How To Be A Motivated Leader

Motivation drives people to success, and plays a critical role in employee productivity, quality and speed of work. It can be very challenging to motivate yourself at times, but even more so motivating others. As a leader you are often held accountable for this. 

Motivation – The Fifty-Fifty Rule

In John Adair’s Book “Leadership and Motivation” he explains The Fifty-Fifty Rule. Fifty per cent of motivation comes from within a person, and 50 percent from his or her environment, especially from the leadership encountered there.

As a leader, it is beneficial for you to do everything in your power to make sure the 50% of motivation you do have control of – creating the right workplace environment – is being done.

Step One: How To Motivate Yourself

Before you criticize others for lack of motivation, make sure first and foremost you are following the golden rule: be self-motivated. Without leading by example, your hopes to motivate others will crumble. Ask yourself, is your enthusiasm and commitment sincere? Much like other positive leadership traits, enthusiasm is contagious and it inspires others. 

But how can you motivate yourself? Unlike your team members, as the leader you may lack the ability to lean on someone for encouragement and inspiration. When you are trying to find a way to tap into your intrinsic motivation, here are some tips to get started:

  1. Find a Mentor – Having an inspiring and encouraging peer giving helpful advice (especially on the hard days) is one of the best approaches to motivate yourself.
  2. Maintain Balance – Learn to delegate tasks to free up time and find a balance at work and at home.  Figure out what makes you feel good (hobbies, exercise, reading, meditation….) and set time aside each week for this.
  3. Set Goals – How can you motivate yourself if you have no direction? Setting yourself goals or OKRs allows you to see the bigger picture and will help to excite and motivate you.
  4. Reward Yourself – Having something to look forward to and celebrate is a great way to motivate yourself. When you set your goals and start reaching each milestone, celebrate by doing something for yourself. 

How to Motivate Others

Motivating others results in higher employee engagement – an urgent need in 2022. Having a team or organisation of engaged employees reduces absenteeism and turnover, increases productivity and creates greater customer satisfaction. 

Once you have implemented changes towards step one (Motivating Yourself!) you can start to make changes in the workplace to help motivate others. The easiest way to help you is to hire people who are easily motivated. Here are some things you can look for in an interview to identify people who are motivated:

  • Look for signs of initiative – ask questions such as “What would you do in your first month of working here?” and “Tell me about a time you improved a process or system.”
  • Ask about self-development, do they take the time to sharpen their saw?
  • Describe several work situations that require high motivation and ask the applicant how they would react.

Whilst it’s easier to hire someone who is already motivated, it’s still important to help motivate current team members. Below are some key points you can action immediately:

Get To Know Your People

When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with your team members one-on-one? Learning about them as individuals will help you understand what their passions are, what their values are and what motivates them. What motivates one person in the team may not motivate another.

Be willing to take the time to meet and listen to each team member, and start to pinpoint what drives them. Observe their interactions with others too, which will help you understand their recognition preferences. Do they prefer public recognition when they achieve goals? Or is a subtle pat on the back away from others much more meaningful to them? 

Show compassion and give team members the opportunity to express fears and hopes, showing you care. It’s important as the leader to be authentic, and not to use these conversations to manipulate. 

Set Realistic But Challenging Goals

“If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.” –Lou Holtz

The best people like to be stretched outside of their comfort zone. However, it is important to set goals that are balanced between challenging and realistic. Too high and they will have the opposite effect by demotivating your employees. Too low, and they are uninspiring. 

Allow your team members to be part of the decision making process with goal setting. This gives an added layer of commitment as they have accepted the targets and KPI’s, and will be more willing to work towards them. 

Share Progress And Positive Feedback

By highlighting the progress you are making as a team, or they are making as individuals, you are nudging them forward in the right direction, towards success. This will give your team more confidence and a sense of accomplishment. 

This is called the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

Create a Motivating Workplace Culture

Most of us have worked in an organisation with poor culture at some point in our lives. Micro-management, restrictive processes, irrational and reactive superiors, high absenteeism and staff turnover…

Herzberg’s ‘hygiene’ factors provide a simple model of factors that affect workplace culture. What causes job satisfaction, and job dissatisfaction. Watch the 1 minute video below.

Provide Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards

Daniel Pink explains in his book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” that there is more than just salary increases and bonuses to motivate people. (Although, that is nice too) He describes the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 

When providing extrinsic rewards – ie a bonus or salary increase – it’s important to make sure it is fair. As a general principle, financial rewards should match the relative value of contribution, according to the market assessment for any particular kind of work. If the pay increase is too low it can be demoralizing. Employee behavior should also be recognized and included when considering raises, bonuses and/or promotions and employees should feel this connection between the two. 

Intrinsic rewards, those that focus on providing autonomy, mastery, and purpose can include opportunities for professional development and growth. Supporting your team members to accomplish their goals, providing recognition, giving them more freedom in the way they work and allowing them to/encouraging them to continue learning.

Remember, to become an efficient leader, you must be self-motivated. Know your identity, your needs and have a strong urge to achieve your goals. Once you are self-motivated, you can motivate others to achieve their goals and the goals of the organisation.

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