As a manager in today’s hybrid and increasingly turbulent economy, it is useful to step back and think about how motivated the individuals in your team are. Without motivation, the product doesn’t matter, and the idea doesn’t matter – because no one will be motivated to take any action.

On our management training courses, we discuss four ‘laws’ of motivation. We are not saying there are only four, but these are the ones we believe are most important for leaders. Give yourself a mark out of ten for each:

LAW 1 – You Have To Be Motivated In Order To Motivate.

How do you motivate others? Motivate yourself first. If you have difficulty getting yourself going, it is almost impossible to motivate anyone else. This is self-leadership. It all begins with you. Remember that phrase, ‘If you can’t lead you, please don’t try and lead me’.

Your job is to energise others. Success isn’t taught, it’s caught. Be a very infectious person.

Last time you were in your office, ask yourself: how motivated did you appear to your team? If you’re a bit hacked off, who will pick it up? Everyone.

Ask yourself: Am I the sort of person people are really glad to see? Or am I the sort they are really keen to see the back of?

Leaders have a responsibility to be upbeat regardless of the circumstances.

In fact, if you’re feeling a bit flat, stay out of the office, avoid phoning in – states are contagious. That’s usually impractical so you must be able to motivate yourself on demand. Some people play a favourite piece of music, some go for a run, some go shopping. Others do something physical – run on the spot, pump hands, massage your facial muscles. Find what works for you.

LAW 2 – Motivation Requires A Goal

Achievement is about goals. All you have to do to get the best out of yourself and others, is to provide a goal, a target to work towards.

If you are on a two wheeled bicycle, and the wheels aren’t turning, what’s about to happen? You fall off. But once you start pedalling balance is restored. People are like that.

Here are 3 ideas to help when setting goals for individuals in your team:

i) Let people participate in setting their own goals, or targets or objectives. This gives them a sense of ownership. It is essential to set goals together rather than just handing them out. This comes from attribution theory. If we are given a goal, we treat any success as our own and failure as the organisation’s. If you give someone a target and they fail to hit it – whose fault is that? Ask the same person to participate in the creation of their own target and there is a sense of ownership – a much stronger motivational bond.

Ten years ago we might go into a meeting, and sit down with a manager who told us what our goals were to be for the year. That’s not good enough in the modern workplace. Now we need to know the bigger picture. WHY are these my goals, how do they link to the success of the company? To other departments and other people?

ii) If you want to use a goal to increase results and motivation immediately – how far away should the cut-off date be? The empirical evidence suggests the maximum time should be 3 months. If the cut-off is further away, there is little motivational value now.

How do we perform the last day in the office before we go away on holiday? We don’t want to go away and leave work on our desk. The goal of getting everything done by 5.00 pm allows us to get a lot more done. Recent studies in neurochemistry provides evidence to support why this happens. When we get close to attaining our goal the neurochemical Dopamine is released. Dopamine is often referred to as the motivation molecule – it provides the necessary energy and encouragement.

As a manager what can you do to increase the flow of Dopamine in those around you? Set incremental goals and highlight incremental progress with positive feedback. Once an individual starts to achieve and feels what that does for their inner state, they are usually keen to do it again.

iii) People do best what they enjoy most. Find out what people enjoy most and where possible, set stretch goals in these areas.

LAW 3 – Motivation Requires Recognition

How many of your people have received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last week?

Recognition is one of the most neglected motivational tools. In many cases, people work harder for recognition than they do for money. People who don’t feel valued are unlikely to be engaged.  Without recognition and appreciation, people typically want more money to do the same job.

So when you sit down to work out how to motivate your people, give them the opportunity to earn recognition. Not just your top sales people but everyone, including your support staff.

Also emphasize peer-to-peer recognition. In a recent survey by Bonusly, 65% of respondents reported that they were willing to stay with an unappreciative manager if their coworkers recognised their work.

Find ways to shine the spotlight on the achievements of others. Making an individual feel important is a great way to boost retention. Recognition motivates.

In addition to good work, give recognition to team players and those who put forward new ways of working.

But here’s a warning  – be careful of token gestures. When you give recognition make it feel special, make an effort. Stage photo opportunities, make a big deal of it. The power of recognition for most people is proportional to the number of people who see it being given. Applause is one of the most motivational events we can experience.

As a motivational leader, always keep in mind that your people do not work for you – you work for them.

LAW 4 – Motivation Once Established Never Lasts

We now come to the sobering part. Motivation is like vitamin C – it has to be renewed every day. Otherwise you rapidly develop a deficiency.

As leaders we want our people to be fired up, but motivation wears off. Unless the fire is refuelled, the flames will be extinguished. If it didn’t wear off life would be so much easier – but it does.

What does this mean in practice?  

We need to design and implement regular motivational team and individual inputs to keep the fire fuelled. It is also a reminder that as the leader we are always on show as the motivator. We should not be able to separate motivation from anything else we do.

Check what you do against each of the 4 laws. How can you raise your effectiveness for each?

Learn more about LDL management training courses.

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