Stocking Your Motivation Toolbox

    October 6, 2003

The same things don’t motivate everyone. You need to think about each individual’s needs. Then you need to take a peek inside your motivation toolbox. Just as you wouldn’t want to put together a bookcase with the wrong tools, you need to find the right motivational tool for a particular workplace job. If you develop a toolbox that contains lots of ways to motivate your employees, you’ll be on the path to creating a workplace that’s filled with enthusiasm. Here are some must-haves:

* Communication Never underestimate the power of communication. It’s the key to success in almost everything you do. For example, if your employees are comfortable talking with you, they’re more likely to be loyal to the company. They are also more likely to let you know if they’re thinking of leaving. The way you communicate is so important that it can determine whether an initiative succeeds or fails. Here are a few general communication tips:

1. Foster an open-door policy. You want your staff to be able to come to you whenever they have concerns or questions – work-related and otherwise. Not only do you care about their productivity, but you want them to know that you value them as people. If they feel valued as individuals, they will also value the work they do. If your office door is constantly shut and you’re not spending time actually talking to your employees, then you’re not practicing an open-door policy.

2. Interact with your employees. Get to know their work. Know them personally. It will be harder to let you down.

3. Give credit to your outstanding performers.

4. Start a company newsletter. People love to know what’s going on. Having a newsletter is one way to keep everyone informed.

5. Keep employees informed about the business. Nothing is more discouraging than hearing a big announcement about the company from an outsider.

6. If you must turn down an employee’s request (a day off or a deadline extension), explain why. Determine whether you can offer something else instead, or set a specific time in the future to reconsider the request.

7. Give feedback, even if it isn’t positive. When you have to deliver constructive criticism, do it in private and use the kind of words you would want to hear if you were on the receiving end. You don’t want to embarrass anyone or point fingers.

* Recognition If your employees are doing a great job, let them know it. You want them to know you care about their performance. If you never tell staff members how they’re doing, how will they know that their work even matters? A recent survey revealed that a lack of recognition was a major reason why employees quit their jobs.

Recognizing your employees is a huge part of their motivation. No one likes to do a job well and then feel unnoticed. You should praise your employees liberally and publicly whenever praise is merited. Not only does praise make a person feel good, but it also highlights the type of behavior you’d like others to copy.

* Mentoring Mentoring occurs when one person, usually a long-term or top-performing employee, takes a newcomer under his/her wing and provides the newcomer with professional support. But mentees don’t have to be limited to recently hired employees. A mentoring relationship can be beneficial for people at any stage in their careers.

Mentoring is a great motivational tool. Here are some of the reasons it pays off:

1. New employees learn the ropes more quickly.

2. They are able to understand and adjust to the corporate culture.

3. They feel like they belong and are able to adapt more quickly. As a result, their productivity increases at a faster rate. They’re happy and you’re happy.

4. Mentors themselves can get great satisfaction in sharing knowledge and experience with someone. Not only are they assisting coworkers and fostering staff camaraderie, but they strengthen their interpersonal and leadership skills as well.

* Training Everyone benefits from training. Not only does the employer get people who know their jobs and can do them well, but the employees who have gone through training are more motivated and challenged. Remember that the more trained your employees are, the better they perform. The better they perform, the more you’re seen as a star leader.

You have training options, even if your budget is tight:

1. Select key employees to attend outside training or a workshop and then give them the responsibility of training others in the department when they return.

2. Ask your Human Resources department to offer general in-house training. Good ideas for topics include stress management, time management and e-mail etiquette.

3. Identify key training topics that would benefit your staff (improving customer service, negotiating costs with vendors, enhancing software skills), then approach people in your firm who are experts on these topics and invite them to speak at a brownbag lunch.

So now you’ve got the must-have tools you’ll need. As you use these, you’ll develop even more motivational skills that will enhance productivity and get your staff to say, “Yes, I can!”

Kathleen OConnor is the owner of the OConnor Success System which provides professional growth programs for managers and entrepreneurs. To access our free resources, visit our website at You can sign up there for your free 4-part mini-course on communication skills and a free subscription to our monthly e-zine, The Edge.