A common question we get from our clients is, “How can I motivate my employees?”
When we’re talking about motivation, we’re not merely concerned with getting people to do what you want them to do. You can produce that kind of movement or behavior change by applying various extrinsic incentives … perks, bonuses, or even threats that might stimulate people to behave in ways that you want them to.
That’s all important and relevant to effective management. But today we’re not so interested in the external forces you might apply to produce desired behaviors– That’s your fire burning or your generator doing the work.
With motivation, it’s about enabling your people to stoke their own fires. You’re merely activating their internalgenerators. As a leader, what can you do so that your people will want to work harder, so they’ll take pride in tackling challenging work, so they’ll seek increased responsibility and take ownership of their performance?
Frederick Herzberg, one of the most influential researchers in the study of management, addressed this very question.
He argued you can help employees charge themselves up by applying some basic principles to enrich their jobs, like:
- Assigning people specialized tasks that allow them to become experts
- Increasing individuals’ accountability for their work by eliminating some controls
- Giving people responsibility for a complete process or unit of work, with a clear start and end point
- Making information directly available to people rather than sending it through their supervisors first
- Granting additional authority and freedom
- And finally, enabling people to take on new, more challenging tasks that they have not handled before
So for example on that last principle, maybe you have some new project in need of a leader. Fight the reflex of assigning it to someone from that same group of leaders you already put in charge of everything else important. Ask yourself instead if there might be a sharp person, perhaps at the next level down, who might be ready for a new and challenging assignment.
Put any one of these principles in action and you’re likely to ignite motivation in others.
Let me add a safety tip: Don’t do any of this around combustible materials … you might cause a fire.