How Can You Know?

If you’re in a leadership position then one of your core responsibilities is developing the people you are leading. Key to developing your people is understanding what motivates them to accept change in their lives. 

So how can you know what motivates them? Well I have a rather shocking and provocative idea. 

You could ask.

I know that’s not really shocking or provocative. It only seems that way because so few people in positions of leadership flat out ask their people what motivates them. Many of those who do ask only do it within the confines of an annual review process. That is NOT nearly often enough. 

When you ask you should be prepared to receive no answer…at least at first. Your people may initially be surprised by the question since it’s so rarely asked. So give them a day or two and ask again. 

One of the reasons the question is so rarely asked is that many people in leadership positions believe the answer is likely to be “money.” As in, more of it. But Authentic Leaders know that money is seldom the answer because money is actually a very poor motivator. If people have enough money to pay their bills and meet their basic needs then more money isn’t likely to motivate changed behavior. 

Once you know what motivates them then ask a follow up question. Something along the lines of, “how can I help you attain and retain that motivated frame of mind?” 

Those two questions should be asked anytime you see one of your people struggling to keep themselves motivated. Asking shows you care. If you don’t care enough about them to help them remain motivated to reach their potential then you don’t care enough about them to actually lead them. 

So stay close enough to your people to detect reduced motivation in it’s early stages. The sooner you catch it the sooner you, and your people, will overcome it. Never forget, your most expensive employees are not the ones you pay the most. The most expensive people in your entire organization are those who are unmotivated and disengaged. They receive a paycheck and provide little in return. 

These days, no organization can afford that.

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. 

How to Stay Motivated

The pain of discipline is greater than the pain of failure. That simple fact leads to more failure than any other single factor. When we lack the discipline required for success we also lack the ability to “push-on” when we face the struggles associated with long-lasting success. There are struggles within every successful endeavor and within every successful endeavor someone found the motivation to continue the way forward.

Average people need someone to motivate them. Successful people find a way to motivate themselves and ask for help when they can’t. Here are just a few of the methods they use to get going when the going gets tough:

They re-dream the dream. Before they quit they remember why they started, they remember what’s in it for them if they can keep going. They see the end of the rainbow and reach for it again. It is that “reach” that provides them the momentum and motivation to continue forward. 

They make it fun. They enjoy what they do. Here’s a fact: almost 100% of successful people enjoy what they do. It is nearly impossible for a human being to excel at something they truly dislike. If you’re involved in a career or job that you simply don’t like then either find a way to make it fun or find your way to another career. You’re not likely to become the first person to put a square peg in a round hole so don’t burn up your motivation trying.

They are not afraid to change course. If something doesn’t feel right it’s probably not. There is almost always more than one way to accomplish something. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s being done the best way. You’ve likely heard the saying “there’s no need to invent the wheel’, well if that was true we would all still be driving on stone wheels. Looking for a “better way” is an excellent method for staying motivated. Settling for what you have makes it very difficult to push yourself for better.

Motivated, successful people reward themselves. They also celebrate their successes, both big and little. The bigger the goal, the greater the task the more likelihood of set-backs along the way. Set-backs wilt motivation and lessen resolve. Rewards, even small rewards like a longer lunch break once in a while or knocking off an hour early can be just the ticket to reinvigorate yourself. Small celebrations can refill your energy tank and provide the motivation needed to overcome the next challenge. 

Successful people have a mentor to motivate them. Staying motivated in the face of obstacles is  pretty darn tough to do day in and day out. It’s really tough without a little help. A good mentor will help you over the rough spots and help you to re-dream that dream. Successful people aren’t afraid to ask for help and the person they are most likely to ask is their mentor. 

If you don’t have a mentor today then find one now. Select a person who cares about you, a person who is successful and willing to invest themselves in you to help you succeed too. 

Here’s a big statement to make but I’m going to make it anyway…. there is not a single thing you can do in 2014 that will have a greater positive impact on your chances of success than having a coach or mentor. If you don’t have a coach or mentor then get one. 

Your motivation is your responsibility but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little coaching along the way.