children’s ages. When I was the same age as these students, there wasn’t much choice. Graduate from high school, go to college, get a job. While there are many that are still on this path, it is critical to understand that not EVERY kid should or will follow this path. Our job is to uncover that inner passion. The thing that makes these young people jump out of bed each morning excited about THEIR goal! Uncovering this as a tutor and parent allows us to drive performance and help them achieve, compared to placing our wants/desires on them will only give us momentary/small increases in performance that isn’t sustainable for most.
To wrap this up, I wanted to share a video that I recently watched that really hit home to me. It talks about the pressure that families feel in relation to testing and achievement. I believe we are on the precipice of a paradigm shift where we stop looking at the “prestige” of a certain college or profession and realize that as the world changes, so must we in regards to the future we are trying to provide to young people. One of the most inspiring quotes that I’ve heard recently is from Gary Vaynerchuk and he says that “Happiness is the new Rich” and I feel it embodies the shift we are seeing. So, my challenge to those of you that are still reading this is to take a deep look inside yourself. Are you trying to motivate using what motivates you, or by striving to provide true happiness and assistance to help the young people in your lives to reach THEIR goals?