We all know motivation when we feel it, but what is it made up of? Motivation is partly due to enthusiasm for something, like achieving a long-held goal. It’s also due to having a reason to do something, whether that’s to provide well for a family, make the community better, or pursue a high-powered career track. Many business leaders and executives enlist in the services of an executive coach, and one reason why is to develop the motivation they need to reach their and their organization’s goals. But it’s essential that executives not put the burden of “providing” motivation onto their coach. Sure, external factors can be motivating, but the only motivation that lasts through thick and thin comes from inside a person.

Both Carrots and Sticks Are Short-Term Tools

Did you play sports or participate in performing arts as a child? If so, you may have had different types of coaches along the way. Some may have wielded intimidation in an attempt to get results, while others may have held out the possibility of rewards, say, a pizza party after winning an important game, to motivate kids.

While both the metaphorical carrot and stick can be useful, they do not make up the entirety of successful coaching. Why? Because intimidation and rewards are both external motivators, and for most people, external motivation isn’t enough to inspire the drive and passion necessary to achieve true, lasting excellence.

Self-Motivation Is Lasting

If you were lucky enough playing sports or performing on stage to have a coach who inspired you to want to achieve important goals, you probably already know that the only kind of motivation that is truly long-lasting is that which comes from within. You may not develop this internal drive when you first pursue an interest, but to succeed with an important interest, you will develop it at some point, and rely on it as just as much a part of your makeup as your throwing arm or your voice.

That’s why the most exceptional executive coaches are the ones who inspire self-motivation, by getting to know you and getting to know what makes you passionate and committed. While there is nothing wrong with being externally motivated sometimes, like when you know you’ll receive a bonus for exceeding last quarter’s numbers, external motivation is ultimately insufficient.

External motivation can only accomplish so much.

What an Outstanding Executive Coach Does

The way a successful executive coach operates is the key to inspiring and fostering self-motivation in coaching clients. One way great coaches do this is by building a relationship with clients based on trust and on truly getting to know what drives a person. Excellent coaches also understand the uses and benefits of assessments, at the beginning of the coaching relationship, and at its conclusion.

Outstanding coaches are willing to challenge your assumptions and help you recognize when your goals are your own, and when they have been imposed or accepted from outside yourself. They know how to support and encourage you, and are willing to present you with harsh truths when necessary. And they want to measure success and progress toward goals not only so you can see how you have changed, but so they can measure their own effectiveness as coaches.

The Best Coaches Want Your Feedback

One essential element of the coach-client relationship is feedback. A coach that doesn’t listen to what the client has to say isn’t a very good coach. Feedback is essential for developing and articulating goals, and for building a strong relationship based on trust. A great coach is constantly aware of visual and verbal feedback given by a client, whether it’s specifically designated as feedback, or is just part of a typical coaching session.

If an executive coach doesn’t help clients develop motivation from within, they’re not a very good coach. Understanding motivation and understanding what you are genuinely passionate about is something that can be assisted by a positive coaching relationship. In fact, if motivation and passion aren’t present, all the coaching in the world won’t help in the long term.

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