In today’s business environment, it is essential that we find ways to make our organizational resources more productive. In many organizations, the most prominent and expensive resource we have is our people. As a result, a lot of time is spent on creating processes and conditions that drive and motivate our employees.
Over the years, I have observed leaders trying many ways to motivate their people to higher levels of performance. Even the best leaders have experienced the frustration of trying to lead someone who seemed to refuse to live up to expectations. Ironically, their people were probably feeling the same way. The reason: Motivation develops internally from a personal desire to achieve goals that are important both to the individual and to the organization. Motivation is the force that prompts you to take action. If you are having trouble getting someone to achieve your goals, you are probably failing to understand what theirs are.
A lot of research has been conducted over the years to identify the factors that have the most dramatic impact on productivity. While pay, fringe benefits, and working conditions are important, research has shown that absence of these factors produces a lack of motivation, but their presence has no long-range motivational effects. Long-range motivational factors are recognition of a job well done, sense of achievement, growth, participation, challenge, and identification with the company’s goals and vision.
In spite of these facts, leaders and managers spend a lot of time trying to find ways to motivate employees through fear and incentive. The very essence of fear is negative and over time has diminishing effects as employees develop attitudes that lead to a decrease in quality, commitment, and productivity. Fear can be highly motivating, but does not produce positive results for any length of time. Incentive, on the other hand, is a positive motivator, that is, a reward in exchange for a specific behavior. This also has diminishing returns as employees expect fair compensation based on their contributions, and, many times, there is a disconnect between what the employee desires and what the employer is willing to pay. Over time, employees start gravitating toward desiring more of the intangible rewards such as respect, growth, knowledge, prestige, and recognition (to name a few) that ultimately govern their internal motivation. The challenge lies in recognizing each individual’s unique desires.
Here are 15 ideas proven to provide for long-term motivation:
- Create a clear vision. Identify the organization’s mission and goals, and make sure that everyone understands the rationale behind them and how they contribute toward achieving them.
- Clearly communicate departmental objectives, and solicit input from your employees on what they can do to help achieve them.
- Make an effort to compliment each of your direct reports on at least a weekly basis.
- Make employee development and retention a primary objective of each manager and leader and reward their success accordingly.
- Ask employees for advice in areas where they have expertise.
- Involve everyone at all levels in the goal-setting and planning processes, particularly if they are responsible for the results.
- Let people know what is expected of them, and do everything you can to make them successful.
- Develop a “servant leader” attitude, and be there for your people rather than having them there for you.
- Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
- Stand behind your employees and back their decisions.
- Show the courage to let your employees learn from their mistakes.
- Take time to listen carefully to other people’s interests, opinions, concerns, and goals.
- Meet individually with your employees; help them clarify their personal goals and values; and assist them in identifying the skills they need to achieve their goals.
- Find ways to enrich the jobs of your employees by increasing their authority or span of control.
- Encourage employees to expand their comfort zone.
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Reference and excerpts taken with permission from Leadership published by Resource Associates Corporation, Mohnton, PA.