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The carrot-and-stick approach to motivation had its day, but as Daniel Pink points out in "Drive," we have to find ways to motivate people intrinsically. As far as lawyer business development training goes, I'd have to say that neither the carrot nor the stick has worked at all, so we're really driven to identify lawyers' intrinsic motivation to learn.

In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the authors provide persuasive principles that apply to motivating learners intrinsically. Here are some that apply to firms that use RainmakerVT's just-in-time lawyer business development training.

1. Commitment and Consistency

“Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.”

Get immediate feedback about each RainmakerVT course. Since you're only providing one course "just in time," i.e., five days before the lawyer will apply the skill, make sure to speak with that lawyer on Day 6 or Day 7 while both the training and real-world experience are fresh in the lawyer's mind.

If feedback is critical, it shows where we can improve, but if it’s positive, lawyers will act in a way that’s consistent with that feedback. For example, if the lawyer says that the course is an excellent way to prepare for that situation, this commitment to belief is likely to be self-perpetuating. He’ll be more interested in future courses because it’s consistent with his belief that the lesson was helpful. The act of expressing positive feedback also plays into social proof.

2. Social Proof

“In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look and accept the actions of others as correct.”

“We will use the actions of others to decide on proper behavior for ourselves, especially when we view those others as similar to ourselves.“

For a funny demonstration, watch this classic Candid Camera elevator experiment video at right 

To reinforce the social proof, use internal communication channels to publicize and compliment lawyers who have applied training successfully, and quote their feedback.

3. Scarcity

“Opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited.”

“People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”

“As a rule, if it is rare or becoming rare, it is more valuable.”

This is one of two reasons why we suggest you limit to five days lawyers' access to any course. The other is proximity; we know the lawyer won't make time for it until the date when they'll need the skill is imminent.

Dr. Larry Richard's research shows that, relative to the general population, lawyers score inordinately high on the Autonomy scale and very low on ResilienceThat means it's nearly impossible to motivate them extrinsically with either carrots or sticks, and they'll avoid activities that contain the risk of failure, especially if the failure will be visible.

Mike O'Horo

Learn how to use technology to stretch your training budget and painlessly produce a large population of BD contributors (a percentage of whom will become rainmakers).

To make it easier to recognize situations where specific RainmakerVT courses are relevant and helpful to your firm's lawyers, subscribe to the Training Triggers newsletter. It delivers brief descriptions of situations lawyers face, which enables your BD staff (and the lawyers) to recognize where they need help. Each TT correlates with a specific course that you already have in your RainmakerVT course inventory.

As one practice group leader described Training Triggers, "These are the leaves on the ground that stimulate you to go to the tool shed and look for a rake."