motivation and excellence

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As humans, we aspire to be the best at everything we do. It is the vision of life, but it is one that we can not always fulfill owing to a combination of internal and external influences. Cheryl Ferguson is a high school music teacher who has earned a slew of honors over the course of her 20-year career. Music, like all other disciplines, is all about honing one's craft and striving for perfection. As a result, Cheryl investigates excellence and how to use inspiration to lead people to the ideal.

Cheryl Ferguson investigates a situation she saw with her students over time. One year, students of her class decided to claim bricks on the class wall and write their names and graduation year. It seemed like some random thing high school students would do, and she did not pay too much attention to it. However, this grew into a tradition, and all students who took music now wanted a brick of their own. She advised them that if they worked hard enough and completed the class, each of them would get a brick which they could decorate as they saw fit. This motivated the students to work hard in the class so that their names would appear on the legendary wall someday. This served as a motivation to the students, and they were able to pursue excellence in music. Members of a class would all get bricks in the same area. With time, students began adopting color themes to distinguish their group from others. Cheryl Ferguson maintains that this led to the excellence of not only the individual but also of the team.

The speaker argues that to achieve excellence in any aspect of life, we must first meet all other needs that act as our motivation. This notion is based Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which explains how human motivations evolve. Excellence, therefore, comes after self-actualization (Ferguson, 2016). She makes two recommendations about how to motivate people to excellence. The first aspect is nurturing the individual by making them feel like a valued member of the collective. This can be achieved in a variety of ways: always referring to people by their names; making specific complements; asking people about their lives and listening to them. An individual who feels important will be motivated to work towards the set organizational goals. Cheryl Ferguson also suggests defining excellence to all stakeholders. Since it is an ideal situation, it acts as a vision of where the organization is heading. This is a great suggestion since individuals with a vision of excellence can steer their body and mind towards the future. Providing motivation to subordinates is always important since motivation starts from the extrinsic to the intrinsic. If individuals realize that they are part of a tradition and legacy of excellence, they will always be motivated.

Cheryl Ferguson summarizes the path to excellence with an analogy of a ladder. The path to excellence is the ladder itself. An organizational vision, enables people to know where to set up the ladder. Motivation, on the other hand, enables people to climb the ladder as they pursue excellence. She also insists on the importance of providing something that supports the ladder. This is a reward for achieving excellence. One can create a reward based on the nature of the task at hand. In her case, it was a brick allocation. The recommendations Chery Ferguson makes are easily applicable and can help steer an organization to excellence.


Ferguson, C. (2016, August 4). Cheryl Ferguson: Motivating People to Excellence [Video file]. Retrieved from

December 21, 2022

Psychology Education

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Motivation Human Student

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