The Family Business Partnership

Motivation Versus Commitment

Motivation versus Commitment

Most of my New Year’s Resolutions have fallen by the wayside by the end of January, and yet I am, when sufficiently committed to be able to train for Marathons and Lands End to John O’Groats bike rides. I have often felt that it was motivation that was lacking with my New Years Resolution, when in fact it is a lack of commitment that leaves me wanting. This realisation came to me whilst listening to an audio version of the book The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. It’s a great book and I recommend it.

The Chimp Paradox

The premise of the book is that we each have a ‘human’ brain and a ‘Chimp’ brain. We also have a ‘computer’ which is where all the information that we process is stored. Our human brain is based on logic, and takes its time making decisions. It is less reactionary and more considered in how it operates. 

Our Chimp brain by contrast is emotionally driven, reactionary and can be very irrational. 

Prof. Steve Peters, who wrote the book, argues that motivation works on feelings, it is grounded in emotion and as such can come and go. 

I had thought that what I had been driven by when training for marathon’s or long bike rides was motivation but, upon reflection, it was emotion that made the challenge appeal, but it was commitment that allowed me to drag myself out of bed on cold dark mornings when I was feeling far from motivated. 

It was my commitment that made me get back on the bike despite hurting in places I didn’t know I had having ridden nearly 100 miles the day before. 

The Key to Success

What particularly resonated with me in this part of the book, was what is needed in order to achieve success. We are constantly being told that it is motivation that will help us, but as Prof. Peters says in the book, a surgeon can’t stop halfway through an operation because he or she aren’t feeling motivated. They are committed and therefore complete their task.

That would suggest that motivation is needed as a catalyst to change things, but it is the presence of commitment that would see it to fruition. 

This rings true to me in my own life. Each year I am like many others who set themselves New Year’s Resolutions. I will be more active, I will lose weight, I will create more balance in my life etc etc. 

However, on those wet and windy mornings the motivation disappears and my commitment is not sufficient to get me out on the streets achieving my goals. 

What’s this got to do with Family Business? 

More often than not when I am contacted by a family to work with them it is by an individual who is feeling more motivated than their other family members to resolve a particular challenge or they are feeling motivated on a pro-active basis, perhaps looking at the introduction of some family governance to help the family business to thrive.

The key here is that whether looking to solve an issue or being pro-active in avoiding future issues, mostly they are feeling motivated.

This is either pain or reward driven. 

It could be that someone in the next generation is feeling frustrated at the lack of discussions around the future management or ownership of the business, or that there has been a falling out between siblings. It could be that someone has listened to a podcast and is feeling motivated to affect change as a result but it is typically an emotional driver for that initial contact. 

The families that then go on to have successful outcomes from the work we do together are those that are committed to the process and committed to the work involved to reach their definition of success. 

The process can often require difficult or uncomfortable conversations, perhaps about topics that have not been openly discussed before. 

Some people in your family may not feel as motivated as you do to have these discussions and that can lead to resistance from them or a lack of engagement in the process. 

It can be tempting to try and get them as motivated as you are to engage in the process but this can lead to further conflict or frustration on your part when that doesn’t happen. 

An alternative suggestion would be to speak with them and aim firstly for a recognition that something needs to change, but aligned to that would be the need to at least get commitment from them to have an open mind about the process. 

Commitment is what will see you and those within your family through the days where motivation may be an issues, and let’s face it, given the circumstances around at the moment we are all allowed the odd day when motivation is lacking.



I have put together a guide to help explain how we would work together. 


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Inviting an external consultant into your business and your family is a big step, I appreciate that, and it is not a responsibility I take lightly. The first step in moving forward is for us to have a chat about what you are trying to achieve and how I can help. 

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When making the exciting decision to start a business with my husband, the complexities of working with family didn't cross my mind. Rather than deliver a positive change in lifestyle, we found ourselves bringing the marriage into the business and the business into the marriage! Working with Russ helped us define structure and boundaries between work and home, and create distinct roles that would enable us to work to our strengths while managing expectations of each other. We found the sessions fun and engaging, and learned as much about ourselves as we did each other.
Rachel and Sam
Business Owners
We have worked with Russ on a number of projects with our clients and within our own team as well. He has an incredible talent for creating an environment where it feels safe to respond to difficult questions.

Not only is this useful for resolving differences, but also for understanding why business processes are not working the way that they should. Russ’ keeps you focused on the reason why you are doing what you do.

Having him involved has given my team an incredibly powerful boost.
Business Owner