Motivation can seem a nebulous concept to the busy manager.  Some employees seem more motivated than others and it is tempting to assume it will always be that way.  But then you find some companies where the motivation is high and you have to ask yourself what is the magic stardust that makes it so? So if you are leading a team where you think the motivation could be better, let’s take a quick look at one thing you can do to improve it.

No force

You can’t force someone to be motivated.  You can force people to do work in the short term, but anything that involves force will not work in the longer term.  Force will either cause an employee to leave, or, even worse, they will stay and become disaffected, dragging down everyone around them too.  In the 21st Century “force” is an outdated concept in the workplace. So if you find yourself tempted to shout “Just get on with it!” to an employee – STOP and realise that you will do far more damage in the long term than you can possibly imagine.

So what one thing can you do to improve your staff motivation?

Leadership style is important

Be flexible about your leadership style and adopt an appropriate style for different staff on different occasions.

There’s lots of learning around this, but simplistically there are generally accepted to be four leadership styles:

  • Directing
  • Mentoring
  • Supporting
  • Enabling

New employees or those new to a job may need a lot of directing i.e. telling them exactly what to do, but as they get more competent you can move first to mentoring then supporting and finally the enabling stage gives them as much license as possible, demonstrating your confidence that they can make decisions on their own.

Now put yourself in your employee’s shoes.  You arrive at a new job on day one, a bit nervous, and someone tells you exactly what is expected of you (down to details like when and where you can eat lunch), and you go home confident of what you have done right and what you need to learn.  Then gradually as you learn the job your manager leaves you to get on with it, but meets with you regularly for updates and helps you work out what to do next.  And later, she notices that you are ready and steps back, challenging you to make decisions for yourself.  Isn’t that seriously motivating?  Don’t you just feel good about yourself and your job?

So the message for you, the manager, is flexibility.  Your job is to think carefully about what support each individual needs at that moment and give it to them.  And the better you can read your staff and what they need from you, the more motivated they will be.

Impellus runs a great course on Leadership Skills Development where the different styles of leadership are covered in more detail.