by Steve Adubato, PhD
Last week, we explored the importance of great leaders challenging team members in an assertive and potentially confrontational manner. But great leaders also know how to motivate and inspire their people. But how do you do that in these difficult and challenging times?
I recently polled some team members and clients and here is a brief summary of their responses:
--Money is a big motivator, but a complicated one. It means different things to different people. While money motivates some more than others, I found that it meant more to team members with families to support and bigger bills to pay. With younger team members, money mattered, but not as much as other factors such as being challenged with new opportunities on a regular basis and to being engaged in projects that allowed them to feel as if they were “making a difference”.
--All of us, regardless of our position, do work or tasks that aren’t particularly fun, but are important to the success of the organization. Many told me that it is motivating to have a healthy balance between projects and assignments they like to do versus what they know they must do. If this balance is skewed too heavily toward work that is tedious, mundane or just plain boring, it will wear people out and they will soon be looking to walk out the door. We must communicate to our people that we understand and recognize the importance of achieving this delicate balance.
--Who you work with is a huge motivator. Many folks are turned off by working with people who are lazy, poor performers with a bad attitude. What makes it worse is when these same employees are rewarded with comparable pay to those who are working hard and performing at a high level. This communicates a bad message. What motivates most people is working around professionals who are committed to the team’s success with an attitude that says, “We are all in this together”.
--Variety motivates. If you do the same thing every day, you are going to be unmotivated. Conversely, mixing up your professional portfolio is motivating. Smart managers and leaders are constantly looking at a team member’s responsibilities and asking this question; “What new project or assignment can I give to John that would challenge him and make a meaningful contribution to our team?” By doing that, you will diversify John’s workload and create more value for the team.
--Recognition and feedback. This cuts both ways. Being recognized for a job well-done is motivating. Smart managers communicate this face-to-face, over the phone, and via e-mail. Sometimes they do this one-on-one with the person involved, but they also can communicate this to the larger team. Clearly, getting such positive recognition makes people feel good about themselves and their work. At the same time, if a healthy relationship is in place, and an employee is feeling motivated on a regular basis, then he or she is better prepared to receive constructive criticism and feedback when it is needed. In fact, such feedback can even motivate that team member to do an even better job because he or she feels valued and important.
--Being trusted can be very motivating. When given an assignment, many employees want to work independently. They don’t want to be micromanaged and asked every five minutes; “Jane, where are you on that project?” This communicates a lack of trust. But if you are given clear direction and an opportunity to be challenged, you want a degree of independence and the ability to execute and implement a project or assignment. Such an environment is very motivating.