Countless studies exist on what motivates performance or behavior. Some social scientists have made this topic their life's work, and business experts claim motivation is the game changer of any successful enterprise.
I agree. Smart leaders know their way around motivation, and leverage this powerful skill to catapult their people to their highest potential. While they're putting wind in their employees' sails to get them unstuck or forge them forward, they're also earning trust, loyalty and commitment.
The more we're motivated, the more we will do and endure in the pursuit of our goals – or even our leader's goals. These days, in our highly turbulent world of work, this could not be more critical. And isn't just about having your employees ready to jump the hurdles and follow you through the fire. Leaders who know how to tap the sweet spots of the team receive an intrinsic reward. They gain the satisfaction of seeing their people happy and fulfilled. With truly motivating leadership, the individual, team, leader and organization all win.
So, what are some top ways smart leaders motivate brilliantly?
After many years of working with and observing some pretty smart leaders, and based on what the behavioral research says, it is clear they engage in these powerfully motivating ways.
1. Lead with purpose. Your team is excited and committed when working for a leader with a vision that he or she is passionate about and that the team can believe in. It's highly compelling, and spurs "best work" when the mission speaks to something larger than any one person, and yet each one can see where their contribution has an important impact. Simon Sinek, author of the bestseller, Start With Why, speaks to engaging and mobilizing the team: "Leadership is not about organization, it is about communication. Organization happens when people know why they showed up."
2. Give responsibility. Autonomy and responsibility are a magical elixir for inducing effort. Your team will naturally step it up when they are in the driver's seat, and they know they have the power to own something, work with some independence and influence results. Smart leaders will give enough autonomy and responsibility to be sure the employee is not in over their head, but is in the sweet spot of a stretch.
3. Craft a career future. An employee of value wants to know where their career is going. The high-performance professionals I work with are always asking this question. Even if you cannot put a label or title on the role they're on track to achieve, helping them identify and hone their unique contribution, and learn their options is key. Getting a sense of their career trajectory they can connect the dots to their current focus and it will fuel them forward.
4. Champion learning and mastery. Your people want the ability to grow and develop. It is a core human desire. These days, although cross-training has an important role in learning, gaining deep versus broad skills is even more attractive. There is a market value to master a skill or various aspects of a specific industry. And it's intrinsically rewarding to be considered an expert or a "go-to person" for an area of expertise.
5. Understand that each team member is motivated differently. Although the above strategies appeal to most workers based on human nature, there are other more discretionary aspects to motivating which vary depending on the person. Smart leaders know this and take time to learn how their team members are spurred forward.
Did you notice that a common theme to these motivation tactics is that they're not an external form of recognition? External motivators, including monetary reward, have their place. (Enough of a place to warrant a whole other post – stayed tuned for that.) Yet, for the most part, when coaches, teachers, bosses use external means like emotion or information to spur someone to action, even if they get on a passionate soap box about why it matters and it should be done, it doesn't necessarily work. No matter the level of enthusiasm or compelling logic, it won't automatically trigger action.
As you've likely seen in your own career, the strategies used by smart leaders work because real motivation is born out of the insight you gain when the lightbulb goes off inside of your own head. You are catalyzed to action when something resonates with who you are as a person– your values, or what you care about. This intrinsic element has the greatest and most sustainable power in moving you or your team toward meaningful action. Any day of the week.
This article was written by Jill Berquist – An Executive Coach for High-Performing Leaders and Teams currently working with Berquist Coaching Services, LLC
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