Managers often struggle as they think about how to motivate employees. Part of demonstrating leadership – leadership styles – means finding that motivation factor. In the past when money was available team nights out were organised or the Christmas Party and Summer bar-b-q were pencilled into the calendar. The manager would encourage all to participate declaring “it’ll be fun” to which some smiled while internally they groaned. The cost of such events didn’t always yield the desired results. Managers ignored or failed to remember that motivation isn’t about semi annual or annual events. Instead it’s an on-going requirement that needs attention. Ultimately it’s about understanding employees as individuals, observing their behaviours, recognising what drives them and then providing opportunities to tap into those drivers. It’s not a difficult process, just one that requires attention and the desire to make it both happen and work for the business and your employee.
So here’s how it works:
Step 1: Observation
Observe how your employee approaches work and see if you notice a pattern. Note the time your employee flies through a job or is in good humour. Identify patterns that emerge; maybe the person enjoys a challenge or always finds ways to make improvements or maybe your employee enjoys interacting with external customers. Whatever the employee is doing well is linked to what motivates them. Your job is to find out what that is which can only be done through deliberate observation.
Step 2: Talk to the Employee
Follow up your observations with a discussion with the employee. This doesn’t have to be a formal appraisal meeting. Find the time and space to have a conversation. Comment on the positive observations and ask them about those observations: what did they enjoy about the work? Would they like to do more of that type of work if the opportunity arises? What other aspects of their role do they enjoy? Don’t make any commitment to the employee at this time. This is just a conversation to understand the employee and to demonstrate to the employee that you are noting their positive contributions.
Step 3: Step Back and Find the Opportunities
Take time to find ways to use the strengths the employee demonstrated. Are there projects to which the employee could be assigned? Is there a body of work that has been ignored that would be interesting for this individual? Could this individual assist another area of the business or another team? Be creative and don’t limit yourself to what you’ve always done or how a department is defined. Broaden your thinking. Remember, if you don’t find opportunities your employee will find opportunities – probably outside your business or indeed with your competitor.
Step 4: Get Things Rolling
Plan your course of action and involve your employee. Explain why you are taking this course of action. Praise the employee and let them know you will continue to observe what they are doing and encourage them to find further opportunities to apply their strengths. Let them know this is not the finishing point but a process that will continue as the business continues to hold its own or indeed grow.
This process is never ending so once applied it needs to be maintained. This approach ensures you encourage employees to be intrinsically motivated and not reliant on external (and often monetary) rewards.
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