10 Ways to Motivate Your Employees

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Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t motivate anyone, they have to motivate themselves”? From a purely psychological perspective, that may be true, but people are more likely to motivate themselves when a manager creates a motivating workplace environment.

What does a “motivating environment” look like? It’s where it’s 5 p.m., and most of the department is on the way out the door, and your team is still working hard and having fun at the same time.

A motivating environment is where people are pushing themselves harder than any boss could ever push them.

It’s where people are giving it their all when no one is watching and no one may ever know. They’re giving 110% because they want to work hard, not because they have to work. So what can a leader do to create this kind of environment? Here are ten ways, in order of importance:

1. Meaningful Work

The most important thing any leader can do to create a motivating environment is to make sure the work every member is doing is meaningful. That is, the work is important to the success of the business – every employee feels like what they are doing is making a difference and it’s energizing.

On the other hand, there’s no worse feeling than knowing your work just doesn’t matter. Every leader has some degree of discretion in being able to eliminate or minimize the amount of “” (non-value-added work) that flows into a team.

Any job can be meaningful. I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the two bricklayers; one of them saw his job as stacking bricks. The other saw his mission as building a magnificent cathedral. Same job, different worldview.

Making sure work is meaningful is the best form of job security a leader can give a team.

It’s every leader’s job to scrutinize every team member’s work like a CEO looking for jobs to cut. If the work is important, it’s less likely to be eliminated.

2. Hire High Performers and Get Rid of Underperformers

High performers tend to be self-motivated, to begin with. When you create a team of high performers, they feed off of each other. The standards are raised, the energy level increases, teamwork improves, and there’s a low tolerance for anything less than excellence. On the other hand, one or more slackers with bad attitudes can infect a team like cancer, breed resentment, and drag everyone down.

3. Don’t Micromanage – Get out of the Way

No one likes to have his/her manager breathing down his/her neck – in fact, it drives employees crazy. Show your employees that you are interested in what they are doing, but you trust them to make their own decisions and do things differently than you might do them.

4. Promote Your Team’s Accomplishments

As a leader, it’s your job to be your employee’s PR agent. Make sure their good work gets noticed, recognized, and appreciated. Don’t worry about over-promoting your team’s good work – most managers love to get good news. Just make sure the bragging is about them, not about you.

5. Minimize the Rules and Bureaucracy

As long as your team is focusing on what’s really important (see number one, meaningful work), and performing at a high level (see number two), cut them some slack. Don’t hassle them with minutia, give them flexibility in work hours, and protect them from stupid rules.

6. Treat People With Respect

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Yelling, screaming, hurling insults and accusations, and sarcastic comments create an environment of fear and resentment, where employees are motivated to do only enough not to get yelled at, and no more.

7. Get Personal

Get to know your employees as people and learn about their families, their career goals, and truly care about them. I knew a manager who, when one of his employees went above and beyond the call of duty and put in extra hours, would send a hand-written note to the employee’s spouse along with a gift certificate for a night out.

He recognized the effect the job was having on his employee’s home life and wanted to let the spouse know what a great job he was doing and how much he appreciated her support. While that may not be appropriate for everyone, it’s an example of showing your employees you care about their personal lives, not just work.

8. Set a Good Example

Be motivated, enthused, energized, and passionate about your own work and the work of the team.

9. Encourage Camaraderie (During Work Hours)

Take your team to lunch or bring goodies to your team meeting to celebrate milestones, or just to lighten up and have some fun together. Notice I said during work hours. While it’s okay if your employees want to go out for a drink after work or get together on their own time, I don’t believe a leader should intrude on people’s own time in the name of team building.

10. Pay People for What They Are Worth

Yes, compensation is important, but I’ve listed it last. While pay is not a motivator, it can be a de-motivator if people feel they are underpaid. Do everything you can as a leader to fight for well-deserved merit increases, promotions, and bonuses.