It’s a question I am asked frequently when working with managers. The research into motivation runs far and deep and every business school, journal and magazine has focused on it. So, needless to say, theories aren’t in short supply. From my own experience, motivation is not something you can “train” into people. It’s not a skill or a competency. Motivation is an internal process, driven by our intrinsic values and beliefs – the things we hold most dear. When you begin to understand those values and beliefs, you then begin to understand what you can do to motivate your people.
One way is by incorporating motivating behaviours into your management style. The managers I’ve met that are good at this are not only good managers, but good leaders as well.
So what does this mean? Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself.
- Be a manager your people can trust and respect – This seems like an obvious one, but it takes time to build and can be lost in an instant. Trust and respect are earned through your actions. How consistent are you? Do you follow through on the promises you make? Do you avoid making promises you can’t keep? Do you stand up for your people? Are you part of the team or do you stand apart? Do you give your team credit for their achievements?
- Know your team – This is about how well you know your people. What do they like? Dislike? What do they value? Not value? What hidden talents might they have that you can tap into and recognize? The best managers I’ve worked with have figured this out. They really understand what makes their people tick. They make time to get to know them whether it’s over a cup of coffee, or at the pub after work. And they use their knowledge to get the best performance out of their people while at the same time meeting their people’s needs.
- Challenge your team – Give them the opportunity to do work that is interesting and challenging. Smart and ambitious people like stimulating work and having a say in what or how things get done. How often do you engage your people in decisions? How good are you at delegating work. Do you dump work or micromanage it? Do you give them projects that will stretch them and help them learn? Do you support them as they learn?
- Be honest with your feedback – Employees want feedback, even feedback that is uncomfortable. How often do you provide feedback (outside of performance reviews)? Do you sugar-coat messages? Do you focus on the limiting behaviours and praise the person? Do you coach your people? Honest feedback especially when there are performance problems is difficult, but if done well, can be a powerful motivator. A corollary here is, how often do ask for feedback from your people?
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Communication is one of your most powerful motivating tools, especially true during times of change. How well do your people understand the bigger picture – the goals, the strategy? How well do they understand how they fit into it? How can you help them understand their fit? Don’t assume if you’ve said it once, the message was heard. People hear through the “lens” of their values and beliefs. Use multiple modes of communication, and again, don’t forget actions do speak louder than words.
Motivating behaviours won’t guarantee a motivated team, and sometimes there are organizational challenges that fall outside of a mangers control. But focusing on the things you can control (and influencing the things you can’t) can go a long way in building motivation, loyalty and productivity in your people.
So come on all your fabulous managers, how do you motivate your teams?! Share your knowledge!
Thanks for reading!