Successful Employee Motivation

Engaging people who'd rather not be there

Are you looking for a successful employee motivation program? Well, this article may or may not help. The answers to motivating your employees (for the long-term) aren't contained within a single program. However, there are plenty of things you can do to inspire people to want to give of their best.

Ask people at your work "If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?" Probably at least half of them would reply that they would rather be doing something different to that which they currently do today.

Trapped at Work

Many people find themselves trapped in careers and jobs that don't enable them to be free-flowing, natural, effortless. They feel hemmed in by their responsibilities (mortgage payments, children's schooling etc).

While their work may not be creating great joy and delight in their lives, it is better than nothing and better than the consequences of having no work.

So they drag themselves out of bed, and off to work, not with a heart filled with lightness and energy, but often times a heart filled with resignation and heaviness; no heart singing or anticipation of a day filled with satisfaction.

This type of response begs two questions:

  • 1
    How did we manage to do this to ourselves, and
  • 2
    How difficult does this make it for you, the Leader, to engage people who would rather be doing something/(anything)else? (In other words, is successful employee motivation beyond your control?)

How Did We Manage to do this to Ourselves?

A quick exercise.

Grab a pen and sign your name.

Now put the pen in the other hand and sign your name again.

Write Exercise

You probably found it frustrating, difficult, tiring, slower and it required more energy and focus.

Imagine that, I now asked you to use your non-natural hand to sign your name for the rest of your life.

Yes, you will get used to it. However, it will never be as free-flowing, natural, and effortless as using your natural hand, and of course, your artistry will possibly never be quite as high.

Successful Employee Motivation Begins with an Individual's Career Choice

When you made your, all important, career choice you were probably highly susceptible to the influences of family, friends, and teachers.

Like most people, you were probably filled with optimism about your future, and you anticipated much success.

You were quite possibly willing to take on any job, whether it was something you wanted to do - or your parents wanted you to do - it would do for the moment.

It would do to fill in the time between your social commitments!

You probably thought to yourself, "Someday soon, I'll find something better - something that excites me, but this will be okay for now." Has someday arrived for you ... or the people who work with you?

During this period of starting out, you may well have been told by a career counselor, to find a career that suits your values, interests, and capabilities. Which is true, you must consider each of these. However, you must also consider your personality.

As you gain life experience your values, interests, and capabilities will change, but not so your personality. Your behavior can and will change depending upon the situation, but your core personality does not go away.

For example, you were born either an extrovert or an introvert. Certainly, your environment may have dictated how your extroversion or introversion developed. But, if you are an extrovert by nature, even in an environment that discourages extroversion, you will find ways to express it.

For example, if an extrovert is in a job that requires much time spent alone in relatively quiet solitude, analyzing data, they will go nuts! S/he will find themselves spending time at the coffee bar/lunch room or at the photocopier looking for excuses to interact with others, to talk through their ideas. The core requirements of their job, being lost in the need to interact with people, and consequently the person not being as successful, or as engaged in their work, as they could be.

Successful Employee Motivation Begins on the Inside!

For successful employee motivation, you need to use self-awareness! Both for yourself and your people.

Using the example above, say this extrovert realizes that his/her work was causing him/her great frustration, and had started to think about the sort of work which will bring great joy and delight. S/he may well start to list on paper: "I like to be stimulated by other people, I love the urgency of deadlines, I prefer to make group decisions, I like things to be busy and with lots of variety."

From this activity, you may well identify that maybe you (or a person who is reporting to you) are in the right company, the right industry, the right profession, just the wrong job.

Maybe instead of being the Data Analyst in your company, you could move into a Sales support role, helping others to make use of the data that has been generated. If you feel you could be in the wrong job, use the Ideal Job Exercise to help, you identify those things you love to do.

You may also like to think about whether you are in a job, career or have found your calling.

Here's A Tip: If you find that the work you are doing is just that ... hard work, then it is time to re-evaluate what it is that you would like to do.

What it is that you can do with ease, that is effortless, that causes you to look forward to waking in the morning, that creates the sense that work is play, which fills you with energy? (And of course, if you have a person reporting to you who is a square peg, in a round hole, then, as a high-performance leader, you will help them to move to/create a role that fits their talents, strengths, and interests).

Successful Employee Motivation Could Begin WITHOUT Job Descriptions

Have you ever thought of getting rid of Job Descriptions? Some people may think that's too radical and risky! This isn't how it needs to be. Successful employee motivation can come when you design the workplace to people's strengths.

Try This With Your Team!

  • 1
    Write up on a board all the Outcomes that need to be achieved by your team.
  • 2
    Within those Outcomes, there will be a number of tasks/roles that need to be performed.
  • 3
    Ask people to identify those tasks/roles that they feel drawn to, that they feel will get and keep them inspired to use their skills, talents, capabilities, and personality.
  • 4
    There may very well be tasks left over that no-one wants to do. You could divide the tasks up between the group and/or have the tasks rotated around the group, or you could ask the group to find creative ways of having that work done in some other way or eliminated - this creates innovation in the workplace.

Successful Employee Motivation Happens when People are Engaged in Work They Love

When I was a leader at Colgate-Palmolive, there were many times when team members nominated themselves to take on additional duties. These were generally projects or tasks that they felt they would enjoy doing, that they wanted to do.

The key question I always asked them was, "What in your work is going to suffer if you take this on, and how can you make sure that our Team Outcomes aren't going to suffer". To discover how to ask questions like this so that you ensure delegated tasks Get Done, Done Well and Done On Time you can access the training on successful delegation.

There are numerous examples of how people found ways to become very very innovative in eliminating the repetitive, non-value adding work, so they could free up the time to become involved in the tasks and projects that engaged their heart and soul. It was successful employee motivation at its best - the individuals were winning, and the business was winning.

If you are in a 'traditional' workplace it may take you some time, persistence and a heck of a lot of commitment, to do this. You will need to be a barrier-buster with other leaders (sadly, often the people you report to) who dislike change and are immersed in the 'might is right' way of thinking.

These people, unfortunately, may not be on a similar growth path to you and would prefer to be more traditional and not use the tools and techniques that are common in high-performance organizations and result in successful employee motivation.

However, if you stay committed, and are diligent in your focus upon creating a workplace that engages your people, your business results will speak for themselves. Eventually, those people who are entrenched in low-performance leadership will either come around, and want to model what you are doing, OR YOU will move into an organization that can foster and enjoy your capability, energy, and talent!

Successful Employee Motivation Leads to Greater Productivity

A leader, I coach, recently said "I'm now getting much more productivity and better quality from my team because they are doing things that they love to do. We haven't focused on whose job it is, but more on who has the natural skill, talent and desire to do this task."

To lead an orchestra, you have to turn your back on the audience. So maybe, just maybe, it is time for you to be a great high-performance leader, and turn your back on convention and work with your team members, to find ways to structure your business, so that they come to work with their minds and souls engaged - not just their bodies.

Isn't it about time that you brought about some change in the workplace?

Being unique and confident enough to step outside the norm IS one of THE great leadership Qualities

Successful Employee Motivation Activity:

  • 1
    How does it feel when you are getting ready for work in the morning? Lightness and eager anticipation, or heaviness and resignation?
  • 2
    Think back to times in your life when you felt totally engaged, what were you doing?
  • 3
    What were the sorts of things you loved to do as a child? (This is often a great clue to your passion)
  • 4
    Strike up conversations with people you work with, and ask them "If you could do any job, what would it be?". What are the implications for your business?
  • 5
    Explore getting your team to design the work around people's personalities, capabilities, values, desires rather than job descriptions

Let's go to the next article in this series and take a look at what you can do to create an environment that will encourage people to feel inspired to give of their best.

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