Leadership – What motivates people?

Motivation, when you have it life is great, when you don’t life is so much harder. But what is it that actually motivates people?

The real answer is lots of things which are all different for each individual. So what have I learned about motivating people over my career? Firstly that it is far easier to demotivate and switch people off from a goal/task/outcome than it is to get them on board.

The things that I know work (and mostly because they work for me) are:

  • Feeling part of a team, everyone plays their part and puts in effort to achieve the goal. For a manager/leader this means that you should be in there, sleeves rolled up and pulling your weight. The task may not require you or match your skill set, but you can still be there and support and encourage the team, make tea, buy pizza, do printing/photocopying – whatever, just be part of your team.
  • Praise, not reward, praise. A simple thanks or well done, or couldn’t have done that without you. Said with real meaning it can raise motivation in a tired person enormously, as they know their efforts are recognised and appreciated.
  • Support, knowing that it is worth putting in effort when required because when you need something in return it is there. Be that help with a project, early finish/late start, advice, guidance or just someone to talk over something with.
  • Development knowing that you will be allowed to develop yourself personally and professionally, may be in areas outside your job role and scope of responsibility that will benefit you in the future.

I am lucky, I have worked in a team that was very successful. Doubly lucky as that organisation ran a bonus scheme, and our success was financially rewarded. This may have really helped with motivation within my team you may think. In part you would be correct. But, perversely, also no.

Our bonus scheme ran annually. We had been very successful in the first few months, which means we all earned our maximum bonus for that year. So if the only thing that motivated people was money, I would now have had an issue, as there would be no incentive for them to work harder again when required.

This is where I was doubly lucky. My team were brilliant. I would say that, they were led by me after all. But the reason I thought that they were brilliant?

So what were their sources of motivation the bonus was one of them, but there were others.

  • The satisfaction of knowing you worked really hard and achieved a great result.
  • Knowing that you are making a difference to the organisation itself, and to those that we provide services too.
  • Being part of ateam that doubled the size of our service line in 6 months.
  • Developing skills as individuals that will make us more attractive to other employers.

But most of all, for me anyway, being part of a successful team that looks out for those who are part of it and supports and nurtures them.

Now you may say that this is just me speaking for my team, but all of them had seen and read this – and were free to leave comments and agree or disagree. As that is one of the other things that made my team work well and stay motivated. We were open and honest with each other without it affecting how we work together.

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