If you're a laissez-faire leader who believes that all employees are intrinsically success driven and ambitious without any input from you or others within the organization, then it’s time to upgrade your leadership style! As a leader, you hold the keys to much of their motivational drive; but, how do we motivate employees to do their best? When we examine this issue in our quest to discover how to get the very best out of employees within an organization, we must first understand that what motivates people can be rather diverse. While some employees are motivated intrinsically (or, by truly finding enjoyment in their work) others are motivated by extrinsic factors, which can be tangible (e.g., compensation) or intangible (e.g., recognition). So, the goal is to find out what motivates your employees, which will in turn help their performance. To boost employee motivation, leaders can use the following six techniques.
1. Get to know your employees
It’s important to get to know your employees and make it a goal to communicate with each of them. Be open-minded and encourage them to express their feelings, ideas, and perspectives without being critical or judging them. The goal is to allow people to talk freely about themselves in order to set a precedent of open, non-judgmental communication. You can share your life journey with them, both your successes and failures. Opening up yourself can help them feel more comfortable and candid with you about their own failures and achievements. This will further help you to discover more about your employees.
Use effective listening to learn what they do and don’t like and why. Then, respond respectfully to their concerns. For instance, your employees may be concerned about safety, security, and stability. The 2008 economic collapse in our economy has left a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. An understanding and sensitivity to these needs is crucial in understanding your employees. Ultimately, by getting to know your employees, you can find out what they value and hear what motivates (or, demotivates) them, which is vital.
Additionally, remember that this shouldn’t be a one-time occurrence as people’s wants and desires can change; so, be sure to approach them regularly and let them know that they can always come to you in the future with their concerns.
2. Communicate clear goals and expectations to your employees
Providing your employees with achievable goals and measurable standards to evaluate their performance will let them know that you value them and appreciate their hard work. This goes a long way for promoting productivity for the entire organization! This goes a longer way if you communicate these goals and expectations faceto- face (or, for virtual workers, through videoconferencing) where you can utilize facial cues and tone. Your own will signal that you are genuine and reading others’ will help you recognize when there is uncertainty.
3. Let them know you trust them
If you let people know that you trust and depend on them, they will perform better than you can imagine. People want to know their leader has their back and is looking out for their best interests. The most successful leaders don’t treat people as subordinates, but look for ways to include them in projects and meetings. This fosters trust between them and motivation to achieve. It is a win-win situation for all.
4. Let them lead
Nobody wants to do a dead end job. If employees think there’s no opportunity to advance, they have nothing to work toward. Leaders have the ability to create conditions for employees to find joy in their work while providing opportunities for them to better themselves. This can be done by offering training or providing mentoring or grooming of new employees. This can also be accomplished through teamwork where employees have the autonomy to share leadership roles while completing projects and in work where employees can choose how they perform their own tasks. The goal is to obtain mastery of skills in an environment that meets their needs and desires. In turn, the expectation is that they will take ownership in their work. It empowers them by providing an opportunity to make some of their own decisions. In other words, to let them lead. The bonus is that word travels fast and a great place to work becomes contagious, building the reputation that your company is a great place to work!
5. Set a good example
A good attitude is contagious and good moods are infectious! How you present yourself in a leadership role influences others and affects your ability to successfully motivate others. Recognize the importance of posturing yourself in the manner that you want your employees to emulate. Leading can be a rewarding yet challenging undertaking, but the most effective leaders model excellence and gracefully inspire others through their own actions.
Leading is all about influence. If you establish a high standard of excellence in behavior, it’s important to model the expected behavior yourself. People are more influenced by actions than words. A good rule of thumb is to refrain from asking an employee to do something that you would not do yourself.
Follow up, follow through, and deliver on results promised. Organizing tasks into smaller pieces and harnessing the key players in your organization for optimum results in projects can help. If you don’t want your employees to make excuses or deliver substandard results, then ensure you’re not doing those either!
Most importantly, develop and support others by treating them the way they want to be treated (this tracks back to #1 where you can find out what they want!). It’s important to remember that setting a good example demands a leadership style that is encouraging, acknowledging, and rewarding.
6. Use reward-based feedback
Reward affects motivation, which in turn affects individual performance, which ultimately affects organizational performance. The traditional techniques of rewarding employees based upon position and longevity have now expanded to modern day rewards such as profit sharing, stock options, and other monetary and non-monetary rewards. Leaders can also reward employees by letting them know how their actions make a difference to the company. Leaders can accomplish this through verbal praise and recognition. For example, although it may seem trivial, personal thank you notes and certificates of appreciation go a long way to make a person feel valued and motivated to do their job. Personalizing these rewards based on what you know about your employees (again, going back to #1), can be even more meaningful. Additionally, opportunities can be used as rewards as well. Leaders can sustain great motivation from employees by providing to them the opportunity to advance.
Taken together, these strategies create positive energy, promote advancement, and build confidence of employees within the organization to foster optimum performance.
Deion Clark is a business/management graduate and working on his Master’s in Human Resources at Rollins College at the time of submission.