When I do Leadership presentations and workshops I’ll frequently make the statement that people are naturally motivated. Not some people, ALL people are naturally motivated.
That gets as much pushback as almost anything I say. “Leaders” in the room will respond with silly comments like “you’ve never met some of my people.” Or “I’ve got people you couldn’t motivate with dynamite.”
My response is always some variation of “sounds like a leadership problem to me.” I say it jokingly but I’m not joking. I ask who is responsible for motivating people in your organization? I generally get no response. That’s understandable because they just told me they have unmotivated people. To admit it’s their responsibility to motivate them would be admitting that they are not actually leading.
But everyone in that room knows that one of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to motivate and encourage the people they lead. But, like almost everything else worth doing, that is easier said than done.
Here’s the thing. No one wakes up in the morning hoping their day will suck. No one begins life with the desire to drag themselves through every day. Everyone wants to do something that matters. That’s how we all start off. But somewhere along the line many people lose that enthusiasm and motivation. It is most likely stolen from them by bosses who couldn’t lead or they caught the “unmotivated bug” from friends and family who have given up on their own dreams. But they want to be motivated, they just need a little push.
If you’re in a Leadership position and you want to help your people get and stay motivated the first step is to STOP complaining about unmotivated people on your team and start actually leading them towards greater motivation.
Next, schedule consistent one-on-one time with them. Ask them how they would like to structure this time together. Remember, for this time to be productive it must benefit you AND your people. This is your time to set clear goals and expectations and to discuss how those expectations will be measured. People NEED to know what’s expected of them and how those expectations will be measured.
This is their time to share ideas, suggestions, and issues. People value relationships with their leaders and these one-on-ones are all about building those relationships.
Here’s a crazy idea for discovering how to motivate your people. During the one-on-one ask them directly what motivates them and how you can help them remain more motivated. Do you know the goals, aspirations, and interests of the people you lead? It becomes far easier to motivate someone when you know what motivates them. Here’s the caveat to this question…they may not know the answer. At least not off the top of their head. That’s fine, ask them to think about it. About where they want to be in five years. About what they want to accomplish. For some of your people they may have never considered those questions before.
If you want your people to know you care for them as people then ask about them as people. Yes, “the job” is important but as a leader you cannot afford to forget that “the job” is done by people. Real live human beings.
Once they know what motivates them, and you know what motivates them, you can work together towards that common motivating goal. Authentic Leadership is about making human connections and there isn’t anything more human then helping another person achieve their life goals.
It is very possible the pursuit of those goals will require learning new skills. As a leader one of your other primary responsibilities is to help your people grow. Now you know where to help them grow. Their commitment to you and the organization strengthens as you help them grow. So does their motivation to improve. They are not only motivated to do a better job for themselves, they are motivated to do a better job for you.
When your people have doubts about their ability to grow, SHOW your belief in them by giving them purposeful work. Show them how their work makes a difference for you, for the organization and especially for themselves. Trust them to do the work without micromanaging the motivation out of them.
Your belief in them might be the exact nudge they need to remain motivated when obstacles appear. It’s even possible you’re the first person who has shown them that level of trust and belief.
Above all, create a culture where motivation thrives. Where people are encouraged to excel. Where mistakes are accepted as part of the growth process. A culture where people feel they matter.
When you do all that there is no question about your leadership because you’ll have demonstrated that you are in fact, an Authentic Leader. You’ll even be a Motivating Leader!