By Steve Adubato, PhD

Motivating and engaging employees is always a challenge for any leader. Recently, I conducted a series of seminars on this topic, and after engaging hundreds of managers and leaders, here are some tips and tools that should help you pump up your people.

--Give employees challenging responsibilities that test their leadership potential. Expect more from your people than they expect from themselves. Great leaders push their people. They are constantly being creative by coming up with new projects and assignments that may make team members a little bit uneasy, but at the same time drive them to get outside of their comfort zone and achieve great things. This approach will definitely keep them engaged.

--Lead interactive and goal-oriented meetings that force active employee participation. When leaders do this, team members get caught up in the spirit of accomplishing organizational goals and they can truly connect with the passion and enthusiasm of the meeting leader. It is contagious in a positive way. The opposite approach will cause team members to become disengaged and unmotivated.

--Assign team members to lead certain meetings with clear goals and outcomes. Prior to those meetings, give other team members specific assignments that they must complete and come prepared ready to discuss. Smart leaders know they must give up the reins every once in a while to talented team members. As a result, these employees will become motivated to work harder and contribute more to the organization.

--Create a mentoring and coaching culture in which team members are assigned less experienced employees to develop into "future leaders" in the organization and hold them accountable over time. By doing this, team players will feel responsible, not just for their own performance, but for the performance of others. Nothing motivates us more than helping colleagues develop their potential. It is exciting and exhilarating, but it doesn’t happen by osmosis. It has to be organized and structured. The great leaders know this.

--Great leaders encourage team members to make presentations both internally and externally on important topics that they know well. Once again, this may make some team members - who say speaking in public is nerve-wracking and anxiety-producing - uncomfortable. But with the proper coaching and training, these same employees can make great strides in their communication skills. Experiencing this improvement is extremely motivating, which will cause these same employees to want to get better by working harder in this area. Conversely, keeping your people within their comfort zone guarantees they will become stagnant and bored.

--Take team members to high-level meetings outside the office, which will expose them to challenging situations and important stakeholders. Then, be sure to debrief afterward to find out what they took away from the experience. Involving team members in important meetings will help them feel a part of something special, something bigger. The stakes will be higher and they will feel more important to the organization. This will cause them to be more motivated and engaged. Continue to show an ongoing interest in teaching, coaching and mentoring, which is the pinnacle of employee development. Showing you care about an employee may be the ultimate motivator.

Dr. Yesenia Madas, Executive Director of the Center for Student Success – NJCCC, shares her most significant leadership lesson about igniting passion in your people.