- Clarify what you want. Staff need a crystal-clear knowledge of what results you truly care about as well as the actions and attitudes that you want them to display. How do you differentiate between exceptional, average and poor performers in your mind? If staff know the criteria you use to assess their performance, they are more likely to rise to the occasion.
- Reward people who give you what you want. It is a fundamental tenet of behavioral psychology that people are motivated to repeat behaviors that bring them some form of reward. Not all managers control staff pay levels, but surely you have some degree of control over the distribution of plum assignments and workplace perks. You can also use zero- or low-cost gifts. Of course, not all rewards need to be tangible. People value anything that makes them feel appreciated; a simple “thank you” can work wonders. Regardless of which form of reward you choose, it is essential that you explicitly tie the reward to a specific behavior or achievement and that you only offer these extra rewards to people who deliver what you really want, the way you really want it.
- Show care and compassion for your staff. Put simply, people like working with managers who care. Showing care and compassion is different than rewarding staff through appreciation in that it is not tied to their attitudes, actions and performance. Caring means making room mentally for taking a genuine interest in your staff and their lives. Caring leaders understand how other people feel and can see the world through others’ eyes. They therefore think to perform small acts of kindness because they aware of other people’s needs as well as their own. Compassionate leaders go even furtherby acting on that understanding. A common way for leaders to show compassion is through coaching their staff—that is, giving them one-on-one time when it’s requested, listening to their problems and then using questions to help them move forward.
- Build connections and foster collaboration between staff. Human beings are innately social creatures. Not only do we belong to families, we actively forge a circle of friends and take pride in being a member of a broad range of social groups, from organizations to nations. People like to feel that they belong. You can foster a genuine desire to come to work amongst your staff by nurturing friendships between them and offering opportunities for truly collaborative work. You can use social events to help build a sense of belonging and boost morale. Easy-to-implement examples include: celebrating team members’ birthdays, a weekly tradition of ordering pizza on Fridays or Danish pastries on Wednesdays, attending special sporting or cultural events as a team, supporting a local charity as a team or organizing formal team-building programs.
- Challenge staff to make a real difference. People like to be challenged to leave their mark on the people around them. Start by giving your staff interesting and challenging work. Increase their autonomy in their daily work, tap into their personal passions and specialist expertise, and delegate entire tasks in which they are responsible for all aspects of meeting a specified goal.
- Make your decision-making transparent. We all have a natural instinct to protect ourselves from unfair treatment of any kind. As a decision maker, you face the potential pitfall of appearing capricious or preferential. While your decisions cannot always be popular with every party they affect, if your approach to making them is transparent, people will be far more likely to think them fair and reasonable. Over time, this leads to staff feeling safe and secure rather than worried and resentful.
Your core responsibility at work is to deliver the results that truly matter within your organization. However, as a leader, your ability to deliver these results is dependent upon your staff and the way they go about their work. It is therefore critical that you understand how to motivate people.