Motivation is what keeps the wheels of civilization turning. When we’re properly motivated, there’s almost nothing we can’t do. When we need to visit distant celestial bodies to learn more about our place in the cosmos, for example, we motivate ourselves to build new technologies to reach them.
But every day, on company campuses, in home offices and in warehouses, motivation happens on a smaller scale when we identify opportunities for personal growth, or for doing something in an exciting new way. Indeed, it’s any great leader’s responsibility to foster this kind of thinking. Here’s why.
Why Is Motivation Important?
Why is motivation important in the workplace?
Why isn’t it?
Think about the purpose of “doing business” in general. It’s all about exercising creativity and thoughtfulness to solve customers’ problems. It’s about providing products and services that make customers happy and turn a profit for your company while they’re doing it. This itself is a key source of motivation for your team: if they have a real-world understanding of how they’re touching and improving other people’s lives, they’ll work even harder and smarter, seeking out new solutions and generally improving your company’s efficiency and bottom line.
Knowing how to motivate your workforce will help ensure they’re enthusiastically bringing their best efforts each day and helping the company meets its sales and performance goals, whatever they might be.
But let’s talk about motivation in practical terms. What does it actually look like? There are many ways modern leaders can motivate their employees to deliver their best every day — here are just a few of them.
What Effective Motivation Looks Like
Yes, motivating the members of your team is important. But how do you do it? Here are three key areas to focus on:
- Demonstrate A Commitment to Employee Happiness: Happy employees are productive employees, simple as that. Controlled experiments reveal productivity gains of anywhere from 12% to 20% when measures are taken to ensure employees have a physically welcoming atmosphere in which to perform their duties, flexible scheduling, opportunities to unwind and reasonable employee benefits packages that meet their daily needs, like a generous sick leave policy, matching retirement account contributions and paid parental leave.
As leaders, it’s important that we’re constantly taking stock of what life is like for employees on every rung of the ladder and making sure they have what they need to live well while they’re doing their jobs.
- Provide Chances to Speak Up: Another significant factor in employee motivation is knowing they can make their voices heard when they identify problems that need solving or opportunities to work in a different way.
Leaders must demonstrate, in meetings and especially in everyday interactions, that they’re not merely “open to” feedback and process improvements, but that they actively welcome them. If you’re a leader yourself, communicate to your employees in a way that suggests humility — that you’re able and willing to listen to alternatives or new ways of doing familiar tasks.
If you focus on this collaborative aspect of doing business, you’ll be amazed at how much more motivated your team will be — and how much happier and productive they are as a consequence.
- Set an Example Worth Following: Why do people follow Elon Musk and Bill Gates so enthusiastically? How do politicians like Barack Obama and Tulsi Gabbard command respect and admiration, even from people on the “other side” of the political aisle? They all have one key thing in common: they command respect by providing an example worth following. They operate with thoughtfulness, integrity and no small amount of concern for the people around them.
As leaders, we need to stay mindful of the examples we’re setting. Just physically being there, and being approachable, is a great start — but it extends to nearly every way you express yourself and your esteem for your employees, give directives, communicate in emails and other written dispatches, and even how you carry yourself and dress for work.
Basically, everything you say and do — and even the degree to which your physical appearance and bearing says, “I care about what I do” — can be considered part of the example you’re setting. And a great example means empowered and motivated employees.
One More Thing
But there’s one more step. You can’t merely ooze charisma and competence — you have to really care about making your employees their own CEOs and leaders. If they feel they don’t have the freedom to pursue their goals and meet your expectations their own way, within reason, they may feel you’re not offering them enough challenges, and may take their talent elsewhere. Proper motivation is hugely important for employee retention.
Bottom line? Treating your employees with the kind of respect that fosters thoughtfulness and strong motivation means allowing them some amount of autonomy. You already know the example you strive to set each day, but you need to exhibit respect for your team by letting them choose for themselves whether or not to follow it. And when things don’t go as well as you’d like, or they bring you negative feedback, talk candidly with them about why things didn’t work out and what you all might do differently next time. Working with others means growing and learning together.
As with so many other things in life and business, providing ample motivation for your team is a matter of communication — in all its forms. It’s how you speak, how you communicate your own passion for your line of work, and the degree to which you empower your team to constantly learn new things and try novel solutions. Communication is how we build common cause and ultimately change the world — even if all we’re changing is our private little corner of it.