Motivation isn’t a philosophy or a belief. It’s an action. Whether it is something you do or how you interact with others, motivation is real, animated and observable.
Now I’m going to tell you that you can’t motivate anyone. You can threaten someone, like a child who doesn’t eat her vegetables or clean his room, with consequences, but after the threat is over, most will go back to their own bad habits. You can pressure someone or try to make them feel guilty, but that person will begin to avoid you or resent you. Those tactics don’t produce long-lasting results necessary for a person to motivate himself for lasting change.
Yes, the key is to create an environment that fulfills a need so a person motivates himself to produce, work, agree, or whatever action is necessary. Forget the carrot-on-the-stick method or bat over the head. Here are seven actions a manager can take to get the team energized and productive.
1. Treat people as individuals. When I was an HR Director, we decided to give all our employees a frozen turkey at Thanksgiving. We were surprised at the less than enthusiastic response. We found out many of our employees didn’t have large families or traveled over the holidays and wouldn’t need a turkey. The vegetarians didn’t eat turkey. A lot of the single employees didn’t cook. We ended up giving everyone a gift card to the local superstore where they could buy whatever they wanted. It was a big hit. Get to know your team member’s preferences and work habits.
2. Make eye contact. Even if you’re just passing in the hallway, look at people. With everyone buried in a cell phone or computer screen most of the time, it’s nice to be acknowledged even with a quick glance.
3. Be available. When I was working at Marriott Corporation, our Sr. VP would come around in the afternoons and stop by everyone’s desk, just to say hello and see how we were. It was quick, but the smile, eye contact and a greeting by name was a better afternoon energizer than a double shot of espresso.
4. Praise in public. Start meetings by acknowledging successes or exceptional work by team members. Publish accomplishments in the company newsletter, blog or Facebook page.
5. Praise in writing. Write a letter, note or email to a team member thanking them for exceptional work. Putting it in writing holds a lot of weight, and the note can be added to an employee’s HR file.
6. Give honest, thoughtful feedback. When someone screws up, they already know it. No sense in beating someone when he’s down. But honest feedback about the situation and suggestions for improvement are invaluable. Always act with the intent to help the person save face and improve. Don’t make it personal. I always told my team members that if I didn’t care that they were successful, I wouldn’t say anything. Be a coach, not a critic.
7. Be a model of motivation. Do you approach each day with enthusiasm? Are you open to ideas and respectful of opinions? Do you ask for feedback and input? Be someone your team members can respect and will want to work for.
Have you found other ways to create an environment to motivate your team members? Share them in the Comments section below.