It’s every leader’s dream to have a motivated, focused, and high-performing team. Equally, it’s every employee’s desire to be motivated and inspired at work, and go home every day feeling fulfilled and satisfied. But all organisations struggle with sustained motivation, which is why we are going to offer three leadership tips on how to motivate employees for the long-run.

Without deviating too much, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on a time when you went home feeling as if you’d had a “wow” day at the office. I’m guessing that it’s been a while… Don’t feel alone; it’s not often that we have the kind of days where we were truly inspired and motivated by our work.

Leaders are frustrated that employees aren’t motivated, and employees are bored or unmotivated as their leader doesn’t give them the personal motivation that they yearn for. This is a lose-lose situation which results in headaches for both leaders and employees.

The Secret to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

The concept of motivation in the workplace is nothing new; it’s been a conundrum which leaders have grappled with for centuries. Over time, various motivation theories have been designed by people like Maslow, Vroom, Hertzberg, Skinner, Locke and countless others. They all have a slightly different focus, but basically all want the same: to inspire employees to be engaged at work and put in the necessary effort into their tasks. However, what the theories miss is the fact that everyone can’t be placed in the same box. They’re unique beings who are motivated, stimulated and passionate about different things. So, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and leaders have to take the time to get to know their team members really well to understand what they are passionate about and what does or doesn’t interest them. It is this personal attention that helps leaders to motivate employees for the long-run.

What makes motivation as a leader so difficult is that we tend to make three dire assumptions. Firstly, we assume that people are motivated by the same things that we are. This is seldom the case because everyone is unique with different values and belief systems, which means that a different motivation style and intensity is required. Secondly, we assume that people should be self-motivated. In an ideal world where employees are working on things that stimulate and excite them, they’ll have their own inner motivation.

However, there are many things that don’t motivate them or that are overwhelming for them, and these require managers to provide extra motivation and encouragement. Thirdly, motivation waxes and wanes depending on the progress we make on tasks. Employees need words of encouragement, feedback, and support to get through difficult periods. A kind and encouraging word carries a lot of weight.

I’m aware that we’re heading towards the end of the year and that motivation is starting to wane, however in our article Three Strategies to Keep You Motivated Towards Year End published on 8 October 2019, we provided you with ideas on how to get through the last two months of the year in a positive way.

In this article, I want to take a longer-term view on how you can make motivation part of your leadership style and influence the culture of your team. This is a competency that is built and developed over time. It’s important to remember that motivation is a way of leading; it’s something you do every day rather than when people are low, disengaged, and unmotivated. By then, you’ll have a steep road ahead to get people positive and engaged again. It is so much better to learn to do it every day in small bits so that you maintain the momentum. Make sure that the whole team feel motivated often!

Three Leadership Tips on How to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

Build the following motivation skills into your daily leadership role and notice motivated employee’s in the long-run. Four tangible outcomes that you can use to see whether there is a change in your team’s motivation are:

(1) They communicate more often and are more open with you (2) They share with you and others when they make mistakes (3) They volunteer on additional projects or work (4) They share information or knowledge with each other

Three basic things which a leader should do to ensure that they motivate employees for the long-run are:

1. Involve the whole team in decision-making

People want to feel included and connected with their manager as well as with their colleagues. Giving them time, the most valuable resource, is a primary motivator for them because they feel valued, appreciated, and considered. Allow them to contribute in meetings, ask them to share their ideas, and listen to them. Give them the autonomy to contribute their creativity and innovation; they are often the ones doing the actual work so they generally have the best solutions.

2. Reward people in their value language

Most people don’t mind working late or taking on extra work for a certain amount of time, but generally they want to be rewarded for it. It’s your job to know which rewards motivate employees for the long-run. Understand what they value and align the reward accordingly. To do this, you have to listen to the language they use, as that is a common give-away. Better still, you need to spend time with them to get to know them better. There is nothing more off-putting than receiving a meaningless reward after a long slog. A reward without any thought or consideration behind it will demotivate them, and it might even go so far as to break down the trust in the relationship.

3. Accountability and fairness

It may sound odd to put these two words together, but employees are motivated by being held accountable. They want you to follow up with them on where they are, check in if they need support, and remind them of a looming deadline. You might disagree, but in the end every employee wants to know that their peers are working as hard as they are, and as per their job description. If this is not the case, then employees value it if you hold that person accountable and don’t turn a blind eye. Not addressing it with the employee will instil a feeling of unfairness which can be exceptionally demotivating. Having double standards for different people, or favouring one person over the other, are absolute no-nos. Before you have a chance to blink, a lacklustre culture will have developed and the team performance will decline. I urge you to learn this skill as early as possible.

At 4Seeds we specialise in building positive workplaces through the use of scientific, practical, and fun workshops. We develop bespoke and affordable training that is tailored to your company’s needs.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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