As an executive coach quite often I get asked for the “secret sauce” of employee motivation. I have to “disappoint” every time with my answer. We cannot motivate employees in a sustainable manner. All the well known, traditional means of motivation like i.e. money, fear, pain or pleasure create only a short-term impact. To maintain effectiveness we would have to constantly increase the amount of the chosen stimuli. Consequently, I use the term “stimulate” motivation deliberately.
Sustainable, lasting motivation comes from within and is generated by the motivated individual him/her self.
As leaders and managers we can certainly influence this process through the creation of an environment where people can and will motivate themselves as they see the purpose of what they are supposed to do and understand the vision, the “big picture” as well as the values of the organization they work for. Additional key ingredients to this potent mix are clarity of expectations and the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Today’s fast-moving business environment demands that the effective leader be both, a well-organized administrator and highly adept in understanding people’s basic needs and behavior in the workplace. Gaining commitment (aka “buy in”), nurturing talent, and ensuring employee motivation and productivity require open communication and trust between leaders and their staff.
1. Understand the behavior of the people around you. People at work naturally tend to adopt instinctive modes of behavior that are self-protective rather than open and collaborative. Such traditional “modus operandi” is predominantly triggered by the environment created by the leadership! This explains why emotion is a strong force in the workplace, and why management often reacts violently to criticisms and usually seeks to control rather than take risks. In order to eliminate this kind of perspective and to increase employee motivation, it is best that we influence behavior rather than to change personalities. Ultimately, it is our behavior that creates the results!
2. Making sure that people’s lower-level needs are met. People have various kinds of needs. Examples of lower-level needs are salary, job security, and basic working conditions. In order to increase employee motivation, we have to meet these basic needs. Consequently, failures with basic needs nearly always explain dissatisfaction among staff. Satisfaction, on the other hand, springs from meeting higher-level needs, such as responsibility, progress and personal growth. When satisfaction is met, chances are employee motivation is at hand.
3. Encourage pride with a passion. People need to feel that their contribution is valued and unique. As leaders we must seek to exploit this pride in others, and be proud of our own ability to handle staff with positive results. This, in turn, will encourage employee motivation among our people.
4. Listen carefully and always with an open mind. In many areas of a leader’s job, from meetings and appraisals to telephone calls, listening plays a key role. Listening encourages employee motivation and, therefore, benefits both you and your staff. It is absolutely essential to make an authentic effort to understand people’s attitudes by carefully listening and questioning, and by giving them the opportunity to express views and opinions.
5. Building confidence. Most people suffer from insecurity at some time or situation. The many kinds of anxiety that affect people in organizations can feed such insecurity, and insecurity impedes employee motivation. The antidote, therefore, is to build confidence by giving recognition, high-level tasks, and full information – in other words transparency. In doing so, we not only maximize employee motivation but boost productivity, too.
6. Encourage interactive contact. Many leaders like to hide away behind closed office doors, keeping contact to a minimum. That makes it easy for an administrator, but it will be challenging to be an effective leader. It is far better to keep your office door open – ideally the mind, too – and to encourage people to approach you when the door is open. We should go out of our way to chat to staff on an informal basis. Keeping in mind that building rapport with our staff will effectively increase employee motivation. Your subordinates are a critical “internal customer” group and with customers we would use every opportunity to be in contact!
7. Utilize the strategic thinking of all employees. It is very important to inform people about strategic plans and their own part in achieving the strategies. We must take time to improve their understanding and to win their approval (a.k.a. buy in), as this will have a highly positive influence on performance and increasing employee motivation.
8. Develop trust. The quality and style of leadership are major factors in gaining employee motivation and trust. Clear decision making should be coupled with a collaborative, collegiate approach. This entails taking people into our confidence, and explicitly and openly valuing their contributions. By simply giving our staff the opportunity to show that we can trust them is enough to increase employee motivation among them. Transparency could be the key word.
9. Delegate decision making. Pushing the power of decision-making “downward” reduces pressure on senior management. It motivates people on the lower levels of the hierarchy because it gives them a vote of confidence. Also, because the decision is taken nearer to the point of action, it is more likely to be correct and of higher quality. Consequently, encouraging them to choose their own working methods and giving them responsibility for meeting the agreed goal will encourage employee motivation among our staff.
10. Appraising to motivate. When choosing methods of assessing our staff’s performance, always make sure that the end result has a positive effect on employee motivation and increases people’s sense of self-worth. Realistic, though challenging targets, constructive guidance, positive feedback, and listening are key factors in the process.
If we chose to follow these simple steps in increasing employee motivation, rest assured we will have a good working relationship with our staff and at the same time boost our respective organization’s productivity. Just bear in mind that people are employed to get good results for the company. Their rate of success is intrinsically linked to how our people are directed, reviewed, rewarded, trusted, and motivated by the leadership.
Your comments to the post are most welcome!