The most common question that I am asked when I facilitate leadership development programs is, “Gary, how do I motivate my employees?”.
The idea that a leader can
motivate their employees is flawed. I cannot motivate you and you
cannot motivate your employees. I cannot take my motivation and give it
to you so that you can be motivated, just as you cannot take your
motivation and give it to your employees so that they are motivated.
Motivation is not a ‘thing’ that can be extracted, given, taken, passed
on or any other action from one person to another.
If you are reading this article then it is because of your own motivation, not someone else’s.
Even if someone put this article in front of you and demanded you read it, you could choose not to read it. Even if they held a gun to your head and said, “Read it out aloud”, you could easily read it out aloud but not take in this article.
Motivation is intrinsic.
Period. Each of us, including your employees is 100% self-motivated.
This is critical for leaders to understand. It is not your
responsibility to motivate anybody other than yourself. Likewise it is
your employees’ responsibility to motivate themselves. If you attempt to
take this responsibility away from your employees then you will create a
false dependency that is unsustainable.
What can leaders do?
A leader’s job is to
create the conditions, to the best of her ability to enable employees to
be self-motivated. They must also do everything they can to end the
conditions that foster a lack of motivation in employees. They
must also do everything they can to end the conditions that foster a
lack of motivation in employees. What are the factors that are reducing
an employee’s capacity to be self-motivated? Is
it that they aren’t being paid fairly? Is it that they are being
micro-managed? Is it that they aren’t being recognised for doing a good
day’s work? Is it the fact that they don’t have an opportunity to
Leaders must also talk and act in ways that
support this concept to make sure that their employees are 100
responsible for their own motivation.
To enable employees to be
self-motivated leaders must know what drives their employees. They must
help their employees to see the alignment between their personal goals
and the organisation’s goals. Maybe the alignment will come from the
money they earn which allows them to continue to invest in their passion
for motorbikes. Maybe the alignment will come through the opportunities
that the workplace can offer that will allow the employee to progress
their career or maybe the alignment will come from the employee being
able to get access to time off work to attend a course they had really
wanted to attend but is only offered during ‘normal’ working hours.
These are just a few of the endless possibilities that relate to how a
leader can create the conditions for their employees to be
What are you doing to enhance the self-motivation of your employees?
Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.