How to motivate staff and set them up for success

How to motivate staff and set them up for success

If there’s one question that is constantly asked by senior executives, managers and business owners, it is the question of how to motivate staff and help them be more successful.

After all, when your staff are highly motivated in their roles, they go the extra mile, produce greater results and deliver better customer service. Motivated staff also create a more positive atmosphere within your business, which rubs off on team members and on customers too.

In fact, with the current predictions that staff turnover is due to rise in the UK in the next 12 months, it’s even more important to your business to work towards creating a happy motivated and engaged workforce, so that you can retain your top talent and the knowledge and skills they carry with them.

But how do you motivate staff and set them up for success, despite the uncertainty that rains within our economy (and within many organisations) right now?

How do you keep your top performers engaged and happy in their roles?

Well, read on to understand how you can create a workplace that promotes motivation, engagement and success and discover what you can do to contribute to levels of motivation within your business…

(Hint: it doesn’t involve motivational speakers!)

Does it all come down to money and perks?

Image showing money as a motivator

Not quite.

Studies show that money can only motivate an individual to a very specific point, after which money has very little effect on intrinsic motivation.

Dan Pink, in his Ted Talk on motivation, points out that when a task calls for even just “rudimentary cognitive skill,” a larger reward leads to poorer performance.

In fact, during the 1970’s, psychologist Edward Deci actually performed an experiment showing how attempts at motivating students with money to solve puzzles actually made them less interested in working on them after receiving the money.

Meanwhile, another group of students who received no payment, worked on the puzzles longer and showed far more interest in the task!

Deci’s work uncovered the powerful and significant difference between extrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from outside sources, and intrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from within yourself.

And it’s that kind of motivation that is most powerful, and you, as a people manager, must learn to harness and nurture in your employees.

What’s the big problem with staff motivation?

Most of the complaints from managers and leaders about the motivation of their staff, arise from the recognition that they have a dysfunctional team and they have become aware that the team is not performing to its full potential.

It may be that there is low morale in the team and that they’re not quite sure how to raise morale and motivation.

It may be that they have motivated individuals within the team, but that they’re not working together as a motivated unit.

Or it may be, that the manager or leader of the team actually feels demotivated themselves, and is therefore unable to instil a sense of drive into their staff.

Whatever the reason behind the recognition, it’s clear that demotivation, in any form, creates a toxic environment which is simply not conducive to creating a productive and engaged workforce.

Why do staff become demotivated?

Image showing staff demotivation

There are infinite reasons why a person loses motivation for the work that they do, and the first step to resolving the issue is to spend time investigating those reasons.

Lack of autonomy, poor communication, non-existent support from managers and interpersonal conflict can all contribute to a loss of intrinsic motivation within an individual.

It may be the failure to recognise achievement or the lack of praise from a manager which tips the employee over the edge… This is a very common cause of demotivation.

For others, it’s the failure to provide them with promotional opportunities and development opportunities, and the subsequent loss of ownership for the role, which leads to low morale.

Nonetheless, in most cases the loss of intrinsic motivation is a direct result of external influences, either from a manager or from the culture of the organisation itself.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for managers to devote huge amounts of time to attracting and selecting exactly the right people for their team, with the right drives, the right behaviours and the right competencies, only to leave them ‘out in the cold’ once they’ve been hired.

In this situation, staff will often join the company full of energy and full of motivation to succeed, yet quickly realise that their manager has very little interest in fulfilling their motivational needs or giving them what they need to develop and grow.

This course of action very often results in disillusionment from staff which can lead to the build-up of a toxic team environment, where dissatisfaction and a lack of trust arise.

What’s important to remember, is that very few people on this planet actually wake up with the intention of creating disharmony or demotivation in another person!

“Nobody wakes up with a positive intent of messing up somebody’s life that day. Yet, how many of us manage to get through the course of the day without upsetting somebody at some stage in the game?” – Fiona Brookwell

The fact of the matter is, that the way people do and say things is very different, yet because we fail to get to the bottom of these differences, we are negatively affected when they arise. This is also a strong driver behind demotivation amongst staff.

What happens if we fail to fill the motivational gaps?

The moment you become aware that one of your employees is on the downward slope to losing motivation for his or her role, you need to act quickly!

Without acting and investigating the causes of the change in attitude, you’ll continue to contribute to a dysfunctional team, which will have a direct knock-on effect on the rest of your staff. They themselves may start to lose motivation and as the situation worsens it becomes harder and harder to solve the problems.

What happens then, is that your best people leave and take their talent and their knowledge with them and you’re left with a fragmented team, a drop in team performance and a huge mountain to climb to re-establish a trusting and productive atmosphere.

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5 Strategies To Improve Staff Motivation

It’s worth mentioning that you cannot motivate somebody against their will. You cannot tell someone that they ought to feel motivated and expect them then to feel that way.

Yet it’s also important to bear in mind, that there are things that you, as a manager, can do to contribute to how your people feel and how easily they are able to motivate themselves to become engaged in what they’re doing.

Here are five strategies that you can use to combat demotivation amongst your staff:

1.      Always investigate conflict and get the real story

When you know that your staff lack motivation and that it’s caused by a specific conflict within your team or within your business, it’s essential that you build bridges with those involved in order to get to the real story.

By creating space and listening to the people involved, you give them a platform to air their grievances whilst at the same time uncovering the source of dissatisfaction for yourself.

By doing this you aim to rebuild trust and mutual understanding, as well as getting to the core of the problem for yourself. If you actually talk to these people as individuals and help them to understand why the conflict may have arisen and how to move forward, you’re already facilitating an improvement in morale and motivation.

2.      Create positive dialogue and give regular feedback

Lack of communication and lack of meaningful feedback are very often at the heart of motivation problems amongst your team.

With all the responsibilities that go with a management role, it’s not surprising that many managers forget that dialogue and feedback can be one of the most powerful tools that they have in their tool belt!

Image showing feedback

Of course, everyone within your organisation needs feedback in order to know if they’re doing a good job or if they are delivering the results that are expected of them in the right way.

When managers fail to recognise the importance of regular feedback and positive dialogue with their staff, it often results in those employees feeling as if they are not valued and that their contribution is not important. Recognition for achievement is essential, always!

What’s vital for you to remember, is that everyone requires feedback in a different way, in different forms, and it’s up to you to understand how to deliver feedback in the most impactful way for each of your employees.

When you create a dialogue with your staff you can start to understand how they really feel and you can help them get to grips with their own situation within your company.

3.      Create an environment that allows them to feel motivated

One of the most important things to recognise as a people manager, is that different people have different needs and therefore require different things from their manager and from their working environment to feel successful… And it’s up to you to find out what these things are.

By treating other people how they desire to be treated, as opposed to how you desire to be treated, you are proving to them that you value them as individuals and that you are prepared to adapt your needs so that they can ultimately motivate themselves.

Whether this involves giving your staff more autonomy and freedom, allowing them more time alone to reflect or making sure that their working conditions are conducive to their private situations.

The main thing here is that you take responsibility for creating the environment for the individual, in which they can feel comfortable, happy and engaged in what they do. Just remember, that one size does not fit all.

4.      Help them understand their own behaviour better

Coaching your employees to help them understand their own behaviour and their own needs better is an incredibly powerful strategy to combat issues of motivation and should never be underestimated.

Often times, people are unsure as to the reasons behind their behaviour until they are questioned about it and allowed to explore it.

On top of that, most people have no idea what motivates them and therefore have trouble understanding what is currently demotivating them.

If you, as a manager, can communicate to them why they might feel the way they do and help them understand the real root of these feelings, you build trust with that person and actually empower them to find solutions for themselves, which are far more lasting than solutions which have been imposed upon them.

5.      Create understanding for differences in the team

It’s a simple fact of life that we humans are incredibly badly equipped for evaluating other people objectively. This is especially true within a work environment in which relationships are strained by interpersonal friction or problems within the team.

Of course, each individual believes that their standpoint is the correct one and it’s up to the manager to create understanding between team members for the nature of these differences.

There is a huge diversity of personalities within any team and it must be a priority for you, as a manager, to open the dialogue about the differences in behaviour and personality amongst those people.

By educating your staff on different behavioural traits and motivational needs within the team, helping them to understand that this diversity is positive rather than negative, you take the first step to rebuilding harmony and trust.

It seems almost too simplistic, yet if we actually take an attitudinal approach which says that people do things in different ways because that’s how they actually are, then we automatically help staff move away from the assumption that their colleagues are intentionally trying to create friction.

Once this understanding has been created, you automatically take the sting out of the situation and you can actually start to understand each other better.

Take responsibility for improving team motivation

If you are a manager who is battling with how to motivate staff, then it’s worth investigating your own behaviour and attitude first, to discover whether you may be a contributor to the situation.

Start by looking in the mirror and analysing yourself, first.

It’s worth asking yourself how committed you are personally in terms of making your team work successfully. There needs to be a personal commitment from you to make sure these relationships work and a recognition that it’s not just one person’s responsibility to make it successful. It everybody’s responsibility.

Even though you know you cannot directly motivate your staff, what you can do is take responsibility for doing what is in your power to improve that situation.

Once you have decided that you are committed to making changes, it’s up to you and your team to work together to bridge the gaps.

What works well for you? What doesn’t work well? What do you want to do more of and what do you want to do less of? What do you want to do differently and how are we going to do that?  What is your purpose in terms of working together and what are your rules of engagement in terms of collaboration?

In many cases, improving levels of motivation amongst your teams starts by making a conscious decision to evaluate and improve your own attitude and start to see things from a wider perspective, not just your own.

We may not be able to change the behaviour of other people directly, but by changing our own behaviour and our own attitude we have a direct impact on the engagement, the motivation and the well-being of those people we work with and those people we work for.

So, what’s your take on how to motivate staff? Have you battled with these challenges before? How did you overcome them?

Please share your experiences in the comments section, we’d love to hear your input!


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