There are a hundred books and probably 100,000 websites dedicated to how to motivate your employees. It’s a subject that’s close to every leader’s heart. The truth is that one technique might work one day, but not the next, and you find some things incentivize one particular employee, but not others.
However, I know the secret, and I’m pleased to say that it’s completely foolproof, fail-proof and 100 percent accurate.
What’s more, it’s really simple: if you want to inspire and galvanize your team, then the trick to understanding what motivates them, is understanding first what demotivates them.
Time and again, studies reiterate that employees feel disengaged and unmotivated when they don’t feel valued. Studies also show us that this is where leaders focus their time and energy: on the team members who aren’t performing as well as they could, and who generally just “show up” each day without too much enthusiasm.
The interesting part of this equation is actually the reason why leaders do this. Is it because leaders know the engaged employees are just “getting on with the job?” Yes, and no.
Actually, for the most part it’s because leaders fear that the disengaged employees have the power to rock the boat and hold everyone back, and that they’ll never change. So leaders spend their time helicopter managing the demotivated employees so nothing untoward ever happens.
Now, on the face of it, there’s a kind of logic to this. However, there is also a much easier, much more productive and much more effective way of dealing with the problem of disengaged employees.
Related: It’s Time To Start A Movement
Get to the root cause
The best way to get the most out of your startup’s employees is to help them find their talents and how to use them.
That disengaged, “lazy” database administrator might be yearning to be an accountant. That disengaged, disgruntled sales administrator might be yearning to be a copywriter.
When you understand what makes people light up, then you can use this to your advantage. It might not be that your company has opportunities for an accountant or a copywriter right now, but there are still ways that you can show that you’re supportive of their ambition and make them feel valued just the same.
Let your team member know that you’re perfectly OK with this current job being an interim stepping stone for them. You can encourage them to find vocational courses, or mentors and help them to move forward. Even showing someone that you believe that they’re destined for greater things than what they’re doing right now will improve their attitude toward work (and you!).
By taking positive actions toward the life they’re meant to lead, you will in turn see them happier and more motivated (yes, even in areas where they were previously bored).
In this way, not only can you turn your low performers into higher performers, but you’re forewarned too, that this person will be leaving your team or your organization eventually, so you’ll be better prepared to minimize the impact of this when the time comes.
The power of little things to motivate
For those employees who are already engaged, highly motivated and achieving results, you may have been ignoring them while you’ve been worrying about the low performers. Be sure to check in with them often too, because if you overlook them, they will soon become demotivated.
It’s easy to celebrate the small wins and a heartfelt “thank you” is very powerful. When was the last time you received a hand written note? A little personal effort and a sincere gesture of appreciation are all that’s required.
Of course, some people like the big fanfare and ticker tape parade, and that’s OK too. You’ll have a good understanding of which employees prefer which style of acknowledgement as well as what suits the culture of your small business. Get creative and get personal in order to find out what people want and give it to them (within reason, of course).
Passion that fuels you to jump out of bed
As leaders, we have to keep in mind that we all have different motivators and (most imperatively) not everyone is driven by money. Some people want the connection they get interacting with others at work, while some people want the opportunity to do what they love and others are primarily motivated by routine.
At the end of the day, what we all have in common is that fact that happiness motivates us and fuels our confidence and self-esteem. We are all guilty of taking our work too seriously. Let’s have a bit more fun in our day. Let’s bring more joy and increase our productivity by making sure our teams are satisfied.
Above all, never assume your employees are satisfied in their work. Ask them, and never assume you can’t turn their attitude around.