top of page
a blog by Chris Barrow

A warning – needles and row boaters – 3 essential reminders for anyone leading a team

Reminder #1

You cannot motivate people.

Carrots and sticks do not work.

The following phrases are never effective:

  1. if you do this I will pay you a bonus

  2. if you don’t do this there will be consequences

If you have to use either – you have already lost.

You can only create environments in which people capable of self-motivation become self-motivated.

Reminder #2

Not everybody is capable of becoming self-motivated.

There are some people who just want to row their boat, gently down the stream, merrily thinking life is but a dream.

The self-motivated people are those needles in a haystack – hard to find and priceless when discovered.

There is a probably a rule that suggest 80% of your team can be row boaters and 20% need to be needles.

An essential part of team building is to have key roles in your business occupied by the 20% of your people who are capable of self-motivation.

One of the most important features of your interview process is to determine whether a candidate is capable of self-motivation – or not. Are they row boaters or needles?

When you do find a needle, here’s another tip.

Reminder #3

One of the simplest ways to keep self-motivated people happy is to APPRECIATE THEM.

I’ve been involved in 3 conversations this week in which senior team members (all of whom were self-motivated “needles”) have expressed their frustration to me that that they don’t feel genuinely appreciated for the efforts they are putting in.

The conversations all referred to the subject of money at some stage – all three had been subject to a pay-freeze for between 3 and 5 years.

But the lack of what they considered fair pay for their efforts was less important than the sense of frustration that they didn’t feel genuinely appreciated for the work they have done.

A simple but regular “thank you” would have been more than half the battle – a more regular adjustment on pay (even a few percent to keep pace with inflation) would have made all the difference.

When the row-boaters are having a moan about working conditions and pay you have an indicator that your management skills need attention.

When the needles are having a moan, you have a dangerous warning signal that your leadership skills are lacking.

I’m going to be pragmatic here and state that row-boaters are relatively easy to replace (although it would be better not to have to).

But needles are VERY HARD to replace.

Be warned, be careful and be attentive to them.

An unappreciated needle could be the most dangerous threat your organisation faces.

Say “thank you” more often.

Say “thank you” today.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page