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Education Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 14:36 GMT
Lunch Lesson Eight - Motivation
Cartoon singers with BP logo as backdrop
At BP singing is used to improve motivation skills
Motivation is all about making people want to work.

And for employers and management teams, it's about providing encouragement and incentives.

But how do managers learn their managing skills, and where do they go for help on team building and coaching?


At BP the majority of staff receive up to five days training per year.

Their logistics team leaders attend a two and a half day course in Milton Keynes to find out how to better coach and develop their teams.

Most of the staff on the course are team managers or people about to move into that role.

Their jobs and their teams are made up of both office and field based personnel working in IT, storage, delivery, logistics and maintenance.

They are the lynchpins in the BP business, they make sure that fuel gets from the oil rigs to the refineries and then on to the end users.

"We want to build high performance teams, so to do that we need to fully understand coaching skills," says Diana Crapnell, a learning and development advisor for BP.

"We often look for training that gives our staff a different perspective, a different viewpoint, so that they can grow their teams through understanding."

The course

BP employees enjoy a meal before the singing begins
A gentle introduction
The 'Effective Leader' course BP employees attend aims to improve all areas of coaching and team building and involves outdoor activities and skills workshops.

The course starts with an informal meal where the staff, from various different levels within the organisation, meet and chat.

After dinner, unknown to the staff, they will have a musical session with a conductor.

Singing along

Conducting Business is a training company, who, in partnership with BP, aim to offer new insights into management and leadership techniques.

They do this by demonstrating the parallels between business and music.

The class of 15 are taken through the processes of singing a round in four parts.

The first two parts are songs that are familiar to the staff: 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' and 'When the Saints go marching in'.

But the next two verses are new ones and as each new verse is added, the challenge is to remember the words, keep the pace and stay in tune.

They are taken through the process one step at a time. Starting with stretching and breathing they learn a song that they are familiar with before being slowly introduced to new things.

Adrian Bawtree of Conducting Business
Adrian: "Ranting and raving doesn't work"
The key to the exercise, according to Adrian Bawtree of Conducting Business is to give people the confidence to do the best job.

"People mustn't take on too much too soon," says Adrian. "We start gently and build up, and give people the confidence to build on."

Tone Deaf?

Like with an orchestra, where the conductor depends on the musicians, Adrian has to trust his choir to make music.

In this session, there were no musicians so the task of singing in front of colleagues was probably quite daunting, but nobody felt left out and it didn't matter that the quality wasn't brilliant.

"It's the ability to experience things that is important," explains Adrian.

"I have to engender enthusiasm; ranting and raving doesn't work. It's also about pace, so I have to keep things going."

The staff were quite clearly a little nervous to start with, and the pressure to remember the words showed. But the task to perform the song twice was completed successfully.


The singing session was all over in about an hour, and at the end, some of the BP staff were left feeling a little bamboozled.

Jonathan Arnold, BP employee
Jonathan: "I felt a little out of control"
"I felt a little out of control," said Jonathan Arnold. "We had no say in discussing our objective, we were steamrollered. This is not how we work, we try and paint a clearer picture of the objective."

But that's half the point, says Adrian. As a conductor, he has to work to a deadline in his rehearsal period, getting his 'players' ready for performance.

Time for a chat

After the singing came an informal chat between Adrian and the BP staff about the exercise and Adrian's work.

This is as important as the singing, which is really just an icebreaker.

The conversation that followed was quite animated.

The BP staff heard about how Adrian works as a conductor and the methods he uses. He explained how he has to be a very good listener, and has to have the ability to stand back.

The staff had a mixed response.

"It was a good thing getting us to work and sing together, but I can't see any points that I can use in my own career," said Tony Burwood.

"It was interesting being lead and coached, taking it slowly," said employee Linda Alexander Buckley. "And if you can get us to sing, you can do anything! It's about encouraging people."

After feeling a little shell-shocked at first, the BP staff finished the session with a better understanding of how a conductor works.

More importantly they had gained a different perspective on team leading and coaching.

"We weren't sure how this would go down, but it's been a great energiser - breathing and singing," said Diane.

"We also learnt some good leading and teaching points, like the ability to stand back and see the whole picture."

Top tips

Out of the 15 staff there, many already had considerable experience in managing people.

"It's about making people feel that they've done a good job," said Jonathan.

"A lot of it is encouraging people to look over the parapet - and be bold."

"You have to encourage communication," added Linda. "Some staff struggle because you look too busy for them to approach."

So what do they think are key motivators for their teams?

They range from being given confidence to having trust in their colleagues. Look at the box on the right for more.
BP's motivational top 10
Giving confidence to speak out and be original
Being able to trust colleagues
Feeling part of a team
Not being criticised
Being listened to
Not bulldozing through things
Having clear objectives
Being able to step back and see the whole picture
Being specific
Knowing what to do before you do it

While the singing element of the course is still in its infancy, the 'Effective Leader' course has been in place for two years.

In that time, BP has noticed an improvement in internal communications with team members feeling generally more valued and motivated.

Throughout the course the staff will learn many different aspects of motivational training and team building, too much for them to put into place immediately they return to work.

But all BP asks is that they concentrate on one core activity that's impacted them most over the course.

It's then up to the staff to see if their managers put their new skills into practice.

Student Guide

Not everyone manages people effectively.

Have you ever been part of a team where the boss just shouts when things go wrong? It doesn't really help, does it?

Team members get surly and disgruntled and everything gets worse.

The boss may be under pressure to meet deadlines, score goals or achieve targets so there's a lot to think about.

The people in the team may be a low priority - but that's the first mistake.

A team needs people who are all singing from the same song sheet.

BP takes training seriously.

When staff take on something new, they are trained to do it properly.

So when people start to manage teams they go on a course to learn all about it.

Just think...

Why do you think it's important for team members to work well together?

Think of a team you know which isn't managed very well. What effect does it have?

Join the choir

The members of the Effective Leader course are put in the position of people who are learning something new.

They are led through the process by experienced trainers who know exactly what they are trying to achieve.

Using music as the focus takes everyone out of the working environment - so everyone is on a level playing field.

Course members are under some pressure. They have to remember new words and sing in front of others!

Fortunately, the quality of the singing is not important! What matters is achieving the outcomes.

Just think...

Why do you think it is important to put people on a level playing field at the start of the course?

How is the process the course members are going through like a work situation?

Making music

The course aims to help people meet the objectives.

It might be singing a song, running an office based team or getting the oil from a drilling rig to the shore.

The trainers are trying to get some simple messages across to the group.

Most people learn better through practical experience. They remember what they've done.

When they are faced with a problem at work, the events on the course are more likely to come to mind than words they've read in a book.

What will they remember?

Adrian, the conductor

  • was full of enthusiasm
  • set clear objectives
  • wasn't critical
  • made sure people knew exactly what to do
  • trusted the team members
  • listened to them
  • praised them
  • gave them confidence

Just think...

How did Adrian's approach help people to do a good job?

How does the role of a team member differ from a team leader?

Why is it important for team members and team leaders to understand the pressures facing each other?

How does Adrian's approach fit into Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

Hitting the top notes

BP puts a lot of trust in teams.

As one of the country's biggest businesses it has to find efficient ways to work if it to keep its stakeholders happy.

A very large organisation can't control everything from the top so teams are critical to success.

Team leaders have to motivate their team members but the leaders have to be motivated too.

The company needs to plan how motivation is built into its strategy if it is to achieve its targets.

Just think...

Have a look at BP's website.

What are the company's objectives?

How do you think increasing motivation will help it to meet its objectives?

How will it help to keep its stakeholders happy?

How would improving motivation help a business that you know?

Simon Gompertz reports
"It's crucial to make sure staff are in tune with what the company wants"
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