10 Ways to Motivate Your Employees

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The saying, “You can’t motivate anyone, they have to motivate themselves” may be true from a psychological perspective, but people are more likely to motivate themselves when a manager creates a motivating workplace environment.

Exactly what is a “motivating environment?” 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 percent because they want to work hard, not because they have to work hard. What can a leader do to create this kind of environment? Here are ten ways you can motivate your team.

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. Meaning, the work an employee is doing is important to the success of the business and the employee knows they are making a difference.

Conversely, there’s no worse feeling than knowing your work doesn’t matter. Every leader has some degree of discretion in being able to eliminate or minimize the amount of the "no-value-added work" that flows into a team.

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 the same way a CEO may be looking for ways to cut overhead. And, of course, if the work an employee is doing is deemed 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 end up feeding off each other. The standards are raised, the energy level increases, teamwork improves, and there is a low tolerance for anything less than excellence. On the other hand, one or more slackers with bad attitudes can infect a team like a virus, breed resentment, and drag everyone down.

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

No one likes having a manager breathing down their neck—in fact, it drives employees crazy because they feel they can't be trusted to do the job well. Your team will be more successful if you show them that you're interested in what they are doing, and, at the same time, trust them enough to make their own decisions—even if they 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 booster. Make sure their good work gets noticed, recognized, and appreciated. 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 and performing at a high level, cut them some slack. Don’t hassle them with all the minutia. Instead, give them flexibility in work hours and protect them against nonsensical rules and time-consuming bureaucracy.

6. Treat People With Respect

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Yelling, screaming, scowling, hurling insults and accusations, and sarcastic comments create an environment of fear and resentment. You may get immediate results with this kind of behavior (out of fear) but employees will only be motivated to do the bare minimum—and your talented employers will head for the door. 

7. Get Personal

Get to know your employees as people and learn about their families, their career goals, and show that you truly care about them. Send a hand-written note to the employee who is getting married or whose child is graduating from college. It may not seem like a lot, but it shows you're invested in the employee, as a human being, not just a worker.

8. Set a Good Example

Be motivated, enthused, energized, and passionate about your own work and the work of the team. You are the leader, after all, and your team will follow your good example.

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 things up.

10. Pay People for What They Are Worth

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.