What Motivates Your People?

I will often ask that question of people in leadership positions. Authentic Leaders have an answer. Other leaders have a response. 

 

The main difference between an answer and a response is the answer is based on what someone knows and a response is based on what they think.

 

Authentic Leaders know what motivates their people because they have asked them. Other leaders assume they know or they figure what motivates them will also motivate everyone else. 

 

Assuming they know what motivates another person is an all too common mistake of ineffective leaders. Every person is unique. They have different life experiences that shape their beliefs, their likes, their dislikes and their motivations. To assume otherwise is a fool’s errand. 

 

Authentic Leaders invest the required time to understand the unique motivators for each of their people. Sometimes that means helping their people discover what motivates them because oftentimes people don’t stop to consider this important question on their own. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that everyone is naturally motivated. Some people lose their motivation along life’s way and need to be reminded and refreshed. Some people just need help maintaining their motivation. 

 

Whatever circumstances your people find themselves in, one of your key responsibilities as a leader is to help them maintain or restore their motivation. 

 

There are leadership development programs that discuss “clues” to finding what motivates your people. There are leadership developments programs that offer tools like the DISC Test to help determine a person’s motivations. 

 

I’m not a big fan of any of that. I’m a fan of a leader talking with their people on a regular basis to truly get to know them. I believe Authentic Leadership requires that level of personal leading take place…frequently. 

 

If you want to know what motivates your people and how you can help them stay motivated to reach their goals and excel in their job and in life then ASK. The question will surprise people who have never been led by an Authentic Leader. Ask anyway!

 

Ask and then demonstrate another leadership characteristic they may not be used to…LISTEN to their answer. 

 

Disengaged employees can suck the life out of any organization. Unmotivated employees quickly become disengaged. When you lead your people to what keeps them motivated you give them and your organization a chance at lasting success.


Do YOU know what motivates YOUR people?

Recognizing People

When Ronald Reagan was running for re-election to the Presidency of The United States he made a stop at a nursing home to chat with some of the residents. During a conversation with one gentleman in a wheelchair the President asked him if he knew who he was. The gentleman leaned forward in his wheelchair and gave Reagan a long look. Then while shaking his head he said “no, no I don’t know who you are but if you ask the nurse at the end of the hall I’m sure she’ll be able to tell you who you are.” 

 

I’m not certain that the story is true but I like it and it kind of fits with my post so I thought I’d share it. It only kind of fits with my post because this post is about recognizing people…just not that kind of recognition. 

 

This is a post about the importance of recognizing people for their efforts. The kind of recognition that Authentic Leaders regularly provide their people. 

 

I know the importance of recognizing another person’s efforts. The research shows that it is vital. People need to know what they do matters almost as much as they need air and water. 

 

And yet I struggle in this area. 

 

I struggle with this because I, like most people, fall into the trap known as the Tyranny of the Urgent. 

 

I do things that seem urgent to me rather than doing the things that are truly important. A very wise person once told me to never underestimate the absolute unimportance of nearly everything I do. Most of the stuff we do everyday won’t matter in 1 year, 5 years, or at the end of our years. Yet we do many of those things at the expense of the things that will matter.

 

Showing another person that they matter by giving them honest and sincere recognition is one of the most important and lasting things you can ever do. 

 

It doesn’t take much effort to find valid reasons for recognizing someone if you’re interested in trying. You’ll also quickly discover that recognition builds morale and improves attitudes. If you want to make an even bigger impact on someone then don’t just say it, write it on a note card and give it to them. Most people will look at it multiple times and even show it to family and friends. 

 

While it doesn’t take much effort to find reasons for recognizing someone it does require tons of discipline to do it consistently. Make the effort, it’s one of the nicest things you can do… for yourself.

 

In his 1936 book entitled “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Dale Carnegie said to “Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” 


It was outstanding advice then and its outstanding advice today

Why Leaders Need Vision

Leaders don’t need 20 20 eyesight to have good vision. What they need is an imagination, an idea of what is possible, and a picture of what the future may hold. 

 

That vision should guide them and motivate them to grow and improve. It should provide hope in the tough times, particularly if their vision includes an understanding of their purpose and the purpose of their organization. 

 

A good vision can show the leader where they and their organization are headed. It will pull the leader past the inevitable roadblocks that pop up within every plan. A true vision provides focus. The vision helps answer every question that could come up. If something gets you closer to your vision you do it, if it doesn’t get you closer to your vision you don’t. Good vision provides clarity for a leader even during the foggiest of times.

 

Good vision helps a leader answer the “why” question that can otherwise place doubts in the leader’s mind. A leader with good vision always has an answer to the “why are we doing this?” and “what’s the point?” questions that can haunt leaders with lesser vision. Particularly when those questions come from naysayers. 

 

Good vision does all that and more for a leader and you know what? It can do all those things for a leader’s people and their organization too. 

 

If.

 

If the leader is effective at casting that vision upon those people and the organization. Since a leader can’t really do much alone they must be able to communicate and “sell” that vision to their people. They must reinforce that vision through their words and actions at every opportunity. 

 

People find it easier to follow a leader when they know where that leader is taking them. They find it much much easier to follow a leader when they know they are included in the vision. 

 

When a leader shares their vision with their people those people become engaged and they stay engaged. When those people buy into the vision they commit to making it happen. When all, or at least the majority of the people within an organization share the same vision that organization is nearly unstoppable. 

 

If you’re leading any type of organization today then you must, must, must develop and share your vision for your people and organization. You must share it soon and you must share it often. You truly cannot over share your vision. 


The alternative to not sharing your vision is… well, we don’t want to go there because that my friends would be a very sad story. 

Everyone is Motivated

Do you believe that everyone is motivated? You may have come across someone lately who isn’t. You may even work with someone who seems like they are never motivated. 

 

They may not be motivated today but they didn’t start out that way. Everyone starts out motivated… and then the world gets ahold of them. They start a new job and then they meet the boss, who it turns out is a champion at demotivating the team. Maybe they had a bit of bad luck and decided that life was against them. 

 

Then they meet you and you assumed that because they aren’t motivated today they never were. That’s yet another reason it’s never good to assume.

 

If you’re a leader then one of your main responsibilities is to find ways to motivate your people. It’s easier to keep someone motivated than it is to drag them from the unmotivated depths. That’s why you should make motivating every member of your team a priority everyday.

 

That starts with providing them an environment where they feel valued. An environment where they can see how they fit in and how they make a difference. Never let your people wonder if they are valued because feeling as if they are not is one of the fastest ways to destroy their motivation. 

 

Motivating your people is not something you do when you find the time. You must be very intentional and plan time into each day to ensure that you’re keeping your people engaged. If you feel as if you don’t know what motivates your people then here is the best suggestion I can give you: ask them!

 

Yes, have that conversation with each of your people from time to time. Simply ask them what motivates them and how you can best help them stay motivated. I am frequently asked by people in leadership positions how to best keep their people motivated. I usually give them a generic kind of answer and then admit I have no idea. 

 

I have no idea because every human being is unique and the only way to know how to motivate someone is to ask them. Ask them and then give them a day or two. They will likely need that time to come up with a meaningful answer because most people don’t sit around thinking about what motivates them. Give them that time to provide you with a thoughtful answer. 

 

You’ve never met a person who started out as an unmotivated individual. Something or more likely someone demotivated them along the way. A key responsibility of a leader is to lead that person back to a fully motivated life. Once an Authentic Leader gets them there they invest time in that person to keep them there. 

 

If you don’t have the time to motivate your people then you don’t have time to lead. 

Motivational Leadership

I’m often asked “how do I keep my people motivated?” Sometimes the question will pertain to a particular person such as “How do I motivate Bob?”

In either case my answer is almost always the same. Now I know it’s not a good practice to answer a question with a question but for these instances I make an exception. My answer is “I don’t know, what does “Bob” say when you ask him what motivates him?”

I’m usually answered with silence.

I just kind of let that silence hang there for a few seconds and then I expand on my answer. I tell them, honestly, that I can’t have any idea what truly motivates a particular person or team unless I’ve asked the team or person.

One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to help their people stay motivated. That being the case I am always surprised at how few leaders know what motivates their people. They either guess or they try to motivate them with the most common, strongest motivators: fear, anger, and spite.

Just because those are the strongest and most common motivators doesn’t mean those are the best motivators. They are not!

If you want to know what motivates your people or if you want to know how to motivate your people then ask them. They may not have an immediate answer so give them a day or two to consider the question. Encourage them to give it serious consideration because their answer could be the key to unlocking the door to their future success.

When talking with your people about their motivation consider these questions:

What are you passionate about?
What work would you do for free if you could afford it?
What could I do to show you how important you are to me and our organization?
What are your hobbies and interests?

I’ve talked to leaders about asking these questions and I usually get the same two “hesitations.” The first one is that the questions seem “weird.” It seems to the leader that it is too personal or invasive to discuss these matters. My answer to that is always the same… leadership is about people, people and nothing but people. If you think it’s “weird” to truly get to know your people then you will struggle as a leader of those people.

By the way, the questions are only “weird” to the person asking them for the first time, to the person being asked they generally feel good about someone caring enough to actually ask.

The second hesitation is one of time. They say they simply can’t afford to “spend” the time getting to know their people. Keep in mind, these are the same leaders who would proudly say that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. If they don’t have time to spend on their most important asset then what are they spending their time on?

I encourage leaders to NOT think in terms of “spending” time “on” their people but rather to “invest” time “with” their people. It’s a change of mindset that can make a huge difference in how a leader interacts with their people.

One last thing…. when you discover what motivates your people then use it to THEIR benefit and yours.