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4 Ways to Coach Managers on How to Motivate Employees

Executive Summary

Several psychologists have given us insights into human motivation. Money, fear, food; the list of items that inspire us to get a task done are myriad and unique to the individual.

  • It’s a manager’s responsibility to create an environment where employees can motivate themselves through whatever means works for them.
  • Some managers are naturally gifted at making a workplace fun, accepting, transparent, and fulfilling. Others are not.
  • If you’re working with a manager who is struggling on how to motivate employees, encourage him of her in a heartfelt conversation where you can provide a few ideas for igniting his or her team.

Motivation is internal. Managers can’t motivate their subordinates per se, even if they bring the biggest pompoms to the office every day. However, supervisors are expected to create a work environment in which staff members can motivate themselves.

Some managers get this idea fairly easily: They find ways of making work fun, they welcome everyone’s ideas on the team and share the glory whenever possible, they communicate openly while holding everyone to a high standard of expectations. Unfortunately, not all managers know how to motivate this way, and your job will be to help them understand how to get their troops into top shape by ensuring an optimal work environment.

how to motivate employees

4 Ways to Motivate Employees Through Their Managers

The next time you find one of your managers “leading through the mud,” help her see the benefit of enlightened leadership as follows:

“Denise, if you don’t mind my saying, I don’t sense that your subordinates are fully engaged, totally motivated, and 100 percent behind you. Is that a fair and objective assessment, and if so, would you allow me to help you help them plug in and reinvent themselves in light of your department’s changing needs? [Yes.]

“Great! I’ve always felt that no matter where you are in your career, there’s no better time than now to begin recognizing, appreciating, and motivating your staff.”

After you’ve determined that your manager is receptive to new ideas, share the following suggestions for how to motivate employees:

  1. Open Book Management 

The concept is fairly simple: From time to time, assign someone on your team with the task of researching our organization and our competitors on Google or Glassdoor. Of course, you’ll also want to do a group read of our company’s 10(k) annual report to look for the SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Help them see the bigger picture of where the company stands relative to its peers, and you just might have them thinking outside of the box in terms of finding new ways of adding value to your processes and systems.

  1. Book of the Quarter Club

You’ve heard of the Book of the Month Club. Well, that schedule may be a little too aggressive for your team, but if you’re looking to stimulate your staff and challenge them to think outside the box, then this best practice may win some big fans for you. Simply decide on one book that you’d all like to complete within, say, sixty or ninety days. Assign each member of your staff a chapter, and have that individual discuss the merits of the chapter in your weekly staff meetings. The real challenge will lie in getting your staffers to apply the theoretical knowledge from the book to the day-to-day workplace. That may just rejuvenate some of your folks who’ve become a bit staid and overly comfortable in their roles.

  1. Staff Meeting Leadership

One thing that most employees often look for in an ideal manager is leadership capability. If you want to place them into roles of leadership and help them strengthen their own skills, allow each of your employees to run a weekly staff meeting—its structure, delineation of responsibilities to others, and follow-up. Placing future leaders into management development roles is probably the most important benefit that you have to offer your people. Besides, it’s much easier to complain than it is to fix the problem. People responsible for attempting to fix problems are less likely to blindly blame others because they’re more sensitive to the challenges involved in rendering a solution.

  1. External Learning Opportunities

Assume that many of your best employees are résumé-builders: They’ll stay long enough to prove their worth so long as they’re on the fast track. Once they feel blocked from upward mobility, however, they’ll look elsewhere rather than forego their personal agendas. The key is to allow all your employees a chance to make a difference. People are much more inclined to feel like they’re making a positive contribution to your organization if they’re in a learning curve. So even if you can’t promote them because of hiring freezes, you can challenge them to challenge themselves.

Two or three one-day seminars per employee per year may add very little to your overhead budget and can allow employees intermittent sabbaticals to reflect on their careers as well as on the application of the newly learned material to your work environment. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, and all you have to do is set up the structure of the program along with your expectations. At that point, let their creativity and hard work forge the way.

Developing a Leadership Culture

If you implement some or all of these points, you’ll have a much more motivated staff, and energy begets energy, so you’ll all be feeling invigorated and renewed. After all, how many managers outside these walls go out of their way to help their employees gear up for promotions in their careers?

This is where the management rubber meets the road. Little is as rewarding as teaching future leaders how to lead effectively and efficiently. The beauty of these scenarios is that they cost the supervisor very little in terms of her own time and the company very little in terms of added expense. There’s no better way to bond with your subordinates than finding low-cost means of making work fun and enjoyable, while educating your staffers and arming them with skills that will help them in their overall careers.

Bring It Home

It’s impossible for everyone to bring their A game to work everyday. External forces often spur internal distractions. When most managers signed up for the job, they thought they would assign tasks and follow up to ensure those tasks got completed. What most managers don’t realize is getting those tasks done usually requires a heavy dose of motivation. To use a metaphor, managers steer the ship when waters attempt to propel it off course. In what ways have you inspired motivation among an individual employee or an entire team? Comment with your ideas. ~ HarperCollins Leadership Essentials

Paul Falcone

Paul Falcone is an HR executive who has held senior-level positions with Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, and City of Hope. A long-time contributor to HR Magazine, he is the author of many bestselling books, including 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. He lives in Los Angeles.

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