How to Give a Pep Talk

"Win one for the Gipper." Remember the famous line from the movie, Knute Rockne: All American? The college football team was moved to action by those words in the locker room and went on to win the game. Coaches and sales managers have been giving "pep talks" for years to motivate their teams to achieve higher levels of performance. 

Words are powerful and when delivered with emotion they can move the masses. But until recently, pep talks were "seat of the pants" types of presentations. Some leaders were more motivational than others. But today, thanks to research, we know what works.

Harvard Business Review's article, The Science of Pep Talks, (July-August 2017 issue) revealed a proven  three part formula that works in firing up a team. The most extensive research came from Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield at Texas A&M International University. They studied motivational language theory. The three elements of an effective pep talk are direction giving, expressions of empathy, and meaning making.

Direction giving is when leaders give information about the task at hand. Empathetic language conveys concern for the person as an individual (encouragement, praise, gratitude). Meaning making language focuses on why the talk is important. (Linking goals to the mission and purpose through stories).

The article graded a sample pep talk from a sales leader by color coding the 3 elements in the talk. So team leaders no longer need to wing it and hope that their words have impact. By knowing the science and following the three elements of pep talks, the team will be fired up every time!