Breakdown: How to be a Good Motivator – Highlights from “Bringing Out the Best in People” (1985) Ch. 12-14

If you are like me, you may never get a chance to read all the books you would like to. There is just not enough time in a single lifetime to absorb it all. That is why I wanted to breakdown “Bringing Out the Best in People” (1985) by Alan Loy McGinnis to share the key takeaways that I got out of it.

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“Bringing Out the Best in People” (1985) is a guide to be a good motivator. It provides the reader with 12 principles to bring out the best in people through motivation. The 12 principles are as follows:

  1. Expect the best from people you lead
  2. Make a thorough study of the other person’s needs
  3. Establish high standards for excellence
  4. Create an environment where failure is not fatal
  5. If they are going anywhere near where you want to go, climb on other people’s bandwagons
  6. Employ models to encourage success
  7. Recognize and applaud achievement
  8. Employ a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement
  9. Appeal sparingly to the competitive urge
  10. Place a premium on collaboration
  11. Build into the group an allowance for storms
  12. Take steps to keep your own motivation

In this post, I will break down chapters 12-14. These chapters capture principles 11 and 12 to bring the best out of people. If you like it, please check out my previous post capturing chapters 1-11.

Chapter 12: How to deal with an abrasive troublemaker

This chapter highlights principle #11, build into the group an allowance for storms. Right off the bat, the term “troublemaker” should be avoided all together because it attacks another person’s character rather than addressing the problem – the behaviour. So in order to attack problems, rather than people, this chapter should be titled “How to deal with continual problematic behaviours”.

This chapter emphases how problematic behaviours can destroy team synergies and drain their enthusiasm. Unfortunately, too often we see these behaviours come from positions of authority such as supervisors, or managers. So as a leader who observes these behaviours, you need to act quickly. Your response should not be fire them first, then hire someone else later. If that is your philosophy, then you will be running from this problem your whole life. The best leaders will only replace an employee as a last-ditch effort after all other options have been exhausted. The cost of staff turnover financially, on morale, time and relationships is too high.

One option to manage problematic behaviours is to diffuse them through ventilation. Good leaders are prepared to absorb a heavy load of complaints. For your team to function smoothly, they need to vent all the junk out of their systems. You are the leader who needs to absorb it. So the point here is to build a corridor for others to steer their grievances through so that negativity does not infect the office. That corridor is your gentle, attentive ears. Don’t let the complaints bring down your enthusiasm – you are listening for a good cause – for the team.

For the continually observed problematic behaviours, here are seven pieces of advice to manage them:

  1. Allow some disruptive behaviour. Build into your team charter an acceptance of the storming phase, an allowance for temporary periods of insanity. We will all laugh about it later on.
  2. Uncover the underlying reasons for the behaviour. J.P. Morgan once said it bluntly, “There are two reasons why anyone does anything – the good reason, and the real reason.”
  3. Identify how harmful the problematic behaviour is. You may find out that the individual exhibiting the behaviour is loved and adored by his or her colleagues – for their honesty and bravery to state how they truly see things. Do not degrade him or her at the expense of your damaging your relationships with your team.
  4. Ask for help. This is straightforward, ask others for advice. Remember though, never attack the person – especially in front of others. Seek help about the problem. Maybe others have experience managing similar behaviours or have exhibited those behaviours themselves at some point.
  5.  Weigh the individual who is exhibiting problematic behaviour’s contribution to the team. It may be the case that their performance is incredible and outweighs the damage that they did. That does not mean that you should not address the behaviour, it just helps evaluate the situation.
  6. Appeal to the good side of the person exhibiting the behaviour. Remember, most of us have good intentions. Don’t assume the worst of the other person. You do not know their circumstances. If anything else, give them good intentions to live up to. Say, “I know you mean well, you are a good person. I noticed XY behaviours, that is not your usual self. I hope you are doing well. But if there is anything I could do to help out, even if it is just an ear to listen, I am here for you.”
  7. If the problematic behaviour is severely harmful, you may need to remove the person.

Chapter 13: The personality of the motivator

This chapter highlights principle #12, take steps to keep your own motivation high. This chapter is all about you as a motivator. It is difficult to be motivated by someone who is unmotivated themselves. McGinnis asserts that to lead people successfully, you need to understand what makes your team tick, and have a “spirit that spreads excitement and energy to those around you”. You cannot spread excitement and energy if you cannot take care of yourself. Don’t let anger, bitterness, resentment, exhaustion, or hatred dominate your soul. You need positivity to drive your motivation of others.

McGinnis provides five tips to keep yourself motivated to motivated others:

  1. Surround yourself with positive and successful people and minimize contact with those who exhaust you or bring you down.
  2. Be careful about what you let enter your mind. Any statistician or computer scientist will tell you: “garbage in – garbage out” or “your conclusions are only as good as the data you put in”.
  3. Take advantage of credible podcasts, audiobooks, and paper books. Or, as McGinnis put it, there is a “wealth of information on audio cassettes.”
  4. Go to conferences, seminars, lectures, or other networking events.
  5. Keep a journal. Record your leadership journey and reflect on them. Develop lessons learned and document your thoughts.

Chapter 14: Why Helping Others Can Become Life’s Greatest Joy

This chapter is supposed to inspire the reader to continue their efforts to motivate others. He notes the all-too-real experience we have, starting out on a mission to save the world – then end up just fighting to survive. Don’t let life bring you down. Remember to celebrate your wins – even small ones. Keep chipping away at your dreams and idealistic aspirations. Giving up now will mean you have wasted a lot of time for nothing. You may not see the change now, but big change is built upon an aggregate of small ones – keep making them.

Remember that motivating others is about seeing the best in them. Other people have potential that has yet to be acknowledged – and you are there to do that. It is very impactful for people. Try it. See if you can inspire someone today. Let them know that you genuinely believe in them and that you know they can and will do great things. You can change lives and inspire a better world because of it.


I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of Alan Loy McGinnis’ “Bringing Out the Best in People”. I loved this book. It challenged my behaviours and forced me to reflect on my personal experiences. I hope you got a lot out of it too. It was a pleasure for me to share these chapters with you and I look forward to next time.

If you enjoyed this read, please subscribe to my blog, give it a like or follow me on Twitter @interestpeaks. I found this content interesting. But I am more interested in what your thoughts, opinions or advice on motivation are. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or feedback, please share them in the comments section below. I would love to hear them.

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