How to become successful even when you think you can’t be

This is an excerpt from You Can Win: A Step-by-Step Tool for Top Achievers by Shiv Khera

When people start a job, they often move through stages of motivation and competence.

  1. Motivated Ineffective

When is an employee most motivated in the cycle of employment? When he joins an organization. Why?

Because he wants to prove that by hiring him, the employer made the right decision. He is motivated but ineffective. Why? Because he does not know what to do.

This is the stage when the employee is most open­ minded, receptive and easy to mold to the culture of the organization. Training and orientation become imperative.

Unprofessional organizations either have none or very poor orientation programs. The first day at the job, the supervisor shows the new employee his place of work and tells him what to do and leaves. He teaches all the bad along with the good that he is doing. The new employee quickly learns all the mistakes the supervisor is making because that is what he has been taught. By not having a good induction/orientation program, the organization loses the one time opportunity to mold the individual to be effective in a positive manner.

Professional organizations on the other hand, take special care to induct people into their organizations. They explain to them, among other things, the following:

  • Their values and vision

  • Expectations of each other
  • Parameters and guidelines
  • The resources
  • The hierarchy

  • Do’s and don’ts

  • What is acceptable and what is not

How can one expect performance unless expectations are made clear up front? If induction and orientation are done well, many potential problems would not surface at all.

  1. Motivated Effective

This is the stage when the employee has learned what to do and does it with drive and energy. He has learned the trade and it reflects in his performance. Then he moves on to the next stage.

  1. Demotivated Effective

After some time the motivation level starts going down and the employee learns the tricks of the trade. This is the stage when the employee is not really motivated but continues doing just enough so that the employer has no reason to fire him.

This stage is detrimental to growth—most people in organizations fall into this third stage. His performance is marginal. He makes fun of the good performers. He is not receptive to new ideas and resists change.

Our objective is to bring him back to the second stage of being motivated effective through some good training and/or incentive programs. An employee ought not to stay in the third stage too long. Why? Because they’re insiders. They start sabotaging the company. It is not uncommon that many organizations get destroyed because of sabotage from inside rather than competition from outside. They start spreading the negativity all around and demoralizing others. From here, either they are brought back to the second stage, which is being motivated and effective or they automatically 
move into the fourth stage, which is demotivated and ineffective.

  1. Demotivated Ineffective

At this stage, the employer does not have much choice but to fire the employee, which may be the most appropriate thing to do anyway.

Remember employers want the same thing as employees do. They want to succeed and improve business and if employees help in this objective, then they make themselves valuable and grow.


Why do people get demotivated?
 Two major reasons: Negative thinking or negative environment. Negative thinking could relate to the individual whereas a negative environment can be further divided into two: either physical or emotional. Example: physical could be — phone does not work, computers don’t work, nothing works, how do I work? Emotional could be people-related matters. Some of the other demotivating factors are:

  • Lack of training 

  • Unfair / Negative / Public criticism 

  • Rewarding the non-performers (which 
can be demotivating for the performers) 

  • Failure or fear of failure 

  • Playing favorites /nepotism 

  • Success (which leads to complacence) 

  • Lack of measurable objectives 

  • Lack of appreciation or feeling of belonging 

  • Too much or too little work
  • Low self-esteem

  • Lack of priorities

  • Negative self-talk
  • Hostile environment

  • Office politics / Unfair treatment

  • Poor standards / lack of quality consciousness

  • Too much change too fast

  • Responsibility without authority

  • Too much job security / insecurity

  • Hypocritical or incompetent supervisor

  • Lack of clarity of roles and goals

  • Lack of challenge or a feeling of being underutilized

The above is only a partial list. There are some factors which are such that, not having them, could be demotivating but having them may not necessarily be motivating. Example, one of my clients did not have a cafeteria at his facility. Everybody kept complaining and felt demotivated because of that reason. My client organized to put one in place to overcome the reason for demotivation. Interestingly, the motivation or demotivation level didn’t change. What does it show? Not having was demotivating, but having, didn’t motivate the people either.

The repetitive nature of work is demotivating.

It is a common belief that the repetitive nature of work is demotivating. Is it really so? I don’t think so. What brings demotivation is, not the repetitive nature of work but 1) feeling of being underutilized; and 2) lack of challenge. Example, a mother cooks meals for her family for 50­60 years and is still motivated to cook and feed the family with the same enthusiasm. Why? Because she never feels underutilized, and 2) she always wants to outperform herself and make a more delicious meal for her family. In fact every time she cooks, she is motivated.

A person who has no aspiration and is contented with status quo may not really be a motivated person.

Such satisfaction may lead to complacence. Motivation brings excitement and excitement does not come unless there is commitment.

Whenever we think of motivation, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Give them money. They will get motivated. At least for some time they will get motivated. But, so long as you have demotivating factors present in your organization, you can give all the money you want, and they will take it too. They’ll never refuse your money but even after taking your money, they will still be demotivated. Hence, many a times, the greatest motivator is to remove the demotivating factors.


What we really want to accomplish is self­-motivation. When people do things for their own reasons and not yours, that becomes their lasting motivation.

Remember the greatest motivator is belief. We have to inculcate in ourselves the belief that we are responsible for our actions and behavior. When people accept responsibility, everything improves: quality, productivity, relationships and teamwork.

A few steps to inspire others to motivate themselves are:

  • Give recognition
  • Give respect

  • Make work interesting
  • Be a good listener
  • Encourage goal setting
  • Provide training growth 

  • Throw a challenge 

  • Help, but don’t do for others what they should do 
for themselves 

People do things for their own reasons, not yours. This is illustrated by a story about Ralph Waldo Emerson. He and his son were once struggling to get a calf into the barn. Both father and son were exhausted, pulling and pushing. A little girl was passing by. She put her little finger into the calf’s mouth, allowing it to suck, and the calf lovingly followed her to the barn.