Motivation - sometimes it's better to drip feed than inject...

There is no doubt that managers need staff to consistently perform at levels that positively impact the bottom line. Yet how is it possible to keep the team focused, upbeat and performing when there’s gloom and doom all around? How do you motivate yourself and your people when expectations keep changing? How can you keep delivering more and more and expect your team to do the same when it seems that whatever you do, it’s never enough?

It’s worth remembering:

- the factors that motivate employees change over time and vary between people according to things like their employment status, gender, age, income and occupation. You need to keep your finger on the pulse of what motivates your team and place the motivation of your team at the heart of what you do. Motivation is not a one-off task – it requires your constant effort and attention.

- often the strongest potential motivators are the things employees value but lack. By understanding and addressing what these are for the members of your team, you may find you can increase motivation and performance – and it might cost you a whole lot less than you think!

- you need to be aware of your own impact on the team. Do you add or detract? Do you inspire or bring down? Do you empower or control? Not only do you need to understand how your behaviour (both verbal and non-verbal) affects the team – and make sure it’s sending the right messages – you also need to understand what’s important for each and every member of your team and adapt your approach accordingly.

- you need to be prepared to be creative. If a motivator for your team is money, how can you meet this need whilst maintaining an acceptable cost base? If appreciation and recognition for a job well done is what makes the difference to someone in your team, how can you personalise what you do to generate the best response? If the challenge of new and interesting work is the main motivator, how can you think outside of the box and find ways of offering this?

- it’s good to keep in mind that what motivates you might be very different from what motivates others. Putting time and effort into something you would find inspiring will bear little fruit if it has no meaning to others. Make sure you know your own preferences and be prepared to put them to one side as you consider what might work for others.

- recessions can have a significant impact on what people value. Not surprisingly, job security and financial rewards tend to become more important. You need to manage these two drivers of your employees’ motivation during recessions. Being open and honest with them and continuously communicating the information your people want and need to hear will make a significant difference.

- because the market today for most employees is weak, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking motivation is unimportant – after all, many people won’t have much option but to stay put. Whilst this might be true, there will still be some movement of staff and it is likely that the most talented employees will be the ones that you lose. You need to create financial reward packages that retain the very best employees yet also motivate everyone else. And if you do lose a key member of the team, make sure you put sufficient time and attention into managing the impact on those remaining.

Motivating the right behaviour is vital to business success. It requires creativity, flexibility and constant attention. It requires a clear vision of the way forward and clarity around the goals that have to be accomplished. It requires leaders who communicate honestly, build and maintain trust, take time to listen to what people value and adapt and respond accordingly. Motivating the behaviour and performance you need from your staff is one of your most important responsibilities.

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