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.”