For those who've followed my column over the years, you'll know that my kids often inspire leadership ideas. I'm sometimes not sure which is harder--managing people at work or managing tweens.

This past school season, I've seen a transformation in my boys that got me thinking about what it really means to motivate people. You see, my boys have been swimming since the third grade. And if I were to be completely honest--and hoping they never read this until they are adults--I'd say they haven't performed that well.

Suppressing my Tiger Mom instincts, I decided long ago that swimming was more a leisure activity for them. It was healthy and inspired good personal habits. But then at one swim meet they performed nearly in last place in all their events. It was crushing. I had to admit that the Tiger Mom in me surfaced a little, wondering why my boys weren't being competitive. They weren't even trying.

I almost decided to give up and I told them that if they didn't like swimming, they could do other things that were more enjoyable. They kept telling me they liked it, but I said their performance didn't show it. They weren't "in the game." They were being lazy, dragging their feet around to practice. I felt like a drill sergeant trying to get them dressed and off to practice every week.

I talked to the swim coach, who said something that really struck me. He mentioned that if the boys didn't put their effort into swimming, it was hard for him to put the effort in too, no matter how much he wanted them to improve. What you put in is what you get back.

I realized that I myself was not putting in much effort to help the boys. I thought my job was to just get them to practice and swim meets. I was too busy to do anything else, and the reality was the boys saw it too. If I didn't care much, why should they?



In the months that followed, I started to be more conscious of the effort I was putting in. I did small things--from looking up swim times with them to watching swim videos together. I set them up with some lessons in between practice. I was more involved in the meets. The more effort I put in, the more the boys realized I was invested in this. And the more they invested too. What I put in, they gave back.

I think you probably know where this is going. When you're a manager, leader, boss, people look to you not only for advice, mentorship, and words of encouragement but also action. What you put in is what you'll get back from your team. If you put in 100 percent, you'll likely get 100 percent back. If you put in 75 percent of the effort, then you'll get 75 percent of the potential performance. It's always amazing to me how in any workplace, what the boss does is always noticed more than what he or she says. People trust action; they often distrust talk.

So next time you want to motivate your team, just dive right in. And in my case, literally.

If you want to hear how CEOs give critical feedback without de-motivating their employees, watch this Radiate video below: