Motivation, especially self-motivation, is an extremely desirable quality in an employee. Motivation can exhibit itself in many forms including persistence, accountability, responsibility, commitment, teamwork and going the extra mile. As a leader, how do you instill motivation in an employee that may not already have it? Once they become motivated, how do you keep them motivated?
Leaders are a vital participant in the creation of motivated employees. To be motivated, an employee must first feel valued, trusted, supported and challenged in their role within the organization. These are all feelings that can be influenced – for better or for worse – by strong leaders. The attitude and behavior a leader exhibits toward an employee can have a huge effect on their drive and willingness to perform well.
There is an overwhelming misconception that the only thing that matters to an employee, and what leads to drive and motivation, is their compensation. While it can be argued that compensation drives behavior, this is not the only thing that motivates employees. Compensation is important and poor compensation will definitely lead to poor performance and a lack of engagement.
However, compensation is something that shows up for an employee at most “once a week” and often less frequently than that. For most of us, our bank accounts act as sort of a “clearing house” for funds. Money goes in, money goes out, and the net result is about the same from month to month. Feeling valued, trusted and supported by one’s management is something that can be illustrated almost daily and has a much longer shelf-life than compensation.
Another common misconception is that employees either arrive with motivation and drive already “built in”, or they do not. As human beings, we are naturally motivated and driven to succeed. So, if an employee has lost that motivation either prior to joining your company or while at your company, something has happened to cause that employee to disengage and question their self-worth to the organization. Leaders too often give up on these employees, labeling them as poor performers, instead of working with them to find out what is missing from their jobs to cause a lack of motivation.
Different employees respond differently when asked what motivates them. For some, it can be open and public recognition of their efforts in front of their peers. For others, it can be as simple as showing your faith in them by asking their opinion on an idea or process. Leaders should engage each employee and learn what motivates them. Engage employees who are already motivated top performers to learn how to keep them motivated going forward.
Employees who are motivated make a daily difference in the organization as a whole. Performance, and therefore productivity, will improve. Team cohesiveness will generate creativity and improved efficiency. As a result, your leadership abilities will gain even more visibility and that will continue to motivate you to reach new levels as well.
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