had an interesting and important epiphany while preparing for an upcoming speaking engagement.

In our last conversation, the client mentioned the term “motivational speaker” when discussing the gig – this phrasing gave me an immediate shudder, as it brings to mind the exact antithesis of what I believe I offer as a resource.


This is not to discount or disparage the Carnegies or Robbinses of the world – there is most definitely an audience for a motivational message. I just don’t believe it’s my audience, and here’s a quick explanation why:

  • “Feeling” vs. “Thinking” ~ A motivational speaker wants to touch your heart by stirring your emotions. I’m not going to do that. I’d much rather you find some sort of immediate relevance that you can apply to your professional life, whether or not you feel like having a good cry.
  • Limited Resources ~ There’s a reason professional coaches (NFL and MLB, not the ICF) don’t rely on the “pep talk” on too many occasions ~ you can only go to the well so often when it comes to emotion. Emotional spikes can perform short bursts of brilliant performance, but that reservoir is easily tapped.
  • Internal vs. External ~ Teams needing motivational speeches are at a point of crisis, to the point they need an external shot of “drive” administered. That doesn’t change the power of the engine under the hood. I’m sure there’s a Fast and Furious parallel just begging to be made, but I just can’t go there.

This is the conversation I had with the client; it can be a tricky distinction, since I am, in effect, an external resource (see bullet-point above.) The client obviously knows his team better than I do, so maybe a quick dose of adrenaline is what is needed ~ but for the long term success of the manager and his team, the motivation needs to come from the inside. My hope is to provide a method, a technique, or an idea that helps channel the talent already in the room.

“Innovation” beats “motivation” every time.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources.