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July 2021

Top 10 Tips For Motivating Your People


Due to the nature (and name!) of my business, people frequently ask me: what are the best things we can do to motivate staff?

I love being asked this question, because it’s an implicit acknowledgement that motivation is absolutely vital for a team, or indeed an organisation, to function at its highest potential. It is often sadly the case that leaders don’t want to invest in or put effort into motivation. They view salary alone as incentive enough for people to keep coming to work. This is a very 1960s view! In the 21st century, where there are such a diverse array of working options available to employees, saying nothing of self-employment too, and employees no longer feel the same kind of lifelong obligations to their employer, we have to recognise that we need to be motivating our people if we want them to stay, and more importantly still, if we want them to prosper.

What, then, are the best management tips for motivating others? I’m going to share with you my top 10 motivational tips. But before I do, it’s worth me drawing attention to one critical thing: these are not “big” things you do once a year. Many employers have the idea that motivation is about getting in a top speaker to rally the troops, or putting on a paintball day, or giving the walls of the office a new lick of paint, all of which are expensive one-offs which may be temporarily effective but ultimately wear off. Even worse, if they are not done genuinely, they will be seen as shallow attempts to avoid addressing the deeper issues within the organisation, to gloss over the true concerns of the employee with razzmatazz. Again, it is this old-fashioned attitude of encouraging the employees get blind and dangerously drunk at Christmas as a kind of psychic blow-out, when in fact they would not need to self-destruct if they were being looked after for the rest of the year.

So, these tips are daily tasks, minute-by-minute investments of your energy and focus. Because the real motivation happens in these small and regular moments. That is how one creates lasting and positive change.

1: Be motivated yourself! Motivation, like laughter, is infectious. When a leader is dynamic, high-energy, and motivated – and everyone can see that – it inspires others to be the same. One great leader, highly motivated, can have a disproportionate impact on everyone else. So, do that corny but effective ritual first thing in the morning: look in the mirror and say, I feel great, I am full of energy, I am the conqueror. Tell yourself with conviction, then go out and live the dream.

2: Look for members of your team doing things right, catch them, and praise them immediately. Note, when we say “doing things right”, we don’t just mean hitting big annual targets or doing their job correctly, we mean the little things, like picking up litter and putting it in the bin, or giving encouragement to a fellow employee. The immediate reward of praise is far more important than a few words once a year at an annual review.

3: Treat everybody with respect, which means – and this is a difficult lesson for some – listen a lot. One of the most common criticisms I see from employees is that their management is completely out of touch with the “situation on the ground”. And sometimes even further than that, it is said, “They don’t have any interest in us”. Sometimes, we don’t need a Motivational Map to know what is driving our employees, they are telling us very explicitly! 

4: Help your people learn. Increases in learning produce increases in self-esteem and performance. Too many organisations discouragement upward mobility for fear that they will either lose employees because they decide to move on, or that management’s own jobs become at-risk. The irony is that many people leave their jobs for precisely the opposite reason – they were not being developed enough!

5: Make everyone feel like they belong. Now, more than ever, this is mission critical. In organisations, large and small, it is very easy for cabals, cliques, and inner circles to form, especially when, in the west, we tend to devolve the company into departmental silos. Everyone should feel they are on the same team, working towards the same aim. Whilst hopefully it is obvious that this also means welcoming people whatever their gender, ethnicity, race, culture, or age, there far subtler distinctions which are perhaps equally important, such as those who have been with the company a long time versus newcomers, those in managerial roles versus those in administrative ones, those on higher salaries versus lower salaries, etc, etc.

6: Stop micro-managing with central directives. Barring immoral or dubious conduct, it doesn’t matter that much how people get the job done; the important thing is whether they achieve the goal. Give your people more control, allow them to do things their way, and you will see a massive uptick in productivity and happiness.

7: Acknowledge their ideas publicly where possible. Too often we see that employees feel their contribution is lost in the relentless forward motion of organisational activities, their contributions reduced to a bullet point in an internal newsletter, an unattributed statistic of success. Reward achievement with recognition. Sometimes one-to-one is enough (indeed, for some people this is preferable to a big song and dance), but sometimes a more public recognition of achievement is what the doctor ordered.

8: Give them a challenge. For some people, winning a contract is not enough, they are capable of more; so add the ‘more’ in some way, and talk as if you know they can do it.

9: Say thank you, and make strong eye contact when you do.

10: Try to understand their motivations and feed them. Review the above suggestions and work out which ones suit which individuals. Treat each employee personally, however difficult that may seem. Remember that Motivational Maps can be tremendous asset in this space!

With the above suggestions in your armoury, you can go some way to motivating your people without even needing a tool! Remember, the “kaizen” method of small and regular steps is the path to success here. In the words of author Grady Hendrix, “How does a sparrow destroy a mountain? One pebble at a time.”

Self-Awareness, Success and Getting There

Growing plant

As we come out of Covid-19 lockdowns and all that has entailed over the last year and half nearly, it is surely time, if we haven’t already done so, to review where we are as individuals. I notice a surge of articles discussing important issues like resilience, flexibility, neuro-agility and such-like, and this is good; but the question I would ask is – why do we want these ‘things’? They are, in fact, components – elements if you will – of a bigger picture: the one word that defines this bigger picture might be ‘well-being’. I like the word but my problem with it is that it has too many connotations of ‘health’ rather than what I am meaning by the bigger picture. What I suggest everyone really wants, at either a conscious or sub-conscious level, is success: when we have resilience, flexibility, neuro-agility, well-being and other qualities or skills we have taken a huge step forward to being ‘successful’.

Now what being successful means is going to vary from person to person because people have different values and motivators. That said, and given that some people prefer to fail rather than realise their potential, there are 7 key strands that make the rope of success tight and strong. A weakness in any one area can undermine the whole enterprise of your life, and some of the strands are intimately connected with others. The cumulative effect of being strong in all 7 areas is to make you virtually unstoppable. What are they, then? Take a look, and as I outline them, give yourself a score out of 10 – ten being have it fully, and 1 being not at all.

  1. Self-esteem. To know whether you have strong self-esteem consider the following:

Do you sleep well? Do you feel sufficient for most situations you find yourself in? Do you believe in yourself? Do feel that things are going to work out well for you? Can you say what you feel directly? Can you say no? Do you express yourself?

  1. Energy. Are you in good physical and mental health? So, how much energy and zest

 do you have on a day-by-day basis? Without energy – motivation – little will get done.

  1. Quality Relationships. Do you have a substantial network of long-term

genuinely loving and caring relationships? These truly do make life worthwhile.

  1. Wealth. Do you have enough money set aside to stop worrying about money? This

increases your options for what you can do. Remember Abraham Lincoln’s observation that the best way to help the poor is not to become one of them.

  1. Meaning. Do you have a purpose in life? Do you have worthy goals and ideals?
  1. Growth. Are you becoming all you might be? Are you realising your full potential in

life? Nobody on their death bed says, I wish I’d spent more time in the office.

  1. Self-Awareness. This is your reality check. Do you seek to learn about yourself –

through self-analysis and by scrutinising the feedback from others?

Notice the final component is self-awareness: this is absolutely necessary as the guarantor of the other 6 components; another way of putting this is that it is the starting point. And the good news is: this mini-test is a way of becoming self-aware (and so is completing a Motivational Map!) So, if you have fairly given yourself a score out of 10 for each of these components, then to calculate where you are, do the following: multiply the first item, Self-esteem, by 3 so that it is a score out of 30. This is because it is the single most important item. Second, multiple the second item, Energy, by 2 so it is a score out of 20 (for more on reasons why this is the case, read chapter 2 of my book (with Bevis Moynan), Mapping Motivation for Coaching, Routledge, 2018). Then, tally all the scores: which will give a percentage total (30+20+10+10+10+10+10).

A rough guide to scoring would be that yours is in one of four quadrants:

80+ - you are on course for a successful life

                        60-79 – you have many elements in place, tweaking needed

                        35-59 – some big changes needed to get what you want

                        10-34 – you are very unhappy – resolve to change now!

Keep in mind these scores are not an absolute law. But we have found with hundreds of clients that the four quadrants of scoring do give a pretty accurate picture. This is especially true where the client, perhaps, has scored big in one area – say, wealth – and may be a millionaire, BUT – are they successful? Their relationships may have failed, they cannot relax, and their health may be poor; or to put it as GK Chesterton did: “The typical modern man is the insane millionaire, who has drudged to get money, and then finds he cannot enjoy even money, but only drudgery”. This cannot be construed as success in life, for apart from the lack of true meaning, there is an underlying unhappiness. The same excess in one or two other elements equally can cause imbalance elsewhere.

When you have done this, take some time to look at your scores. Here are some rough guidelines: scores above 8 are excellent; 6-8 are good; 3-5 are poor; 1-2 is a major challenge. Also note, whether there is one area especially that is low and problematic. If so, this is what is sometimes called the ‘Choke Point’ – the point which is preventing achievement in your other areas or overall. To take a simple example, if all your scores are 9 or 10 but your health is a 2/10, then eventually your health condition will impede your otherwise excellent progress.

One key factor for development, then, might be: take your lowest score and use this as the basis of a development plan that takes at least 18 months to complete! (If you have equal low scores, intuitively choose the one you feel is your biggest issue). It is a mistake – usually – to think that one can change one’s life overnight. Even the profoundest insights and mental shifts require time to be practiced and embedded. Oftentimes, slow and easy, the tortoise, wins the race.

As we come out of lockdown, perhaps being a tortoise is not so bad – as we surely but firmly readjust to a new reality. Of course, a great coach can help you accelerate this process and I strongly recommend, if this interests you, that you find one who is Motivational Maps accredited, for my view is that these coaches are best equipped to understand the energy question and its contribution to your ongoing success in this time of turmoil. Here, then, is to your success over the next 5 years: make it happen!