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There has been a lot written about the theory of motivation at work, but most of it is not in a ‘user friendly’ form. This means that managers and supervisors are not able to use practical tools to motivate their staff. By default we use the wrong methods for getting the best from our staff.

One of the greatest challenges in management today is to provide motivation for staff to perform to their potential.

Have you ever wondered why people exhibit such intensity about their interests away from work but drift through their jobs without applying much discretionary effort? It’s not because they are lazy.  It’s because they are basically disengaged. Their non-work activities are giving them something they aren’t getting from work.

How to Create Motivated Staff
Here’s what you do, and how you do it. To get people engaged about any activity, no matter what it is, either a hobby, or a job, the activity must have four basic components.

  • A challenging and relevant goal with attainable milestones to progress.
  • A way to keep score, so people can see and manage their progress.
  • Total control over achieving the goal.
  • Recognition or reward.

People would lose interest in their hobby or past time if any of the four components such as the goal, the score, the control and the recognition were absent.

If you were to examine most people’s jobs, you would find that at least one of those four components is absent. To find out what is missing: ask.  It’s as simple as that.  Once you, the manager, know the missing component(s) you can do something about it.

The Building Blocks for Motivation
These four components are the building blocks for motivation. Imagine what it would be like to be manager if your staff were excited, productive and engaged. What difference would it make to your workplace?

Have you ever found yourself saying something like, “It is very hard to get motivated staff these days”. If your staff are not motivated look at your own performance as a leader.

Again, you might find this a bit brutal, but it’s true. Your staff’s engagement is a reflection of your leadership skills and your ability to create an environment that contains those four vital components.

People expect supervisors and managers to be, among other things, ‘motivators’. Now that is not as simple as it may seem. Sometimes the material with which you have to work may not be amenable to motivating and because motivating some other people is not possible.

Can you or can you not motivate anyone other than yourself? Management consultants usually take one side, that motivation comes from within the individual, while motivational speakers and writers take the other: that you can motivate someone else.

If you define a ‘motivator’ as a person who influences other people, helps them reach a goal, creates a positive, productive environment in which goals can be achieved, you can be a motivator.

Motivation Madness
Hundreds of thousands of words and theories have been written about motivation. How can any manager understand motivation because of all the conflicting reports that are written in words that are so hard to translate into some practical application? Knowing the theories of motivation is not going to help a manager motivate a member of staff to arrive at work on time.

Fundamentally, there are two types of motivational forces which are applied to individuals. There is external force and there is internal force. There are two conditions under which these forces are applied.  Reward and punishment.

  • External Reward:                    I’ll pay you if you do this…
  • Internal Reward:                     I want to do this…
  • External Punishment               I’ll sack you if you don’t do this…
  • Internal Punishment               I don’t want to do this…

Now, you know from your experience that number one doesn’t work.  You can’t bribe people to improve their productivity on a consistent basis.

Number three definitely doesn’t work, yet we keep on trying to punish people into compliance.

Number four consistently doesn’t work and leads to a huge lack of co-operation.

Number two always works, yet the most common forms of motivation in the workplace are one, three and four.

Stop the Madness
This is where the madness comes in. We operate in the areas that don’t work. We try and pay for increased productivity and wonder why it doesn’t work. Then when we don’t get it we try to punish people into productivity.

We forget that if a person can’t see the point of doing something, they won’t do it. Furthermore, if they don’t think it is fair and reasonable, they definitely won’t do it.

The key to improving ‘People Productivity’ is obviously number two. This is the essence of leadership.

It is the job of a leader to create an environment where people do things because it is their choice to do them. We expend all this energy on one, three, and four without considering how to get to the situation where the person actually wants to do it.

For the business owner or manager, the clear goal is to create an environment that causes people to want to do things that we want them to do, because it is their choice.