The Mirage of Team Building
Is This Teamwork?

Pain and Pleasure -- What creates change?

What does it take to motivate someone (manager, team member) to change their behavior back in the office AFTER the teambuilding workshop?

I'd like to believe that a one day (once a year) teambuilding workshop will create long term change in a person but it usually doesn't.

The teambuilding workshop can create an "opening" - - a place for someone to create the initial shift.  The workshop will not sustain the change.  And some who attend the workshop will refuse to change their behavior (during or after the workshop).

What is it then that keeps a person "stuck" in old disruptive behavior?

Pain_pleasureThe reason people don't change is that they associate pain to changing.  Change requires moving into the unknown and many people associate pain to the unknown.  The pain they experience now as a result of not changing is (they believe) LESS painful than going through all the effort of changing. 

People are motivated by two factors:
1. The need to avoid pain
2. The need to gain pleasure
The brain is setup to do these two things on a moment to moment basis.  It helps us survive.  The  brain is asking "Will doing this thing help me avoid pain?  Will doing this thing help me gain pleasure?"

My dad was a near chain smoker for many years and had made feeble attempts at quitting UNTIL he had a heart attack.  Prior to the heart attack he had associated more pain to quitting than not.  After the heart attack he linked the intense pain he was experiencing to the smoking and he never picked up again.  The pain of quitting became LESS painful than the pain he associated to remaining a smoker.  When presented with two painful choices we will choose the less painful of the two.

The key here is what the person ASSOCIATES the pain to.  Did my dad have to have a heart attack to stop smoking?  No.  He could have used his imagination to clearly associate intense (intense!) pain to smoking and he would have dropped the habit just as fast.

To get someone (a team member) to change their behavior long term they must associate massive pain to the existing old negative behavior and intense pleasure to the new (higher conscioussness) positive behavior.

When comparing pain and pleasure as motivators, pain is the greater motivator - - short term.

Long term, pleasure is the greater motivator.

How then to bring in the pleasure component?

Many people (many teams) are very clear about what they don't want.  By helping someone become clear about what they do want in their life (the pleasure) I help them create a clear and powerfully articulated VISION that absolutely inspires and uplifts them.  A powerfully articulated vision helps a person (a team) be drawn toward that which they desire.  A powerfully articulated vision will help people have the courage and discipline to stay the course.

Are you ready to receive the benefits of a clearly and powerfully articulated vision for your team?  Contact me





At a recent coaching conference I learned a valuable new tool that fits with Tom's thoughts on having a powerful vision. The tool helps us articulate our vision. We start by defining our purpose (in life, on the job, as a parent, etc.) using the format "My purpose in ____ is to:_______" Then complete the following thought: "In a way that:________". And finally end with "So that:_______" This gives us the "what", "how" and "why" of our own personal vision. Imagine if all the decisions we made and the all the actions we took were aligned with our own personal, powerful visions for ourselves. Cheers!

Adeline Velasquez

I'm a recreation therapist at the facility I work at and we are going through this Transformation Change which is also, called Culture Change where they are converting nursing home from looking like insitution to home like. Renovation starts mid August and along with this comes a long new programs, teamwork, better communication. But, I can't seem to get any staff to get involve or look at the positive side of this and I'm sure it's all about change. I'm starting to feel like I'm wasting my time and want to give up. When I'm the one that trying to educate others this is going to happen if we like it or not and I don't know what else to do? And not start thinking negative either!! Please Help: In need of positive minds with Transformation Change
Thanks adeline

Tom Heck

In response to Adeline's comment --

I believe we attract everything we experience and I also believe everything we attract serves us in some way.

For more on this "Law of Attraction" listen to this interview:

How is the struggle you are experiencing a reflection of what's going on inside you?

The way to change what is going on outside of you is to first change what's going on INSIDE of you.


Really interesting points! Before, I thought and experienced that positive aspects of things which I have to do motivate others more than "when you miss doing bad things will happen". Perhaps here it is not about me getting people to do things but about motivate them to develop this intrinsic motivation - so now it's their aim to do these things. Do you know what I'm talking about?

The example with your father is very suitable. Maybe I will try this strategy also in my personal life...

Thank you!

Gayle Waldron

In response to Adeline's comment:

You are right that generating the buy-in is a key to a successful culture change. There are a few things you might try:
--constantly promote the positive aspects. this is a selling job. It doesn't mean that you don't have sympathy for thelosses that such a change produces. Just be clear, and perhaps exceptionally clear, that you will focus on the positives and invite others to do the same. You may want a special website for this, or a newsletter:
-- to keep people updated on the progress of the changes to thephysical plant--- have comments---only positive ones---from some of the staff or residents on what the change will mean to them---post any articles on changes of this sort in other residential settings and the positive outcomes it generated ---information on what thinkin g on part of management led to this change, etc. But always sell the positive.

Some of the staff---probably about 30%, are fine with this change. You need to discover which these are. Then build them into cheerleaders, so you don't have to do all of this yourself. Only about 30% will be actively against the changes and the rest are waiting to see what happens. Focus your energy on those who are in favor of it first, then those who are willing to give it a chance. Ignore the strong objectors. They may object to anything in their life that changes, this may be a habitual pattern for them. but it doesn't matter. Just promote the promoters and those who are waiting will convince themselves. You can create a successful change effort with these folks. The grumblers will always be there, but be less effective. And, sometimes, they get on board, as well.

Good luck. Effective Change management is a well studied field now. There should be lots of information out there for you. thank goodness for Google!

Kare Anderson

Instinctively we are more motivate to avoid pain than to gain pleasure, even if we are not conscious of that choice.

Too often the employer does not make the rules of engagement explicit, nor their top goal (have too many, stated too generally) and do not make clear how each person's work contributes to the whole - then blame the "workers" for not being motivated nor performing at their peak.

Look in the mirror, management and be better team mates = often an apt admonition.

Looking at fear of change make be looking at change from the wrong place. Most everyone is eager for change IF it is suggested with the reason it will benefit "me" as well as the people advocating that change.
On the Obama campaign we evolved a few basic steps to forming and keeping teams active and productive as we briefly describe at Moving From Me to We

Specificity is at the core of motivating a team


This DOESN'T work to people who are used to instant living. My students background are from rich family. They care only pleasure for short term. They don't care about learning benefit.

Tom Heck, President & Founder of the IATF

Hi Indra (see above) - The "Pain - Pleasure Principle" is how we are ALL wired. It doesn't matter how wealthy or poor your students are. They seek out pleasure and take action to avoid pain. You say "they don't care about the learning benefit." If they don't care then they associate pain to the process of learning - but not ALL learning. Your students will pursue learning if they associate pleasure with it.

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