Employee Motivation

Above all else, tell team members why they should follow you

Kelly Graves

June 19, 2017

What are the common mistakes managers make when trying to motivate employees? In this article, we’ll discuss these mistakes and some better strategies to successfully motivate employees.

It’s human nature for managers to take the path of least resistance, and this often leads to making all decisions themselves. However, when it comes to motivating employees, it’s wise to look to behavior-modification techniques to guide you. First, we will consider how most managers attempt to motivate employees; then I’ll outline 10 behavior-modification techniques managers would be wise to implement.

Most managers want to prove they have all the answers or simply shortcut the process due to time constraints, so they follow what they have seen or read regarding motivation. Other managers rely on rewards of what they think employees want, using outside forces such as:
• Money
• Pizza parties or other group events
• Gift cards
• A fun-oriented, teambuilding event with no follow-through, which can often cause harm instead of increased productivity if not handled by a consultant educated in cultural dynamics

These are all fun ideas and may provide short-term excitement, but they will not create lasting motivation. In fact, employees may not want some of these because they involve spending more time away from their families and more time with people at work, with whom they may feel they already spend too much time. As for the money aspect, giving money often doesn’t directly equate to better motivation. In fact, often employee motivation remains the same, and the organization simply becomes poorer. All this can set up a never-ending “I will do more and pretend to be more motivated and happy, if you pay me more” scenario.

Remember that I cannot motivate you, and you cannot motivate me. Therefore, as a manager, it is imperative above all else to provide important “whys” to your team: Why are they here and why should they believe in and follow you? In other words, you must give them something to believe in which is bigger than themselves. Provide them with a clear destination, and make sure they understand that this goal is paramount to the success of the organization and the department. Even more important, you must demonstrate how it directly affects their lives. If you honestly and genuinely involve and touch your employees with these concepts and teach them how to own them, you will not only be revered as a good manager of men and women, but you will be a feared competitor within your industry.

The central objective of a great manager and motivator of people is to touch your employees at their core so they see and believe in your vision as fervently as you do. To achieve this higher state, one must climb inside the mind of their employees and tap into their intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze one’s capacity, to observe, and to gain knowledge. It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for reward.

Intrinsic motivation is a natural motivational tendency, and it’s a critical element in cognitive, social, and physical development. Employees who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in tasks willingly as well as work to improve their skills, which will increase their capabilities. Employees are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:
• Attribute their results to factors under their control, also known as autonomy
• Believe they have the skills to be effective agents in reaching their desired goals, also known as self-efficacy beliefs
• Are interested in mastering a topic, not just in achieving it for some outside force

10 steps to motivate your employees

1. Provide a healthy environment. As the manager, it is your responsibility to provide an environment that enables members of your team to feel challenged and engaged by the work they perform.
2. Create a trusting environment. Trust is a powerful motivational element and managers that are more transparent with their employees will create employees who return that trust. Once trust is part of the culture, innovation, creativity, and performance naturally follow.
3. Involve them. Ask what they need that would make their jobs easier, more productive, and more fulfilling. In essence, people want to feel valued and acknowledged for their expertise, even if that is the guy sweeping the shop floor.
4. Encourage responsible risk-taking. Encourage your employees to exceed expectations by taking responsible risks. If they succeed, reinforce the effort and the ability to take responsible risks. If they fail, ask what parts went well and what parts didn’t. Help them to learn and utilize critical thinking skills so they can learn how to learn to take responsible risks.
5. Anticipate failure and normalize it. Coach your employees that responsible risk taking comes with a certain amount of experimentation or adjustment (also known as “short-term failure”). This type of thinking must be coached or all you will have on your team are drones following your lead or “doing it the way we have always done it” due to being afraid to step out of their comfort zones, which will result in continuous mediocrity.
6. Challenging work. People simply want to improve at their jobs. Overcoming a challenge or finding a creative solution to a problem is a characteristic that strongly motivates employees.
7. Career advancement. One of the most forgotten yet powerful motivators is helping employees outline their careers. Employees are extremely motivated when they know what the next rung on the ladder looks like and what they need to do to reach it.
8. A clearly defined goal. First the manager needs to outline what the department goals are. Next, spelling out specific tasks and behaviors that support the department goals to help employees understand how they contribute to the greater organizational objectives. This helps the employee understand the organizational objectives, how the department’s goals directly support those objectives, and how their specific tasks and behaviors directly support the department goals. This concept transcends work for the sake of work and teaches them how they directly contribute to the success of the company.
9. Give regular, direct, and supportive feedback. Both positive and performance-enhancing feedback is vital to continuous improvement, and when done well it provides the motivation to move employees continually on the path toward success. Feedback needs to be timely and specific, and presented in such a way that the employee is clear about what behaviors they need to modify or continue using to improve performance.
10. Recognition and increased status when the goal is achieved. People not only want to be recognized for doing a good job, their emotional well-being depends on it. Be sure to recognize them in front of others, which increases their status among peers. This simple tip will jumpstart a poor performer or catapult an already strong performer to superstardom.

About The Author

Kelly Graves’s picture

Kelly Graves

Kelly Graves is the CEO of Internal Business Solutions, which exists to help organizations overcome their most daunting challenges. The Internal Business Solutions team understands that most, if not all, organizational problems—whether technical, financial, structural, etc.—hinge on improving human communication and processes. Contact Graves at Kelly@InternalBusinessSolutions.com or call (530) 321-5309. Click here to sign up for his free newsletter.