Global Leadership Blog

Get Motivated to Motivate!

It seems, leaders in the business world need to get to motivated to motivate. Motivation is often one of the lowest scores that people get in an employee 360 review. This is for a number of reasons…

First, the ability to motivate is an intangible skill. Unlike coaching or giving feedback, it is not easily learned and applied. Unlike building trust or showing compassion, it’s not really innate in one’s personality.

Second, motivation is complex. People are motivated by different things. If someone says they are motivated by family—what does that really mean? Are they motivated because they want to impress their family, or provide for their family, or spend time with their family? In order to be a good motivator you need to understand there/s a lot of diversity out there in how and what motivates.

Here are four tips to motivate you to motivate:

Probe. When someone says what motivates them, ask clarifying questions so that you truly understand what they mean. If they say money motivates them. Do they want money to pay for a sick family member? To achieve a dream? To pay for their child’s school? Knowing what is at the root of their desire will help you push your team members toward their and your organization’s goals.

Don’t be afraid to present alternative solutions. If your employee is anxious for a raise or a promotion or a title, there may be an ulterior motive as to why they want this change. Find out if their goal is an end or a means to an end, and think about different solutions to help them reach it. For example, a client of mine had an employee who continuously asked for a raise. The manager told her time and again that it wasn’t possible. Finally, she asked why this person needed a raise so badly. Turns out, the employee had a special needs child who needed to go to a private school next year that she could not afford. Instead of a raise, the manager held a company drive and they were able to raise enough money to pay for the first year of school. The solution wasn’t the most obvious one but it was the best one for the situation.

Focus on intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink talks about intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivators are tied to core values. The person wants to learn and create something new and do better by themselves and the world. Extrinsic motivators are external rewards such as money or titles. While important to understand, they have limited impact. They are unsustainable because they do not synch with the person’s values so they need to be increased incrementally. Appealing to both types of motivators is important.

Learn about how motivators work across culture. If you are working in global role, like a lot of us are, realize that people in other countries are motivated by different things. For example, in Europe it is not uncommon to work to live. Alternatively, in the United States, most people live to work. That is, they identify with their work, position or title and want to find a job they are passionate about. Know that people are motivated differently across cultures.

Just as 360 reviews show that managers lack the ability to motivate, research has shown that they also have the ability to make or break people’s experience in a job. Studies find that people most often leave because of their direct supervisor. That is a lot of power. By learning what and how to motivate your team will move you to achieve your goals and increase productivity and profitability. Hard work and happy employees are unstoppable. So, come on, get motivated to motivate!

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson


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