Breaking Through The Clouds of Fear.

I love the start of the Truman Show – the movie in which Jim Carey greets each day in a colourful seaside town. With a spring in his step and a smile on his face, he skips through day after day floating on a cloud of happiness and joy, greeted by a procession of smiling faces and uplifting interaction. No – I have not recently been prescribed high doses of Prozac. Rather the mono-syllabic media diet I am continually force fed made me pause to think about its effects on us and our motivation.

It seems to me that every morning billions of people all over the world wake up and greet a new day with a tank full of positive energy fuel, refilled through a healthy nights sleep. And every day the black clouds of fear based propaganda dump so much slush in the way that the average person has burned most of that fuel by lunchtime.

The last two decades – more than any other time in history – have seen social politics and media content apply a high pressure nozzle of fear, fear and more fear.

Don’t eat that – you’ll die. Don’t push that accelerator pedal too hard – you’ll die or you’ll kill someone else and then you’ll wish you were dead. Don’t enjoy yourself too much – that will kill you. And Global Warming will kill us all. The constant barrage cloaks us in a blanket of fear that translates to unconscious stress making us more impulsive and the emotional equivalent of alcoholics swaying from binge to purge, from extremes of high to extremes of low.

Psychologists proved eons ago that fear is a very effective short-term motivator. But it isn’t sustainable and in the end turns on itself to de-motivate. Tests comparing the motivation of speed signs in the U.K. versus a very different approach in Italy shed some light on this. University students demonstrated that the British speed signs which showed a vehicle’s speed were actually causing male motorists to speed up whilst Italian signs which showed a smiley face symbol that was sad caused male motorists to slow down.

Which brings me to the point of all this for retail.

Staff who are cheerful, optimistic and happy have an internal self-image of living in a positive place. When something rocks that view, they are very powerfully motivated to do whatever it takes to return to the positive. Staff who live in fear simply cope with the failure and work to a basic level. When things go wrong, they shrug their shoulders as if this is just confirmation of their fears and keep going at the same level.

Retail naturally has highs and lows that we have to deal with. The best staff to deal with these ups and downs, are the ones who are powerfully motivated to do whatever it will take to get the business back into a great position. Retail leaders who get that, make sure that they recruit and nurture positive people.

And while governments and media may conspire to make it darker and darker outside the four wall of your retail business, the opportunity to create an oasis of positive motivation only gets bigger.