As a manager, one of your responsibilities is keeping your team on task: making sure they are performing well, completing projects and assignments, meeting deadlines, being productive, and staying motivated. Employee motivation is a challenge for many managers - and, ironically, studies show that the relationship between a manager and an employee is the single most important factor influencing employee motivation and engagement. Luckily, with a bit of work, there are some simple ways for leaders to motivate their teams (and keep them motivated).
How to Motivate Employees
There's no magic bullet to solve the problem of how to motivate a team - it's a process and skill that you must cultivate daily. Additionally, not every team will respond to the same tactics, and individual behaviors and performance must be taken into consideration. However, on the whole, there are a few general best practices for motivating a team that you can follow to help you find success.
Make Them Feel Appreciated
When your employees do something that goes above and beyond expectation - working overtime to meet a deadline, delivering an excellent performance in a presentation, or producing strong work on a project - make sure they know that you've recognized and appreciate their efforts. When someone does a good job, tell them! Well-deserved praise helps employees feel like they're on the right track and motivates them to keep working hard.
Emphasize Work/Life Balance
This will obviously vary based on the type of work you do, and the policies of your company as a whole, but managers do typically have some ability to set expectations around work/life balance. Even if your office doesn't allow flexible hours or requires employees to be on-call off the clock, you can still find ways to show your team that you understand the importance of their personal lives. This can be as simple as encouraging people to use their full allotment of vacation time each year, to actually take sick days when they're not feeling well, and to leave on time when workload allows.
Take an Interest in Their Career Path
People like to feel like they are working towards something, not just coming in and punching the clock every day. While you can't create opportunities for promotions or financial incentives if that simply isn't feasible for your company (although room for growth is always going to be a motivational factor), you can take an interest in your employees' career paths and professional development. Take time - perhaps during your yearly or quarterly review process - to ask your employees what their goals are and what skills they want to build, and help them find creative ways to work towards them.
Make Them Feel Connected to the Company's Bigger Mission
People also tend to work harder when they can connect what they do on a day-to-day basis with something bigger - whether it's a company's mission, success, or profit. This is especially important for employees who don't work in customer-facing roles. Teams behind the scenes affect the end customer just as much, so it's important to draw out those connections and help them remember the importance of their contributions.
Listen to What They Have to Say
Listening is one of the most important things you can do to positively impact employee motivation. Help your team feel like their voices are heard! Be open to ideas and opinions (and if you hear a really good one, make sure you give credit where it's due if it gets used). If an employee's having a hard time, either professionally or personally, make sure they know that your door is open if they need someone to talk to. If your employee has a frustration or a concern, give them the chance to voice it in a safe, non-judgmental space. Simply positioning yourself as someone your employees can trust, and who will treat them with respect, is one of the best ways to avoid workplace conflict and motivate employees.
Demonstrate Good Leadership
All of this comes down to being a strong leader. Demonstrating the qualities of a good leader - providing a vision to your team, thinking strategically and creatively, communicating effectively, embracing authenticity and self-awareness, and being dependable - will go a long way towards building your team's trust in you, which will, in turn, motivate them to do their best.
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