Whether you’ve been promoted to management recently or have been at it for ten years or longer, one thing never changes: Human nature — as in that of your employees — is often unpredictable. Knowing how to motivate each person on a team can be so frustrating and challenging.
But it can be done if managers have a basic understanding of human behavior — what makes people tick. What science has already found is that positive emotions (how work and culture make employees feel) are at the root of human motivation. We are wired for it in our creation design.
Therefore, managers must acquire the knowledge of what truly inspires loyal human beings to enthusiastically perform at a high level.
Let me prescribe eight strategies to help managers create the right atmosphere for motivating others.
1. Start with scheduling more one on one time.
Get off on the right track by making consistent clear goals and expectations an operational reality. You do that through the lost art of one-on-one conversations — a great motivational tool. Leaders thrive when they strengthen relationships with their people by spending more one-on-one time with them to hear their suggestions, ideas, problems and issues as well as talking about performance issues and their work. But first, you need to know how to structure these meetings so that it works to your advantage.
2. Find out what motivates them.
Do you know what gets your team members out of bed in the morning? What they’re passionate about — their goals, aspirations, and interests? In other words, do you really know your team members? Great leaders show an interest in their people’s jobs and career aspirations in order to motivate them the right way. Once that’s been established, they look into the future to create learning and development opportunities for their people. They find out what motivates their best people by getting to know what desires will drive each team member. This is about emotional engagement.
3. Provide the resources they need to do their work exceptionally well.
It’s a simple question, but you’d be surprised how often it is not asked: What do you need right now to do your job better? You may be surprised, or even shocked at the answer; it could be that they need access to more information to make the right decisions, bettter equipment or even another work space. Acting on what you find out will be a huge motivational booster.
4. Praise and compliment them often.
“I don’t like to be recognized,” said no human being, ever. Managers have to get into the habit of praising and complimenting their people for their good qualities and work. The companies in Gallup’s study with the highest engagement levels use recognition and praise as a powerful motivator to get their commitment. They found that employees who receive it on a regular basis increase their individual productivity, receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, and are more likely to stay with their organization. How regular are we talking? Praise should be given once per week, according to Gallup.
5. Help co-create purposeful work.
People want meaning and purpose in their work. In the book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant says that when people find purpose in their work, it not only improves that person’s happiness, it also boosts productivity. One way to give employees that purpose, according to Grant, is to have them meet the very people they are helping and serving, even if just for a few minutes. Managers giving their people access to customers so they can see firsthand the human impact their work makes is the greatest human motivator, says Grant.
6. Help them develop new skills.
Although important, I’m not so much talking about putting them through another required technical or safety training program to keep them or the business compliant, but actually giving them meaningful new skills or knowledge in other areas that they can use to leverage their natural strengths for future roles, whether with their current company or another company. The point is to serve and value them so exceptionally well as people and workers that they have no reason to leave but use their newfound skills for new projects.
7. Actively involve them.
Great managers recognize that leadership doesn’t travel one way but is multi-directional. While it can come from the top down at critical times, the best scenario is allowing decisions, information, and delegation to travel from peer to peer or from the bottom up, where the collective wisdom and involvement of the whole team help solve real issues in real time on the frontlines.
8. Believe in them.
The best managers delegate often and give their employees responsibility for delivering challenging work. If this doesn’t happen in your workplace, consider two hard questions:
- Do you trust your knowledge workers to do what they’ve been hired to do?
- Do they have the right competence for the job to carry out the work with confidence?
So often managers underestimate the potential and ability of their employees to use their brains! If you answered yes to the questions above, be of the mindset to always accept that they can do the work. Then, give them the room to perform and support them with whatever they need to make them even better. This is how you motivate them to the rafters.