When I ask leaders what they think the job of a leader is, they often answer that their motivation is to motivate. When I ask why they don’t just hire motivated people, they are unsure what to say. My point: Can you motivate someone else?
Motivation is Unreliable
Author Stephen Guise wrote that “Motivation is unreliable because it’s based on how you feel, and we’ve known for centuries that human feelings are fluid and unpredictable. Many things can alter your feelings.” If this is true, and I believe it is, what is a leader to do?
Motivation comes in two forms: Intrinsic, from inside the person, and Extrinsic, from external factors. Both are important, but intrinsic motivation is what will be longer-lasting and will take you further. If you rely on external motivators, you are subject to changes in the environment that are primarily out of your control.
Eight Ways to Manage the Motivation Level of the People You Lead
Here are some ways, internal and external, that you can increase the motivation level of the people on your team:
- Purpose (Intrinsic) – humans have an innate drive for purpose. If what you are doing does not feed this drive, it can be challenging to remain focused and motivated to continue forward. Action: be clear on your organization’s purpose and link that to the purpose of the individual you lead.
- Autonomy (Intrinsic) – no one wants to be micro-managed. People want to have control of their workflow and make decisions on how to get their work done. When you micro-manage, you are saying, “I don’t trust you to do the job the way I want it done.” Action: Train them, equip them, coach them, and then let them do their job.
- Relationships (Intrinsic/Extrinsic) – humans have an innate desire to belong. Relationships in the workplace are a vital driver of motivation to come to work and stay at work. Action: Initiate and cultivate a relationship with each of your teammates. You can also help to connect teammates with each other.
- Progress (Intrinsic) – If someone makes progress toward a goal and does not feel like they are “spinning their wheels,” they will feel motivated to continue. Action: First, make sure there is a goal. If there is nothing to aim for, there is little chance someone will be motivated to work hard. Second, provide regular feedback and coaching along the way. Feedback helps others know how they are doing and gives them that feeling of making progress and that you care that they are making progress.
- Mastery (Intrinsic) – are they growing and improving? If so, they will be motivated to continue the journey, no matter how the environmental winds blow. Action: Insist each person has a personal development plan.
- Money (Extrinsic/Intrinsic) – Money can be extrinsic and intrinsic. How you pay someone often speaks to how much you value their services, adding the intrinsic component. Action: Make sure your people are compensated fairly. Also, realize that if someone feels valued and needed and feels like they are growing and learning, money seems secondary, as long as it is fair.
- Recognition (Extrinsic) – most people like to be recognized for their work. How they want to be recognized (publicly or privately) may vary, but calling attention to someone’s contribution to the team and organization is motivating. Action: Be creative. If you don’t have cash prizes, find something else of value to the individual. And don’t forget the value of a sincere “Thank You.” Making the “thank you” personal and specific can go a long way to raising the level of motivation someone feels.
- Appreciation (Extrinsic/Intrinsic) – appreciation is different from recognition. While recognition often flows down the org chart (boss to employee), appreciation can flow up, down, and sideways. A thank you goes a long way here too! Action: Develop a culture of genuine appreciation for each other. Not just you are showing appreciation for a teammate, but every member of the team expressing appreciation for others on the team and you.
Is it the job of a leader to motivate their team? No, but there is a lot a leader can do to help their team members find motivation within themselves.
Many of these ideas originated from Author Dan Pink and his book, “Drive,” and from author and speaker Dr. John C. Maxwell.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with Maxwell Leadership’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.
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