Great leaders motivate people. What do great leaders do repeatedly and consistently to motivate their team?
As leaders, we want motivated people to work in our teams because they’re productive and perform at their best.
Everyone is motivated by their ‘WHY’. Our ‘WHY’ explains why we do what we do. In a previous video (Understanding our WHY—and why that matters), I explored why entrepreneurs and business owners need to know and understand their ‘why’. The answer is because our purpose as business owners guides us on what we should do and how we should do it by providing a very good reason on why we should do it.
Employees are also motivated by their WHYs. The common advice is to lead employees in a way that aligns with their WHYs. This is important—because if we miss out in understanding what that WHY is, we run the risk of rolling out policies that, although well-intentioned, will run contrary to motivating people.
Let’s take a very well-intentioned attendance reward program that recognised and rewarded employees who came to work on time every single day for oneentire month, which I discussed in a previous video. On the flipside of this program was that if anyone came in tardy at any time during the month, they will not be eligible for this reward. At the end of the program, the company found that the policy became counterproductive. In fact, the company discovered that they lost 1.4% of daily productivity!
The problem with this program is that it tried to motivate people through an external motivating factor, like money, which they found out does not effectively motivate people. What gets people motivated instead are internal factors—which is essentially our WHYs or our PURPOSE.
So what should you do instead?
In another video, I discussed examples of policies designed to align with employees’ internal motivating factors. One company focused on providing employees with a reasonable amount of autonomy through reducing working hours. This, in turn, gave employees a greater sense of responsibility. Another policy focused on continually providing opportunities for professional development. It aligned with the employees’ desire to develop their skills.
These policies were designed through a significant course in time and suited the kind of business that the companies were involved in. These certainly require long-term planning prior to execution.
Perhaps the more pressing question for you is: what can I do consistently and repeatedly starting today so that I can build and nurture a team of motivated individuals?
Here are some practical tips to motivating people in your team that you can do on a regular basis.
- Be more engaged with people.
People, in general, appreciate it when other people take an interest in their well-being. They particularly appreciate it when they know that their bosses care for them and are working to provide support. Schedule time with your employees to check in on them regularly, whether weekly, fortnigthly or quarterly. Check on them—how are they doing? Do they have any issues that you need to address? In some organisations, top bosses schedule 15-minute catch up meetings with their subordinates at the end of the week to check up on their progress and general well-being.
- Make it a habit to ask when an employee is facing a problem or challenge at work: what do you need to help you do your job better?
Often, the people who cause problems have the knowledge and ability to solve them. Many times, too, these problems can be resolved more quickly when employees are provided with some level of support by the organisation–perhaps tweaks in the process, provisions of additional resources, or designing better policies. But we can’t find solutions if we don’t understand the problem, and so it is always a good idea to ask.
- Help employees find meaning and purpose in their work.
Not everyone will have the privilege of knowing and understanding their WHY—or even find meaning in their work. This is more common with people who perform repetitive tasks. To me, one of the best ways of motivating them is to make them understand how important their tasks are in the whole scheme of things.
Let’s say you have an employee who is responsible for filing boring paperwork. The task itself can be tedious, and repetition can make it boring. For some, menial tasks can be disheartening, and this can cause people to make mistakes. One of the best ways to motivate people to do this task is to make them understand the repercussions of sloppy work. What happens if he or she files an important document in the incorrect folder? What if that document is important and required by, say an important regulatory agency or a key client? And what if the document was urgently needed but could not be found merely because it was filed incorrectly?
When people understand how important their job is, it will be easier for them to understand how important it is for them to do it well.
- Train! Training comes in many forms: formal training, mentoring, shadowing, or even cross-training in different departments. Find opportunities where employees are allowed to train and be trained.
- Praise publicly, criticise privately.
No one is perfect and we’re all prone to make mistakes. Feedback is crucial so that we know whether we’re doing a good job or a bad one. The key to motivating employees is knowing how to provide feedback. Recognising employees publicly results in two things: (1) it provides feedback to that employee that the bosses see the good work, which motivates the employee to continue doing good work, and (2) it provides other employees with behaviour that they can model so that they, too, can be recognised.
On the other hand, providing negative feedback privately is also important because it provides the employee with an opportunity and a game plan to rectify his or her mistake. It is also an opportunity for you, as leader and business owner, to understand certain issues and concerns that contributed to this mistake—and provides you with an opportunity to correct it. It’s also a learning opportunity for both you and the employee to learn from this.
If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.