Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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10 Traits of Highly Motivated People


I was in the Mohegan Sun Hotel in Connecticut a few weeks ago for the fantastic CCUA conference.  The hotel is wonderful.  The food was great.  The planning was superb.

But you know what made it such a fantastic event? Of course!  The people.

What struck me about everyone involved was their motivation.  From the suppliers to the credit union executives, they were motivated.  They were happy to get together and do what they do best.

These motivated people inspired me to make a list of characteristics I observed this week.

  1. Purposeful. Highly motivated people are able understand and see the big picture. They see how their work guides the organization and other people. They know their purpose and they are able to inspire others to find their purpose as well.
  1. Optimistic. As my friend Peter Stark has said, “Leaders don’t have the luxury of being pessimistic.” Motivated people know they need to attack tough problems with their experience, their wisdom, and their hope.

My version of the APA definition of an optimist is someone who sees a tough situation and thinks, “I can make this better” and they take the right action to do exactly that.

With a positive vision of what could be in the future, motivated people gain energy to take the right action to get the outcome they envision.


  1. Self-esteem. It’s hard to be successful if you don’t believe you can be successful. Motivated people know their strengths and they believe in what they can do. They are humble enough to know that they don’t know everything, and they are secure enough in their abilities to ask others for advice, perspectives, and help.
  1. Courageous. Motivated leaders take pride in taking on new challenges. They don’t shy away from tough situations. They’re not afraid to think big and take chances.
  1. Energy. Motivated people have energy, both mentally and physically, to move their organizations. They gain ideas and energy from other people who are similarly motivated. Mary’s note: Who we surround ourselves with is powerful energy.
  1. Persistent. People with high levels of motivation don’t give up when things get tough. They renew their teams with a sense of purpose and they remind themselves and the people around them of the future outcome. The closing speaker of this event was Jim Rice, the Red Sox star, Hall of Famer, and super nice guy. One of the things Jim Rice said that impacted me was that he practiced every day and he practiced hard.  Efforts matters.  Doing what we need to do when we don’t feel like it, when we are not 100%, or when we are tired is what sets the motivated (and successful) people apart from others.  Yes, Jim Rice is wildly talented, but he worked really hard to perfect that talent and be a great baseball champion.
  1. Perspective. Highly motivated people don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. They are able to absorb disappointments and deflect negativity. They know how ignore the little things that could be distracting and get them off track.
  1. Reflective. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson, an old adage goes, and motivated people understand that everything we all do is part of the journey. When they experience disappointment, they reflect on the process, they brainstorm on what needs to change, and they move forward with new knowledge and strategy.
  1. Supportive and helpful of others. The highly successful people I saw this week were supportive of each other. Some people might question why competitors would gather to share resources, ideas, and best practices. Motivated people know that by helping each other, we can all be more successful.  We can grow the pie.  We are stronger together.  They were happy to hear about the success of other people and they cheered their achievements.
  1. Happy. Motivated people are happy. They enjoy their success because they earned it. They celebrate when things go well.  They take time to appreciate hard work, even their own, and they move forward with the right attitude.


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