Prisoners, Tourists & Participants, 3 reasons why you can’t motivate everyone!

Motivate students

No one is going to learn anything that they don’t want to learn. Someone doing their job at 50% effort is not susceptible to being motivated to do more. The fact is they are already motivated and that motivation is leading them to do 50%. All the motivational training in the world is not going to shift this person’s outlook.

Extrinsic motivation like extra time off or even financial bonuses will work in the short term but eventually you have what is called Comfort Creep, that is where people get comfortable about what used to be a luxury or a bonus. It becomes the norm and they continuously want/need more and more to hit that previous high.

The truth is that long term motivation has to be intrinsic, it must come from within the individual. This is the type of motivation that will last. We want individuals to feel part of something bigger than themselves. This allows them to push through difficult challenges and feel like they are contributing to ‘the mission’.

If you extract out what someone does for a living – bus driver or astronaut, architect or acrobat, everyone wants to feel like they are part of a team of good people that solves interesting problems. These are the fundamental elements that lead to intrinsic motivation.

I had a manager who used to say that he wanted his team to be good citizens of the company. I always understood that to mean individuals should be motivated to do the right thing even when no one is watching. It is intrinsic motivation that will allow that to happen. Paying someone a financial reward will not ensure good citizens. 

So if motivation in general is down to the individual, does that mean L&D are wasting their time providing training solutions for their employees? Well it depends. The trick is to present the training in a way to ensure that the individual wants to engage with it. This can get nuanced because we all have different learning styles, different training needs and different schedules to fit in learning. And! We are all moving through different versions of these parameters all the time.

Learning soft skills (or behaviour skills) can be a deeply personal and reflective experience. Pushing people to do sales role plays or talk about their leadership shortcomings in a group can be torture for some people. Introverts can make great leaders but they might not want to divulge how they go about practising being that leader. They might not even know how they do it. 

Any training I have ever delivered consisted of 3 types of participant.  


These are people who are forced to attend and simply want to get through it.  It is a net negative in their day, something they just have to get through. This needs to be reframed. The reason these people do not want to attend is that they simply do not see the benefit.

motivate students  demotivated prisoner

Perhaps on some level they know that they are likely to forget everything that is taught in the session and so the displacement for the desired change in behaviour is zero. They have a point. Traditional training sessions are a waste of time because it all happens in one block, there is no reinforcement and hence everyone has wasted their time.


These are the people who ‘wandered along’ to the training.

motivate students tourists

They could go either way with their involvement. You need to identify them and pull them in early.


These people want to be there and will engage. All of these participants fundamentally need to know the answer to the question WITFM? – “What’s in it for me?” You will have more prisoners than participants if the training is not framed correctly right from when it is announced to the follow up

Motivate students Participants

With that in mind, we must present any behavioural skills training in a way that allows the individual to decide what to keep private and what to share with others depending on their level of comfort. For example, if someone is working on being more confident (speaking up in meetings, being more assertive with a dominant colleague etc.) is that something they want to share with the group? Probably not.

But if they are working on a sales technique where they feel completely detached from the performance of being in a sales conversation – this is something they might be comfortable sharing. It has to be an individual choice what is personal and what is for public consumption.

Go deeper and understand how Tribel can help you develop your soft skills

Tribel Newsletter Signup

Use this form to sign-up to the Tribel Newsletter and get the latest news and articles from Tribel right to your inbox
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related Articles

What makes a great leader? The 10 key skills of effective leaders

Anyone can say they are a great leader, but what does it take to truly be a great leader? The biggest factor in determining a great leader is the ability to influence and motivate their followers. Great leaders are not born, they are made. And the traits that make a great leader can be learned. To help you be a better leader, we’ve put together a list of the 10 key skills of effective leaders.


Your email address will not be published.