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Motivating a Baron

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

In this story we see how Queen Agatha finds how to motivate Baron Howard to complete a task that he does not see as important, one that is key to the King’s plans.

An angry King

King Philip stormed out of the meeting, barrelling down the corridor, with servants rapidly jumping out of his path. He barged into Queen Agatha’s apartment, fuming. “You would not believe it!” he shouted at the rather startled Queen, who was engaged in a rather complex piece of embroidery. “That incompetent idiot has totally mucked it up. Do I have to do everything in this place?”

Agatha indicated to her maid to bring some wine, and led Philip to a bench in an alcove. Slowly calming down, Philip described the meeting. It was his key project, the one that he knew would make Mantava into the major power in the area and would bring more trade and prosperity to his people. Philip was planning to send a small fleet of four merchant ships and a couple of corvettes to Bresail.

Mantava was had a lot of trade with its close neighbours, but Bresail was across the Mariana ocean; the journey there took many months. Contact had been limited to the odd intrepid explorer, but in recent years Philip had been using these voyages to correspond with the Sultan. He knew that there were real opportunities for trade. Bresail wanted the tin and iron that was plentiful in the southern hills of Mantava and, in return, could sell his merchants valuable spices and silks.

The Sultan had promised Philip that, if he sent a fleet, Bresail would provide warehouses and facilities to trade. This was something that would really set Mantava apart and will bring new wealth and prosperity.

“…and you know that dullard has gone and done?” he exclaimed, getting agitated again, “He’s just failed to raise the men and money needed to fit out the ships. We have a month to go, and only half what we need.”

The Admiral

Agatha knew he was referring to Baron Howard. Howard was the ‘Admiral of the Western Seas’, responsible for ensuring that the local sea routes remained safe for trade. Agatha knew that he was a good, competent man, if slightly lacking in vision. He had been tasked by Philip to equip and organise the small fleet.

What had gone wrong? It seemed that Baron Howard had tried to get everything together, but the immediate demands of his job had meant that he had not concentrated enough on the expedition. A handful of fishing boats from nearby Salvania had been spotted off the coast and, as Admiral, he had taken a couple of warships to investigate and warn them off. There had also been an outbreak of fever in the main port that had laid a lot of his men low. Nothing major, but enough to make preparations for the expedition slip.

Agatha calmed Philip and suggested they should speak with Father Sam. Later that day the friar came to the palace and spent several hours with the King and Queen.

A conversation in the garden

The next morning the Queen invited Baron Howard for a walk around the palace gardens. After 10 minutes of pleasant conversation amongst the roses, she turned the Baron and gently said, “The king is very disappointed.”

Howard spread his hands regretfully, “I know, your Majesty, what can I say? If it had not been for those fishing boats, or for the outbreak of fever, we could have done it.”

“This is really important for the King. It is his main goal for the next year. This is what he wants for Mantava, for our future.”

The Baron was embarrassed, “It is difficult, I just don’t know how we can manage it.”

Agatha turned to face him and looked at him directly. After a pause she said, “Tell me, what do you think this expedition can accomplish?”

“To be honest, your Majesty, I can see the trade benefits, but they probably won’t happen until long after I’ve gone – if at all. But, what we could use the expedition to do is to bring on young people. We have had so many years of peace, I think there is a real problem that many of the youngsters just do not have the opportunity to test themselves, to learn to take responsibility and develop the skills and arts of leading. They’re just kicking around their family houses, getting themselves into trouble. It would be great if we could find a way of harnessing their energy and talents.”

Agatha smiled, “So, it is important for you that we find ways to give them a chance to progress.”

Howard was suddenly very animated, “Yes, we should make every captain have a young assistant who could learn from them. We could give some of the jobs to new people, not just the obvious old characters. We could get them involved not only in the expedition, but in planning for the new jobs that will come. If this works, then it is their future it will change, not mine.”

“So tell me, if this expedition happened, what would you see as being different in five years?”

“I can see a trade being good, though it may not be the game changer that the King thinks. But I do see we could have a cadre of young people with experience of adventure and who have achieved something, people could take over from old fogeys like me.”

“…and if the expedition did not happen?”

Howard’s shoulders slumped and he shook his head, “We would just continue as we are, all would be fine, but really nothing would move on. There would be no opportunity for the next generation.”

All hands to the deck

The next month was a frantic hive of effort. Baron Howard was in the middle of everything, working harder than anyone else to get the expedition ready. Around him were a group of young men and women who he got to do most of the jobs. His delight in their development was palpable. He was patient when they made mistakes and over the moon when they came up with ideas and solutions that he hadn’t seen. What they achieved in that time was close to miraculous.

At the end of the month King Philip and Queen Agatha went down to the harbour to watch the ships slip their anchors and glide silently into the light of a new dawn. Standing next to the Baron, Philip saw in the six ships a future of prosperous trade, of greater influence. Howard saw the future leaders of the country. Agatha, quietly satisfied, saw both were right.


Leaders will have a clear motivation for what they want to do, and they must share that with their team. However, the best way to motivate someone is to find out what their personal motivation is. This is a key plank of motivational interviewing. Baron Howard did not disagree with the King’s reasons for going to Bresail, but he had not totally bought into them and so did not prioritise preparing for the expedition. The King could have argued and demanded that the Baron see it his way. However, Queen Agatha spent time finding out what Howard’s true motivation and passion was, so that he would harness it to the task in hand. Agatha used a standard motivational interviewing strategy of getting Howard to imagine two futures, one in which the expedition had happened and other in which it had not. Once he developed a strong motivation, Baron Howard threw himself fully into the preparations for the expedition, and made it work – and indeed added value to the enterprise in a way that the King had not planned.

The Lonely King

Other posts in the Lonely King series available here

Andrew George

An executive coach and consultant. Andrew has been held senior roles in universities. His interests include medical research and innovation, education, leadership and research ethics.

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Twitter: @ProfAGeorge

© 2019, Andrew George, all rights reserved

Published 29 July 2019


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