Whilst people can be complicated and difficult to fathom, there are some common things that motivate employees at work. Follow these steps and you will motivate the majority of people in your team. If in doubt ask them directly.
1. Set Understandable Goals
This seems simple enough and yet some managers still do not make themselves understood. This is because what makes sense to one person may not make sense to another. One team member may need to see the detail in writing and another may prefer a diagram. Others may prefer real life examples or some to demonstrate it for them. So the answer is allow for different communication styles and check understanding using open questions.
Communicating goals effectively is vital otherwise people will become demotivated when they get it wrong and you will be frustrated!
2. Evaluate Capability
Each year when we set ever more challenging objectives for our team we need to check that people are keeping pace with these demands. As companies look for more productivity with less staff some of your people will be overwhelmed. It is common for managers (and employees) to overlook how long tasks can take during a normal working day. We often hear managers say, ‘That’s easy, it shouldn’t take you long!’ This may be true without everything else we have to do, interruptions and problems.
These days people are more reluctant to say that they cannot cope in fear that they may be seen as failures and even worse may lose their job. Always check to see the level of people’s workload and skills to get everything done. It can be easy to lose someone with valuable experience just because we were unaware that there was a problem getting everything done.
Just by taking the time and trouble to find out will help to motivate people in your team.
3. Plug The Gaps
This can cover many different areas. Having evaluated capability you may have identified some issues that may prevent the person meeting their objectives. If they are overwhelmed as mentioned above then you will need to re-assess the spread of work in the team. It is also worth considering whether there are tasks that can be eliminated or made easier. The gap could also be the skills and knowledge of the individual doing the task. It can be easy to assume that the person has them already. Undertake a ‘training needs analysis’ to see who in your team needs developing through training and coaching.
4. Check For Motivation Levels
Even if someone has the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job we cannot assume that they also have the motivation they need to carry it out.This can be done through observation of body language as you give them the task or just be asking them! One useful technique to use in this situation is scaling. This is where you ask individuals to indicate their level of motivation (and separately, confidence) on a scale of 1 to 10. By encouraging them to be honest with you it can be a great way of gauging how they feel about the task. Remember it is rare to get a ten and you will need to se your knowledge of that person to see what is reasonable. Anybody who is less than a seven will beindicating that there is a problem. In this situation you will need to explore it by saying, ‘What do we need to do to bring you up one point?’ and ask for reasons.
5. Review Progress & Provide Necessary Support
Even if somebody is totally confident, competent and motivated it always pays to review progress. Experienced people can get complacent and some people may hesitate to let you know if it’s not going well.
As long as you explain how and progress will be monitored then there should be no resentment. Most people are motivated by achievement, job satisfaction and recognition. Helping someone to achieve all these things by reviewing progress is a great motivator. If they are doing well, praise and recognise them by asking them to tell you how it is going in their own words.
If they are struggling, ask them what support they need from you and where possible provide that support. If they need rescuing then provide the ‘lifeline’ in a sensitive way that protects their pride and helps them to learn from it.
6. Ask Them What Motivates Them!
Of course you could have asked this at the beginning. The idea here is that you do all the basics of being a manager as outlined in the steps above. This is generally what people expect or hope you will as their manager and they will usually be motivated by this behaviour. However if this doesn’t seem to make a difference then ask! If you are familiar will Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you will be aware that there may be other needs if someone’s life that are not being met that may affect their performance and this may be why you need to ask.
We hope you find these steps useful and if you need help motivating your team or particular team members then consider contacting MTD for some management coaching. We can provide discreet coaching to assist you overcome these challenging situations.
Head of Training
Originally published: 21 May, 2013
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