12 easy ways to motivate your employees
and get the performance you want

By: Alexander Hiam, Author, Streetwise Motivating and Rewarding Employees

1.Think about your employees' strengths! Most managers worry about what their people are doing wrong. A natural concern, but it kicks off a demotivating spiral. To build motivation, remind yourself what each employee's greatest strength is.

2. Don't use motivation methods that don't work. When you keep telling employees what to do and they keep messing up, who's being stupid? Some might say doing the same thing over and over, when it obviously doesn't work, isn't too sharp. Yet we often do just that, trying the same supervisory behaviors over and over and getting more and more frustrated when they don't work.

3. Re-calibrate your motivation scale. We routinely accept mediocre motivation at work, forgetting that everyone is capable of high motivation levels. By looking at non-traditional benchmarks, we can re-calibrate our sense of what truly high motivation is. Sharing this realization throughout the organization helps create a vision of motivation for everyone to pursue.

How? Ask employees and managers for examples of exceptional motivation. Seek out and share stories of exceptionally motivated explorers, athletes, musicians, artists, volunteers, inventors and entrepreneurs. Find out what activities or pursuits have created maximum motivation in the past for employees.

4. Teach employees to measure their own success. Employees who keep track of their performances are able to notice and document their development. They create their own scoreboards and are able to track their wins more effectively than any manager.

How? Every performance goal can be reduced to a simple, easy-to-track measurement. If the goal is not inherently quantitative, create a judgment scale to rate performance against. Today, only employees operating machinery in quality- oriented factories track their own performances routinely. Tomorrow, every employee should be measuring their own success.

5. Measure and track motivation levels. How can you manage something you don't measure? Yet most organizations and managers have no idea how motivated their people really are. The typical employee satisfaction poll does not measure motivation. If you start to measure motivation, you can realistically expect to learn how to manage it. Without good measures, you'll never get any better at managing it.

How? Use a simple, repeatable instrument such as the Job Motivation Level (JML). Take periodic measures of overall employee motivation. And encourage supervisors to track motivation within their own spans of control on a routine basis.

6. Ask employees what they want. Employees are motivated by...what motivates them! Employees have different goals and desires, and therefore need different performance and development opportunities. You can't motivate individuals with generic programs. To maximize motivation ask each employee what turns them on.

7. Learn to recognize and eliminate threats. Employees often feel that their managers use threats to try to motivate them, yet managers routinely deny it. They don't mean to threaten employees, but if that's how it feels to the employee, then it is a threat and it's damaging to motivation levels. So managers need to learn to recognize the things that employees see as threats and work on eliminating or reframing them. Opportunity is an effective motivator. Fear is not.

8. Stop Distracting Employees. Most employees want nothing more than to focus on doing their jobs better and better. But from their perspective, critical incidents distract them, leading to worries about communication, security, fairness, respect and other key job criteria that managers rarely recognize. If you first take care of employ- ees' most fundamental intangible requirements, you can then shift the focus from their concerns to your motivation and performance agenda.

How? Ask employees what bothers or worries them about their work and workplace.

9. Communicate! Open communication is most employees' #1 priority. And the majority of employees say their managers don't communicate openly with them. But a majority of managers say they do. Who's right? Wrong question. If employees feel you are withholding information they need about their work or workplace, they will lose motivation and develop resistance to your management. Time to communicate more openly.

How? Since employees and managers generally see this issue differently, the simplest fix is to ask employees what they want to know. Ask them one-on-one, by e- mail, in meetings. Give employees at least one chance a week to ask you for information. And then give them the information.

10. Ask employees for information about their performance. This method turns on the power of informative feedback, which is information about how you are doing. The more information, the more intrinsic motivation. So good managers try to offer informative feedback. But do you always know the details? Probably not. So instead of telling them, ask them for information about their performance.

11. Explain your reward systems. Arbitrary rewards generate cynicism, not motivation. Employees feel their managers don't respect them when a new program is announced out of the blue. They complain that the employer treats them like children. Show your respect for employees and appreciate their need to know by informing them fully about any new rewards.

12. Carry an idea notebook. What do employees think? Do they have any good ideas? Who cares! At least, that's the attitude many employees assume their managers take. Yet most managers wish employees would share more of their ideas and insights. They just aren't very good at asking. They tend to interrupt or overrule ideas without really meaning to, accidentally discouraging the very behaviors they desire.

How? A simple way to overcome this common problem is to carry a blank notebook reserved for recording employee ideas. Managers who make a practice of collecting at least a page of ideas each day become great listeners overnight, and their employees suddenly seem to be full of ideas.

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