This Is How Great Managers Nurture Employee Motivation

employee motivationIf employee motivation were as easy as handing out a few rewards as a bonus for a job well done, a manager’s job would be simple. You could set up your rewards program, sit back, and watch it happen.

As a manager, you know that guiding employees to greatness works nothing like that. You must learn how to motivate people. And the first lesson is that there are two types of motivation: Extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation comes from the factors outside the employee—things like praise, awards, salaries, bonuses, learning opportunities, leadership opportunities, perks or benefits. As a manager, you have control over many, if not all, of these motivators. It’s your job to know your people well enough to identify which extrinsic motivator works best for that person.

For instance, studies have shown that money in the form of a bonus check isn’t necessarily the biggest motivator for employees overall. Even though it’s a rare person who would say “no” to a bonus check, open and honest communication channels and challenging work generally motivate employees to do better more often than money.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is more difficult to identify. The simple explanation involves a person engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding. Essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.

While both types of motivation are important, researchers have found that they have different effects on behaviors and can influence how people pursue goals.

employee motivationGood leaders create the spark for intrinsic motivation and then use external motivators to fan the flames

Each of us do many things without being paid, such as volunteer work, charity donations, growing our own vegetables or dieting, for example. Why do we do these things? Satisfaction, appreciation, recognition, health, camaraderie and more. Examine the reasons and you’ll find your internal drivers.

For now, let’s focus on four internal drivers that are behind most of the things we do: Competence, autonomy, purpose, and growth.

1. Competence

We want to do things we’re good at because it makes us happy, but not everything in someone’s job is something they’re good at. Especially when you’re just starting out. Much like when you were young and started playing a musical instrument. At first, you were terrible, but with practice, you quickly became competent. Over time, you get better … maybe even good … and you’re motivated to practice—and play—because it brings you pleasure and satisfaction to sound great.

As a manager, you must stay close enough to know each employee as an individual, to know what makes them tick, what they’re good at, and what makes them happy. Give them sufficient opportunities to be motivated by their own competence. In return, they’ll trust and accept when you ask them to take on other duties, even those that aren’t their favorites.

Furthermore, don’t reserve praise for extraordinary work. Day-to-day contributions are an opportunity to build competencies. If I tell you you’re my go-to person when it comes to a skill, talent, or task, it’s a reputation you’ll work hard to maintain.

2. Autonomy employee motivation

People are more likely to embrace ideas and solutions of their own creation. A boss interested in providing more autonomy shares more information, gives staff input on decisions that affect them, and avoids micromanagement. Look for opportunities to give people more choice in designing their work, not less.

Give employees enough freedom to try out their ideas, to solve problems and to make mistakes. Be available to jump in as a team player and lend support to help them realize success—and give them credit for their victories.

3. Purpose

People need to hear how their work affects others. The things an employee might hear at his or her retirement party are the things they should hear from you every day. Whether it’s that they have a knack for making each customer feel special, their interactions with the team are always positive and upbeat or they don’t give up until the problem is solved, tell them. Notice the little things that make a difference and make a point of acknowledging them.

4. Growth

Accomplishing something that challenged you makes you feel good. Therefore, as a manager, don’t be hesitant to set “stretch assignments” that challenge employees. However, it’s important to recognize when an employee is ready for this challenge. Too soon, and you run a higher risk of negative repercussions on the employee due to failure. Too late, and you increase the risk of creating a disengaged employee. When the time is right, make the assignment and stay close enough to help but not to meddle.

Celebrate milestones as they are conquered, especially if the new assignment is complicated or will take a long time to complete. Have faith in your employee and tell him or her that you do.

Great bosses don’t just motivate employees—they help employees motivate themselves. Pay close attention to employees’ internal drivers. Then use the right extrinsic motivators to keep momentum going.

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