Posted August 14, 2013 by

Motivating Your Employees: Are They Hungry for More?

Motivator using carrots during meeting with a business team

Motivator using carrots during meeting with a business team. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Whether it’s dishing out negative feedback with a positive spin, or letting employees challenge themselves to discover their true potential, you’ve developed creative strategies for motivating employees. However, are you providing the right ingredients for their success? Think of increasing motivation as making a meal, with you as the cook, and your staff as the customers. A good chef knows not just which dishes will please patrons, but which ones customers will actively dislike. In that spirit, our executive coaching professionals suggest some menu items to avoid when it comes to motivating your team:

1)    The Bologna Sandwich

We all have a preferred sandwich when it comes to giving out feedback, but the truth is that it’s all bologna. Whether your method for giving negative feedback involves layering up some positive comments beforehand, or simply sprinkling them in throughout the conversation, neither is a good idea. Although it’s often easy to “sandwich” negative feedback between positive feedback, as the popular management method advises, it may only demonstrate a lack of confidence in your employees. Employees who are striving for success benefit the most from honest, thoughtful feedback – which also boosts your perception as a charismatic leader. While it’s always a good idea to elicit praise, don’t be afraid to show your true feelings – within reason, of course. Your employees will value your opinion, and appreciate your investment in their success.

2)    Another Bowl of Corn Flakes

It’s a well-known fact that job pressure is the number one cause of stress in the workplace. However, research suggests that creating an environment free of challenges may be conducive to boredom. You may think employees would marvel over a job with an easy, predictable workload, like a safe, boring bowl of corn flakes.  But in reality, this drains creativity and lowers motivation. In fact, soon after employees master simple tasks, productivity rapidly declines. The solution? Ask your employees what would motivate them.  Meredith Haberfeld, an executive coaching expert, recommends understanding your employees on a personal level, and discovering what motivates them, and what they are looking for in their jobs. You may discover that some of your employees are sick of corn flakes and are ready to try croissants instead.

3)    The Filet Mignon

Treats can be great rewards, unless you go overboard with them. For example, having a steak dinner every night would lessen your appreciation for it. Leaders tend to think the same way – that by giving out too much praise, it will weaken its effects. But the reality is that when it comes to praise, you should give out those “treats” as often as possible. According to a recent survey, 69% of employees say they would work harder if their efforts were better recognized. Capitalize on this by challenging yourself to give one acknowledgement every day to your employees. Haberfeld states that acknowledgement done right brings forth greater contribution.  It needs to be specific and behavior-oriented to make the impact, as people write off generic praise or exaggerated applause.

In summary, the best way to motivate employees is to understand their appetite for success. To truly be a successful leader, you need to dig deeper and recognize your employee’s individual needs and values. It is not enough to manage – you must lead as well. It’s the ones who do both that often are the most successful at retaining satisfied employees.


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