Motivationally Speaking

Of the most influential motivational speakers I’ve heard, ranchers top my list. The general public may not categorize ranchers with such speakers but cattlemen have equally influential communication skills.

The purpose of a motivational presentation may include persuading workers that they’re capable of doing challenging tasks, provoking a specific reaction, or spurring attendees into action. All motivational speakers have their own techniques for conveying a convincing message. A rancher’s message usually includes all of these.

Most ranchers I know swear by the old-fashioned motivation that they grew up with. To help persuade audience members that these older techniques have successfully worked in the past to generate ambition among subordinates, ranchers like to include personal experiences. My husband shares his regularly. His dad used the old-fashioned methods and they always motivated my husband to pay attention and not make the same mistake twice.

When presenting a talk to their crews, ranchers live by the old adage that less is more. They prefer to keep explanations to a minimum using as few words as possible to effectively get a point across—preferably verbs and one-syllable words, if possible. Popular words or phrases to spring a subordinate into action include: “MOVE!,” “LIFT!,” “HUSTLE!,” “GET BACK!,” “HURRY UP!,” “GET OUT OF THE WAY!, and “HOLD ‘EM!” Proper inflection and body language are equally important and loud vocalization is preferred among the majority of ranchers in delivering their messages.

Additionally, persuasive facial expressions and making eye contact help to deliver a clear message but are reserved for important moments when influence is critical. If these are overused, listeners eventually ignore them and the effectiveness in communicating key points is lost. Nonverbal communication such as a furrowed brow, clenched jaw, and dilated pupils can boost any message and propels people to try harder. Together, these techniques work to instill the kind of action that may entail lifting heavy salt blocks, galvanized stock tanks, wet bales or buckets, or involve working with cattle to bring in, push, drive, gather, move, load, sort, and bluff, or a combination of these.

In order to avoid a situation getting out of hand on big jobs that a small crew is expected to do, it’s especially important that everyone’s roles and the overall plan is not misunderstood. When necessary, our ranch’s motivational lecturer will speak in a dialect that provokes and rouses his staff to engage quickly if the potential for disaster is about to strike, like cows getting around a rider or slipping through a gate, if a calf wants to turn back, or a heavy stock tank isn’t being lifted high enough onto the trailer.

After a difficult task is finished, my husband will oftentimes explain the reason for using his old-fashioned motivational practices at work: “There’s a turning point in every project that determines whether you succeed or fail.” That critical moment is when workers need to be motivated, provoked, roused or persuaded. Old-fashioned motivation is just another way of saying, “YOU CAN DO IT!” when accomplishment seems impossible and not doing it isn’t an option.

An added bonus to hearing ranchers speak is that their motivational talks are affordable for everyone. The most cost-effective way to benefit from their presentations is to pay attention.

This column was originally published November 1-7, 2009

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About ranchwifeslant

Amy writes a humor column based on rural living and ranch life from the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. She and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth generation cow/calf operation near Pringle; the Elk Capital of South Dakota.
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