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[Strategy] Chessboxing Motivation and Morale

Motivation is about individual effort and achievement.

It’s about having internal drive that gets you personally engaged with something (a situation, a person, an interest, or an idea) that animates you. Motivation can be driven from a place of positivity, or it can be driven from a place of negativity, but either way, it’s from inside of you.

Motivation to act can be sparked by other people, but much of the time, motivation has to be driven by what people think about themselves and their place in the world. A lot this is driven by where individuals believe that their control comes from. Some people believe that other people and situations control them. Some people believe that they make their own decisions and that other people and situations have little to no impact on them.

Morale is about team efforts and team achievement.

It’s about having multiple motivations working together and “clicking” with each other. Teams go through cycles of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Morale is about how all their motivations work together. This is where conflicts arise. This is where friction happens when one person’s locus of control (and personal focus) doesn’t match another person’s locus of control (and their personal focus) on the team.

Morale is something that exists—or it doesn’t. We use terms such as “cultural fit” or “alignment” to describe the pursuit of morale. We often focus so much on the tactics and hacks to shortcut the only true way to build morale: Building relationships.

But building relationships is not sexy. It’s not tactical, or strategic. Building relationships is about focusing on one-person at a time, discovering their deep motivations, and leveraging those motivations for the good of overall team morale. Building relationships is about knowing when to increase tension, when to put in some slack, and when to let go.

If you are looking for the next big idea to build morale on your team, or in your organization, start with asking three questions:

Conflicts, disagreements, and “differences of opinion” will happen between passionate people. However, there is no reason to consider those realities in the box of “poor” or “low” morale. The morale comes after the motivation, which comes after the architecting.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

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