How to motivate people

Can you actually really motivate other people? I would say “Only to a certain extent.” I do believe that it’s not difficult to get results from highly self-motivated people, because they feel passionate about what they are doing and need very little additional encouragement. They roll up their sleeves, get started and know exactly how good they are. The real art consists in being able to motivate a person who hates their job! But if you have someone like that in your team I would seriously advise you to offer that person another challenge that s/he feels more enthusiastic about (if there is any option). It is therefore crucial to hire people who are self-motivated from Day 1. Believe me, it will save you time, money and mental energy.

When I was a team leader during my MBA course I remember that it was quite easy to achieve my goal of coming up with a great business plan. I allocated the tasks according to my team mates’ skills, strengths, interests and passions. Providing them with regular constructive feedback and genuinely appreciating their input have proved to be effective. I learnt that if you notice and acknowledge what great work others are doing, they will again work very hard, if not even harder later on! Dream teams can achieve dream results.

But now imagine this scenario: Your boss asked you to come up with an idea on how to solve a certain corporate issue. You are convinced that you have a great solution to the company’s problem. After presenting it to your boss all you get to hear is “This is sh*t!” What is the first thing that crosses your mind? Or let me ask you differently: What is more likely to be your reaction? “That was it, I’m not going to work any longer for this kind of person/company!” or “Sh*t??? Now I will show you what I can really do!”

Believe it or not, but in case of Steve Jobs, this statement apparently helped him to get the best out of his employees and make them create innovative and highly sought-after products. What would have put most of the people off, inspired others to look beyond their own capabilities and create unimaginable products. But we need to bear in mind that this method will not work for everyone and most of the people might feel offended by such a comment. Damaging criticism can stay with people for weeks, months or even years. Let’s be honest, everyone wants to hear what a great job they are doing, or what an important part they play within a company, isn’t it? I was always a firm believer that praise is the most effective way to motivate people. Some years ago I’ve written a book about the power of praise (in German) in which I mentioned the 19 rules to follow when praising others verbally.

However, there is something we can learn from Steve Jobs: Never be satisfied with your very first idea. If someone tells you that what you suggested is not as great as you thought, you should not see it as critique but as an opportunity to stretch your imagination even further and then really come up with something outstanding! Challenge yourself and think of many other ways that can help you to solve the issue. There is no harm in asking also others for their thoughts, it might really help you to come up with something impressive. In hindsight, you might even be grateful for it because you will realise one more time how brilliant you really are!

As a parent you will learn that every child is different. Well, in the corporate world it is not very different. Every employee is different in its own way and is motivated by different things. One person might be hungry for money, another person might appreciate more the verbal applause. Others again might welcome the idea of receiving additional learning and career opportunities within the company. There are many incentives you can offer your employees, such as: more holidays, trips abroad, personal development options, company’s shares, meal vouchers, personalised gifts, movie tickets, salary increase, premium bonuses, etc.

For most of the people money is the main motivator. However, I do believe that the best approach to motivate your staff in an impressive way would be to personalize each individual’s needs, regardless of your company’s size. This can be done by conducting a survey among current employees and during the final interview stage for new hires. Asking an employee what motivates them the most would be an effective way of giving employees exactly that what they appreciate the most. Remember the benefits: you will have happier, more satisfied, more productive and creative staff which last but not least, will stay longer in your company. 

Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author, and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 18 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India.