"How can we motivate our employees?" I'm often asked. This is a difficult question to answer without some knowledge about a customer's business environment and a bit of information about the employees who don't seem particularly motivated. Everyone is motivated is different ways, and motivation is a set of attitudes that directs behavior.
I believe, as I'm sure many of you do, that motivation comes from within. So when trying to motivate others, consider what you can do to influence and affect a person's actions, rather than simply asking "How do I motivate them?"
First, try to determine and understand why a person does what he or she does, and what is driving his or her behavior. Ask yourself how you can coach and manage an individual so he or she will become motivated and achieve results. Here are a few tips to help you along:
Identify what type of leadership and management has influenced your own motivation in the past. Make a list of what I refer to as "good boss/bad boss" characteristics. What were some unmotivating circumstances from your past? What is your frame of reference for how you motivate others today? You might be trying to motivate others based on what a previous boss did to you, rather than understanding what the employee really wants and needs.
You may begin to recognize how those managers who understood you the best managed to influence your motivation. Maybe they pushed
the right buttons to provide you with the right opportunities.
Identify any potentially unmotivating circumstances both inside and outside your employees' work environment. In order to figure out what motivates others and how you can influence them, you want to identify any potentially negative circumstances…then determine if you are able to remove any of these barriers or distractions. Try to understand the factors that may be contributing to low levels of motivation, and if they are within your control to change. The following are some common conditions that have a negative impact on employee motivation:
• Low morale.
• Lack of interest or challenges.
• Competitive environment.
• Stress and pressure to perform.
• Family problems.
• Values are disrespected.
Perhaps you have some sales reps who don't seem motivated by money. Your immediate reaction might be "Well, then they shouldn't be in sales." But that's not necessarily true. Many people derive a great deal of satisfaction from receiving recognition for their hard work and effort, and this type of reward gives them the necessary drive.
Another common de-motivator is when values are disrespected. Perhaps an individual who highly values workplace respect and professional behavior has found himself in the midst of co-workers—or even managers—who don't share those qualities. Such a situation is a motivation killer.
Or perhaps an employee highly values trust and integrity. They may have seen examples of distrust or dishonesty, and this impedes them from being motivated.
No doubt you long ago learned about Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs: survival, security, belonging, and self-esteem. You should understand motivation occurs when these basic needs are being met.
Research shows the more employee needs a company can meet, the more motivated their workforce. This might be as simple as creating a team atmosphere and making individuals understand the company vision and the important role they play in the success of the organization. Provide your team with activities that will empower them as well as help them recognize their contribution and make them feel more confident.
Take time to complete the following motivation exercise. Consider a particular individual whose attitude and behavior you would like to influence. Collect a list of thoughts and ideas on great ways to motivate based on the following:
• What are their "wants," their specific goals?
• Why it is so important? What need does it satisfy?
• How can you influence their attitude and motivation?
By way of example, a boss of mine knew my kids were extremely important to me, and that I wanted to be able to provide for them, be a positive role model, and maintain a better work/life balance. One day, after arriving back in the office at 4 p.m. following a three-day work trip, he came into my office. "The numbers looks great for the month," he said. "You have been traveling and away from home most of the week. Please go home now, and take the girls to dinner on the corporate card as a thank-you for all of your hard work and effort."
I'm not sure if he actually knew how that motivated me, or how intentional it was, but I was high for six months. He probably got even more work out of me, because of his actions. It satisfied all the needs above, but it was tailored specifically to me and what I wanted and needed.
Motivation is essential to your success and to the success of your company. It increases productivity, minimizes anxiety, maximizes skills and talents, decreases turnover, and attracts the best candidates. So don't delay: Start looking into what you can do to better motivate others, and put that plan into action today.
SMM online columnist Krista Moore is president of K.Coaching, LLC, an executive coaching and consulting practice. For more information and free resources, go to www.buildyourships.com or www.kcoaching.com.