People often confuse motivating our people, with big motivational speeches. There’s lots written about motivation, about intrinsic desires and stimulus but managers don’t find these that helpful on a cold Monday morning when they’re trying to get people motivated and get things done. I think it’s a really practical issue, lots of little things you can do day-to-day that will keep your people motivated. Even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is just saying that your people will need a work environment that at least covers the basics of comfort, simple, practical things like warmth, breaks, toilets, food, drinks otherwise they’ll become worried and demotivated. These are the essentials and if they’re not covered then your people won’t onto the next levels where they can contribute more, be more productive and be more likely to stay. So what can you do, what are the special secrets of keeping people motivated? Well they’re not special and not secret, they’re just simple practical steps that everyone can do and should do.
Your people are all individuals, so ask about them, take a genuine interest and then you’ll understand them, what energises and drives them so you’ll know how to help them stay motivated, and what would demotivate them. People have different drivers and motivators, different reasons why they do things, why they get out of bed in the morning so get to know them.
Listen and involve
Listen to them, really listen and ask them questions, how would they do things, ask their opinions, what do they think? Involve them in your decisions, explain how any changes might affect them, show where they fit in. Keep them in the loop, tell them what’s going on so they feel part of something.
Give people regular feedback but in a way that suits them, and you’ll know that once you’ve engaged with them. If you have to give difficult feedback, plan carefully what you want to say, provide a context and do it in private. People are OK about being told where they’re going wrong, provided they see you as trying to help.
Create the right environment
People are less likely to be motivated in an environment that has no success, no fun, that’s unhappy. Help make it a team focus, get them together ask questions and discuss as a whole team. Take them out sometimes or have sessions to unwind and talk about wider stuff. Get some beers in sometimes. Sure it’s about performing but don’t make it all about work, you need an environment that’s human. Oh and make sure the place is as clean and tidy as it can be.
Give them the tools they need
Make sure that they have everything they need to perform, all the practical stuff like tools, equipment, clothing, safety equipment. But it’s also about helping them grow, learn and improve. It’s not just about training but showing you’re thinking about them as individuals, let them sit in for you, mentor and coach them, stay close and help them be better.
So motivation isn’t a big rah-rah. It’s just lots of little things that you do well and often that’ll keep your people motivated and working at their best. And when things do go wrong they’ll feel close enough to you to come and tell you, so you won’t have to guess or learn ‘motivational techniques.’ Motivation is a practical, human activity, just like all management is.