Employee Motivation: Double Dog Dare Style

When was the last time your heart was pounding so hard that it almost jumped out of your chest? I mean that amazing way it did when someone double dog dared you to do something that you knew you only had a 50/50 chance of succeeding at and, even more so, you knew your “double dog darer” knew it also.

Do you remember the feeling of unadulterated triumph when, after teetering on the edge of fear, of knowing that you could go down in flames just as easily as you could “show them,” you jumped off a swing while it was in full flight; you dove to the bottom of the pond and came back up alive; or you broke through the line of massive boys in just the right spot in a game of Red Rover that will go down in History.

If you haven’t felt that way at work lately, get cracking. If you lead people and you haven’t made them feel that way lately, well, get cracking.

In a complex competitive landscape where everyone beats the drum for innovation, the next big thing, finding a better way of moving past the competition, leaders have become so risk averse that unless succeeding is a forgone conclusion, many shy away from challenges, big and small. Worse yet, they influence a culture where employees are afraid to do anything out of the ordinary. Keeping your head down and doing the same old thing well seems to be a much safer bet than trying something new that might fail. The problem is, ordinary doesn’t create success.

Now, keep in mind, even with a double dog dare, you weren’t stupid enough to do it if it was just crazy for crazy sake. Even then, you had a radar that told you when success was really within reach, if only you had the nerve. You had the skills, you calculated the probability of not falling on your head, and you had a throng of cheering friends nearby who would surely go get help if your head didn’t pop back up over the surface of the pond in a reasonable amount of time.

For many years, I worked for a company that had Four Freedoms. One was Freedom from Fear. It challenged us to take risks, to be different from the rest, to just “go for it.” To have the nerve.

As leaders, influence your people to get their hearts pumping. Challenge them. Show them that you know they can do it. And be there to make sure their heads pop back up in a reasonable amount of time.