[May 22, 2019] I once knew a highly-motivated Army Lieutenant who was about as aggressive as an officer can be without crossing the line between motivated and crazy. She had a saying, “I’ll give them my triple seven.” She meant to motivate soldiers that she would use her size 7 boot, stick it 7-inches up their butt, and make them jump 7 feet in the air (figuratively).
She was small, but she was mighty. I always enjoyed being around this officer to observe her at work. Somehow, she could motivate just about anybody. Some people, like her, seem to have an innate ability to get others to do things they would not normally do. I call this leadership, and she had it in spades.
One day, after a long and difficult military field exercise, I told her that you can’t force someone to be better. She disagreed with me, of course. Her thinking was that when she ran out of carrots, the stick was always available. Being a really smart lady, she knew enough that the stick could only be applied as punishment narrowly.1
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing; that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar
The idea that leaders should be adept at continuously motivating others is a given, and the concept studied thoroughly. The carrot and stick approach to motivation is an older theory by Jeremy Bentham.2 In my opinion, the theory works well if applied intelligently and daily, but a leader must be careful in its use.
Years later, I would hear another officer in the young, female Lieutenant’s old unit say he was going to give a “triple 7” to an unmotivated soldier. I just laughed and remembered how it was possible that you can motivate people using good techniques, but you still can’t force someone to be better.
- She was schooled in the proper use of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and was careful never to allow double standards to creep into her work.