Guest Post: Are You A Spider Or A Fly?


Employee engagement and motivation is something that I am passionate about. This week I am participating in the buzz of Susan Fowler’s new book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does. Susan takes her thirty years of experience and shows leaders guide their people towards the kinds of motivation that not only increases productivity and engagement but gives them a profound sense of purpose. I would also recommend this book to employees. The following is a guest post from Susan…

Are you a spider or a fly? A lesson in motivation

According to Susan Fowler, motivation expert and author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does, there are two main motivational outlooks: optimal and suboptimal. And, you guessed it, we should strive to adopt an optimal motivational outlook whenever possible. Sounds simple and straightforward, right?

However, in this world full of external pressures and constant busyness, it can be very hard to find and sustain the right kind of motivation, or even know what the right kind of motivation looks like. The three hallmark characteristics of an optimal motivational outlook are aligned, integrated, and inherent. The three hallmark characteristics of a suboptimal motivational outlook are disinterested, external, and imposed. (Wondering which outlook you tend toward? You can diagnose your motivational outlook here.)

The above distinction between suboptimal and optimal motivation styles highlights the importance of sourcing motivation from within yourself rather than relying on motivation that comes from external forces. A suboptimal motivational outlook leaves you out of control and acting out of fear or obligation, and where’s the fun and fulfillment in that? In contrast, an optimal motivational outlook allows you to find independence and act out your desires.

Think of the spider. It weaves its web with silk that it produces itself. Starting with nothing, the spider creates its home and its means for survival. The spider is suspended in the air due to its own work and intentional planning.

The fly, on the other hand, remains relatively aimless, buzzing around until it runs across some food. One day, the fly finds itself suspended in the air—stuck and struggling in the web of the spider. They may appear to be in the same place, but they are in radically different situations.

Similarly, when we source our own motivation, like the spider, we find ourselves in control and able to succeed. Yet, when we allow ourselves to be imposed upon, we end up in a sticky web of other people’s expectations and demands, overwhelmed and afraid that the life will be sucked out of us.

But don’t fret! It’s never too late to change your outlook. It may take some work, but it will surely pay off in all areas of your life. Don’t get stuck in the trap of letting other people formulate your motivation and purpose. Take control and find a motivational outlook that is aligned, integrated, and inherent. For more guidance on how to escape the web of suboptimal motivation—and how to free others from this web—check out Susan Fowler’s new book.

This guest post by Sara Reinis is shared in celebration of the launch of Susan Fowler’s new book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does. Learn more about optimal motivation by taking one of Susan’s assessments to discover your motivational outlook at or learn more about the book at

Download a free sample of Susan Fowler’s motivation book here.

About Susan Fowler

Susan Fowler has 30 years’ experience as a researcher, consultant, and coach in over 30 countries around the globe in the field of leadership. As an expert in the field of personal empowerment, she is the lead developer of The Ken Blanchard Company’s Optimal Motivation product line, as well as Situational Self Leadership, their best-of-class self leadership and personal empowerment program.

Susan is the bestselling co-author of three books with Ken Blanchard: Self Leadership And The One-Minute Manager, Leading At A Higher Level, and Empowerment. A catalyst for growth, Susan also authored the audio programs Overcoming Procrastination and Mentoring. She is a Senior Consulting Partner at The Ken Blanchard Companies, and a professor in the Master of Science Leadership Program at the University of San Diego.

One comment

  1. Steve Borek – Baldwinsville, NY – Since we're all going to die, what do you want to do with the time between now and when that day comes? I'm an Executive and Leadership Coach who works with clients worldwide. My firm is End Game Business. Work with me. The people you lead will be raving fans. Your customers will say they'd be out of their minds to do business with anyone but you. My professional coaching certifications are PCC, BCC, and CUCG. I've coached over 275 people, over 2K hours, in a half dozen countries. What's your end game?
    Steve Borek says:

    When people hear I’m a coach they’ll say, “Oh! You motivate people. Right?” Couldn’t be further from the truth. If I have to motivate you, it says you really don’t want to do it, whatever it is.

    Instead, I understand the person’s values as to why they want to achieve their endgame. I coach to that.

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