The Secret to Motivating Your People

The Secret to Motivating Your People image DATE: March 2, 2022

How do I motivate my people?

It’s the single most frequently asked question I get when training supervisors and managers.

Leaders are desperate for a definitive answer to this common leadership problem. But honesty dictates that I tell them the truth. So my response is this:

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to motivate your employees. I can’t and neither can anyone else.

The Truth About Motivating Your People

The truth of motivation is this: You can’t, I can’t, no one can motivate someone to do something they don’t want to do.

As that fact settles in, I’ve watched many anxious managers process my words and I’ve seen the disappointment register on their perplexed faces.

Coming to the realization that they have little or no direct control over the motivation of another person can be very discouraging for even the most committed leader. They start to worry, how will I ever get MY job done with unmotivated employees?

It’s a legitimate concern.

When I’m engaged with a group of leaders, I often start the interaction by asking them: If you could gain one thing from our work together, what would it be?

The intent of my question should be obvious. When I know upfront what my clients want or need, I can focus my interactions with them to specifically address those individual needs. Once I’ve successfully helped them get what they want, they’re almost always more positive, receptive, engaged — motivated — as a result.

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The Essence of a Motivated Workforce

So let’s apply that thinking and that question to your work as a leader needing a motivated team.

If you know upfront what your people want or need, your focus should be on shaping your interaction with them to specifically address their individual needs. Once you’ve successfully helped them satisfy their needs, you can expect your people to be more positive, receptive, engaged — motivated.

Doesn’t that sound like the essence of a motivated workforce? It does to me.

The Secret to Motivating Your People

The needs of your team will be as varied as each member. Some want to grow. Others want to contribute to solving problems. One person may want to “be heard,” while another wants to invest in others.

But you’ll only learn the secret to motivating your people when you take the time to engage with each one.

Leaders don’t motivate people. Leaders discover what drives people to motivate themselves.

The leader who spends time getting to know their people is the leader who is well on the way to knowing the secret to motivating each one of them.

What’s Your Secret?

In your experience, what has been the best approach for discovering what motivates someone? Please share your comments — it will help all of us improve the way we lead. Thanks!

About The Author:

Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE is committed to helping organizations transform their business outcomes by building engaged employee relationships. He is an award-winning keynote speaker and author on engaged leadership and communication. His most recent book is “Earning The Right To Be Heard," a primer for creating greater influence and opportunities. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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