Performance Management Blog

Simple thoughts on training, motivation and leadership
Bad ideas on how to motivate people, with money and gun

Simple Thoughts on training, motivation and leadership is the focus of this short blog, with a goal of presenting a few rather obvious ideas that are wrapped around things that do not work smoothly.

Years ago, I read this in The Dilbert Principles and the phrase has stuck with me as a “go to” phrase when talking about change. Change IS Good.

We can all agree on that at least some of the time, right? But the quote adds the punchline, “You go first.” (Ah, a bit more reality.)

Change is good. You go first.

Most people resist change for various general, personal and organizational reasons. A lot of resistance comes down to people’s overall experiences in that context of change. A history of successes makes one more likely to try something new, while a history of failures (aka punishment) tends to decrease the likelihood of jumping in. So, my thought here was to share some of our new Square Wheels® images around this theme of managing and leading change and generating some positive successes to “illustrate” how things really work in most organizations and how individuals can generally react better to issues around change.

Let me first start with the concept of Training. For most of us, this practice focuses on building strengths, and adding new capabilities to our current package of tools and personal resources. But training is also not always the solution to a performance problem. Bob Mager used a simple test to determine if a performance issue needed a training solution: “If you put a gun to their head, could they do it?”

If they could, they did not need training but rather some other solution in order to generate change. And there was a simple belief about motivation that also needed to be better explained that I illustrate in a few sentences below.

Here then is my belief about training as a general solution to most organizational problems:

Muscle Building and the impacts of training on the Square Wheels wagon journey

I assume that you saw that the Square Wheels® in the right-hand image were more of a reality underlying productivity issues and that the Round Wheels — the ideas for improvement — were already in the wagon, so it is more about implementation than innovation. Maybe asking Customers about their journey might be helpful since they ride on top and experience all the thumps and bumps but cannot see what is really going on. And we might also address the silos that so often exist that prevent collaboration along with the spectator sheep. There are so many more ways to motivate people, like actively involving them in the implementation of the Round Wheels so as to speed their journey forward. 

But here is how I think that too many managers think about motivation:

Bad ideas on how to motivate people, with money and gun

And the reality is that extrinsic motivation always creates problems (and is generally unnecessary) and that threats of punishment only generate pushbacks and even sabotage and retribution.

Okay, with that out of the way, let me move on to some general ideas around managing and leading change.

Managers are SO busy these days. Meeting after meeting and issue after issue and problem after problem. So, when that employee does have a good idea, one that her team might actually implement, it is hard for those wagon pullers to take the time to pay much attention. There are two issues. One is the reality of isolation and the other is the reality of, “Too Busy.”

That reality looks like either (or both) of these:

Maybe all we need is just more simple awareness. Maybe we need to require LESS of our supervisors insofar as reports and meetings and all that and simply allow them to better interact with their people to build trust and commitment. Perhaps getting them to show a Square Wheels One illustration and then simply asking for thoughts and ideas. I will guarantee that people will, in fact, rapidly generate a list of Square Wheels and a bunch of Round Wheels solutions they would like to implement.

But, naaaaaaaa. Some people are just caterpillars. They move around mostly looking for food and they often do not generate much awareness about their potential and about any visions of the future for them or their workplaces. Don’t you think that at least some of the better managers lead their employees by supporting them in understanding the reality and their opportunities? Isn’t mentoring and coaching kind of a good thing that often happens in healthy workplaces? And doesn’t that approach generate improved engagement and employee retention?

Maybe the reality could look more like the possibilities in this illustration below, and there are more than a few of them. If you want to read a LOT more about the meanings and the impacts around the image below, and some uses of this image in your improvement initiatives, read this blog:

Caterpillers resisting the change to butterfly

Realize that people often resist change because they do not really understand how things might become in their future, that change is inevitable and that their vision of the future can be made more attractive by their leadership. Many people feel like caterpillars wandering around looking for their next meal rather than feeling that they can become something more if they embrace change and tolerate the yellow gooey mess involved in transition.

Change is often resisted because it is done TO people. It is a different story if people feel a part of the change and if they have a vested interest in improvement.

Understand that one of my favorite quotes and frameworks of beliefs is that,

“Nobody ever washes a rental car.”

Giving people active involvement in generating new ideas to improve performance and productivity is a motivating way to better involve and engage them. Do this WITH them, not TO them.

Let’s implement and roll! It looks like Progress!

Let’s help your people find some Round Wheels to implement to make things better…

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Here is a 2-minute overview of our new online, virtual team building game:

The exercise has many links to the themes of trust (within and between teams) with a strong focus on trust in the leadership and on collaboration between the teams. This is THE world-class exercise anchored to these elements, based on three decades of client feedback.

logo for Lost Dutchman Virtual online edition


Here is a link to a press release about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise and its 30 years of positively impacting people and performance.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a trademark of Performance Management Company
Square Wheels images © Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2023. All rights reserved.


Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of the amazing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game and the Square Wheels facilitation and engagement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced global presenter. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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