Motivation : 4 Practical Bottomline Facts

Motivating employees is probably the most important and most difficult task that a people manager has. And there are so many web pages, trainings, books and “experts” around. Some hope to inspire themselves by listening to extereme climbers, some swear that the “fish method” has resulted in miracles. I attented personally several  corporate trainings, went through several MBA courses teaching me the most trendy best practices about how employees should be and can be motivated.
But you know what? When it comes to real life, when you have to figure out a realistic and feasible plan as a manager, it is really tough to make the right call. Many shiny teachings and concepts lose their meanings overnight. I have recently realised I know no manager in person who ever told me a specific method , book or framework has been the key motivation leverage for him/her. Management is like sports. It helps a lot if you know the science and build a strong knowledge base for yourself , but at the end of the day what matters is how you train and develop your required muscles.
Frankly, I don’t know how good I am as a motivator. Some honest feedback makes me at least think that I am not a loser in that area. And I believe that some “bottomline” facts resulting from my experiences and learnings can be useful to many other (to-be) managers:
Fact 1 :  Take a look at the person in the mirror
How motivated are you? How fair and realistic would it be to expect that your direct reports can be more motivated than you?
Many of us surely have seen people who are more motivated than their managers. But, I don’t think the managers’ involvement is the real driver of their motivation. After all, if you think you can influence how dedicated and productive a person can become, take an inwards look first and make an honest analysis. Your motivation level will set the limit of your success.
Fact 2 :  People need change to get motivated
Repeating tasks and status-quo are boring. It is in the human nature to lose interest and passion if the same tasks are performed without any challange. Even if you cannot change an employee’s main task, you need to come up with some new ideas and possibilities for change, make them curious and smell some fun involved in their job.
Define goals and objectives which will lead them to success. Be careful tough : If they appear too hard and unreachable , it scares people away. Too easy stuff would not create the excitement and curiosity either, it might even offend them. Think and communicate a lot with your people to find the right balance.
Fact 3 :  Use positive framing
Please take my word , negative feedback and long stories about failures and underperformance will never ever lead to a motivating effect. Concentrate on what is going on well, what your people can do , talk about their strengths not weakneses. Nobody on this earth gets filled with positive and creative emotions when they are exposed to negative words and experiences. It is really about seeing the full half of the glass…..
I hear you saying “so how do I manage underperformance if I cannot confront the employee?!….Well, is the underperformance because of lack of motivation? Or is there something else? Maybe that person is going through a tough personal phase, lack of expertise or work load might be interpreted as underperformance by you. If you believe that motivation is the main factor, ask yourself if a direct confrontation can really be a motivation leverage for that particular person. My experience is in most cases that it is not. Usually your underperformer knows already what others are thinking about him. If he had a solution, he would use it. Or he does not care..This is then your problem as the manager. Where have you been all this time? (ok ok no confrontation for managers either….Verschwiegenes Smiley)
Bottomline here is “understand the cause of the performance problem. If it is motivation related, your task is focusing yourself, the employee and the team on postive goals, succeses, strengths and creating an atmosphere of hope and good intentions“.
Fact 4 :  Don’t be an authocratic, bossy manager
If you are so, you know it already. Maybe you cannot cope with the fact, maybe it is difficult to change. All managers by nature have these tendencies; some of us more , some of us less. Bottomline here is “authocratic, bossy people who are not seriously empowering and giving their professionals the required trust and enablement to work are absolute motivation killers. Stop being so, start trying now!”.

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About fuesunw
Computer Engineer & IT Manager

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