Motive-based Coaching for the Key to Winning at Work

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Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!


Dwight Bain, M.A.

Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. . . . The LORD will fight for you.

Exodus 14:13-14 NKJV

 What does it take to win at work?

braden-collum-87874People have asked me that question dozens of times after a keynote speech or radio talk show. Most likely your clients have asked you the same or similar questions. They want to know what action to take to build a successful life instead of being trapped in long-term failure. It’s a great question. Unfortunately, since every person faces different challenges there isn’t a 100-percent-specific answer that works for every person.

A better approach is to guide your clients in focusing on the real source of motivation by exploring their underlying motives. When you discover the motive behind why they want to win at work, you will be on track to help them shape a strategic approach to speed toward accomplishing goals and avoiding distractions that lead to failure.

Here are some key questions to ask your coaching clients:

  • Do you want to win at work to deepen your resume to advance your career?
  • Does success at work mean making more money to bring home to your family?
  • Does career success give you personal meaning and fulfillment?
  • Does winning bring you a sense of satisfaction by proving you are the best?

Greater professional success usually gives a person far greater options in their personal life because increased income brings the flexibility to solve problems and control schedules by delegation. Outsourcing to save time and money is a wise use of resources. Working harder to gain greater self-esteem, however, is a dangerous motivator because it takes major sacrifices of time and energy and can often become a black hole of busy activity leading to workaholism.

Career burnout comes from attempts to fill up deep emotional insecurities through aggressive professional activity. Burnout won’t lead to professional success, and sadly is incredibly common among people who haven’t seen the importance of mapping out a realistic career-coaching plan to win at work without losing at home.

Finding the Energy for Career Success

 So how can clients stay motivated to achieve greater career success? Have them start by dealing with their core values, which can be identified through mapping out their internal motives, since motives lead to motivation.

Here are four key areas I use to inspire business professionals I’ve coached to stay focused to win at work while feeling greater energy and fulfillment in the process: insight, interests, importance, and identity.


There is a Scripture verse I was taught to pray every day: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5, NKJV). If you know that you don’t know the answers, then asking for God’s direction is a wise use of time. Generate insight by asking God to reveal your clients’ special gifts and natural abilities, regardless of how much they may feel like they are struggling. Everyone has talent and ability at something. It takes insight to see it, and then it takes courage to stay focused to light the fire of desire in their heart, especially when you or they may feel like giving up. Have your clients enlist some of the people close to them, like a marriage partner, family member or trusted friend to help them identify their talents and abilities if they don’t already know them. Since these people already know so much about your client’s personality, character, motivation, and inner- drives, they will speak truth to that client.

Asking many questions to gain greater insight will protect against impulsive choices, and insure a greater likelihood of success. So don’t be afraid to ask too many questions—of yourself or your clients—but do be afraid to stay silent on this important element.

Once your clients know their gifts, talents, abilities and skills, the next step is to see how those unique gifts could be transferred into something so incredibly interesting that they want to show up and learn more about it every day. There is anold saying that the curious are never bored, which is true. When your clients are inspired about pursuing something extremely interesting, they will lose all track of time because they are so engrossed. Linking their interests with greater insight leads to the next part of the process to win at work.

Once clients get inspired to pursue the aspects of their jobs or career callings that are most interesting, the next element to stir up personal motivation is to help them discover what is most important. What is valuable to them? What has great meaning? What activities or organizations do they believe in strongly? Everyone believes in something, yet many of us haven’t taken time to explore and discover the core motives that fuel our desires to create positive change.

Now that you have mapped out the key areas that motivate people you are ready for your clients to advance to the final stage.

When people figure out who they are and what they enjoy doing, they are on track to live out their purpose and have more fun in the process! Perhaps the huge success of many work-related reality TV shows (like American Idol) is because they reveal what many people secretly would like their daily work experience to be—a place that allows them to utilize their creative abilities in an environment that rewards big risk-taking to achieve greater results. It’s not hard to stay motivated when you know why you are going to work, and it’s not hard to stay in the race to win, either. In fact, it makes it easy to move from a fear of failure to moving forward with a new dedication to finish strong!

Avoiding Hidden Pitfalls

Now you and your clients have the basic career coaching strategies needed to win at work. Yet, even with these insights, many people are afraid to try and often give up on the belief that they could have a better life by moving from what I call their day job over to fully experiencing their dream job. Why do they lack career confidence? Why are they still likely to fail? Three possible causes are that they are fearful, frustrated, or failing.

Times are tough and many people are afraid about what the economy will do in the future. In fact, they can become so frozen in fear that they are afraid to try. It’s normal to feel afraid, yet when you are overwhelmed with fear it can often lead to becoming indecisive and totally zoning out. Since running away from reality feels easier than facing it for some people, they choose to stick their heads in the sand and completely deny what’s happening to their industry. Think about how Blockbuster Video failed to make strategic changes with their customers and eventually filed for bankruptcy protection, while competitor organizations like Netflix and Red Box were thriving.

Some people retreat in a passive way and just slowly sink, while others try to avoid reality by using substances or media to escape. Avoiding major change by hiding in fear will lead to a major crisis. Being aware of these dangers and opening up the conversation with your clients by asking tough questions will help them protect themselves when they are heading toward a dangerous situation.


Clients often think they are frustrated with marriage partners or coworkers, but this pitfall is really more about them. Help them think about the times they were trying, but it just didn’t come together. They knew they wanted to finish strong and have a meaningful career, but they felt like they lacked the horsepower to really pull out in front of the crowd.

When frustration builds up, it puts people at great risk because they face a tough choice: finish with mediocre results and risk getting laid off or downsized to try again at the next job, or just check out to avoid feeling the pain of not performing to their potential and quit. I’ve especially seen this with highly creative or bright coaching clients who procrastinated until the last minute and then couldn’t finish projects assigned to them. Their frustration often comes out as anger directed toward the closest person to them. It’s not fair, but it happens because they let the frustration take over, which blocks their ability to win at work.


olivia-snow-265289Sadly, a failing, unmotivated person is the easiest to spot because they checked out a long time ago. When someone has reached this level, they are so unmotivated they give up on even trying at the most basic of tasks, so their resume just reflects a free fall down to zero. They totally and completely fail, which crushes their confidence. For many, failure kills the desire to try again, which leads many coaching clients to give up completely and just drop out on the idea that a meaningful career was ever even a possibility for them.

They are too depleted even to believe that God’s promise spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, NKJV) is still available to them.

I challenge you to help such clients face their fears, frustrations, and the fear of failing with words of encouragement from God’s Word. If they take time out daily to meditate on the Bible, I believe it will guide them from fear to greater faith by identifying their core motives, and then translating that into the powerful motivation needed to win at work.


Coaching the Coach Tip:

 You and your clients are stronger than you think, but just in case you are feeling beat up by life, listen to the words of Moses in Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJV) as a final challenge when you or your clients are feeling unmotivated or scared about work or careers: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. . . . The LORD will fight for you.”

Dwight Bain is a pioneer Christian Coach & executive director of the International Christian Coaching Association. He has dedicated his life to guide people toward greater results as an author, Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984. He has spoken to more than 3,000 groups including Disney, Toyota, and AT&T. As a trusted media resource he has been interviewed and quoted in newspapers/websites including: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal, and

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