Can Managers Motivate Employees or Must Employees Motivate Themselves?

There’s an old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” This saying, when applied to the world of business, implies that while managers may have some amount of influence, ultimately, it is the employee that takes their own critical actions to ensure success. While it is true that at the end of the day, an employee’s actions are his or her own responsibility, yet it is equally true that there is quite a bit that managers can do to ensure they are “maximizing their motivational output”. Follow some of these tips to see real change in your employee performance:

5 Tips For Increased Employee Motivation

  1. Personalized motivation: Rather than guess what motivates your employee, just ask! Here are three questions to help: What is your greatest hope or desire here at work? What’s your greatest fear? What would you most like to learn?
  2. Define outcomes: A clear target is a great way to motivate employees. Clear targets let employees know with certainty whether or not they are achieving their work objectives. For example, rather than saying, “Let’s generate more sales”, try something like, “Let’s generate 12% more sales by the end of the calendar year.”
  3. Mentor your employee: Becoming a mentor to promising employees is a rich, and wonderful way to improve their motivation. It is “motivation” in the most fine-tuned sense of the word. If your employee is willing to be mentored, then ensure that you invest your time and knowledge in a way that fits their unique situation.
  4. Use recognition and reward: Recognition is intangible, such as saying “Thank you” or “Good job”. A reward is typically a gift or a financial incentive. Be generous, specific, and authentic with your recognition, as it is hard to harm motivation by providing positive praise.
  5. Explain the “why”: Explaining why you are asking an employee to complete a new project can be a great motivator. It will also make them feel a part of the team, by helping them see the role they play in the company’s bigger vision.

Try implementing the suggestions above for 90 days and determine if you can observe a change in your employees’ performance. If so, you’re on the right track to helping your team contribute to your organization’s greater goals.

By doing what you can to stoke the fires of motivation, you will notice a synergy whereby their own self-motivation is enhanced as well. Ultimately, however, the employee must have a healthy amount of self-motivation or the tips above will not be sustainable. If the job is not a good personality fit or lifestyle fit, he or she may need a career change.