by Bob Urichuck | July 28, 2014
How to Motivate opener

If you want a happier, more productive work environment that motivates and keeps employees, focus on recognizing what they, and you, do right.

A survey in the late 1990s of thousands of workers across the U.S. compared supervisor and employee rankings on factors that motivate employees. The typical supervisory group ranked high wages, job security, and promotion in the organization as the top three motivators. However, when employees were asked what affected their morale the most, their top three answers included full appreciation of work done, feeling of being in on things, and help on personal problems.

The top three factors marked by the employees were the last three that their supervisors felt were important for them. Do you think team leaders gauge the motivators any better today?

Studies conducted since show the ranking and interpretation of the factors varies by generation and gender. A 2013 U.K. survey by The Institute of Leadership & Management reveals that how much employees enjoy their roles is now a top motivator. When asked for one thing that would motivate them to do more, 31 percent of respondents suggested better treatment by their employers, including more praise and a sense of being valued.

Employees want full appreciation of the work they've done. Recognition is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement of actions gets those actions repeated. It reinforces our beliefs about ourselves and helps make us think we are better than we thought we were.

It builds our self-esteem. If we feel good about ourselves and we believe others feel good about us, we perform better than we would otherwise. Self-esteem fuels the engine. People perform in a manner that is consistent with how they see themselves conceptually. So, the key is to help people build their self-esteem. 

Unlike money, which is an external motivator and never lasting, one's self-esteem is internal, and internal motivation is everlasting. In order to build healthy self-esteem, one needs recognition and praise, both from oneself and from others. You can help build someone's self-esteem and self-motivation not only through recognition, but also through advancement and responsibility where that person can obtain a sense of achievement and personal growth.

The problem is that today, we are deprived of positive feedback. Compliments, recognition, and praise are not part of our day-to-day culture. My assumption is that it's hard to give something you don't even give yourself. We must first feel good about ourselves and tell ourselves so before we can feel good about somebody else and tell them that.  

We live in a society that has influenced us to look for the things people do wrong instead of the things they do right. It's up to each of us to change, from the inside out.

These same influences have had an impact in our self-talk too. We tend to criticize ourselves for the things we do wrong. But how often do we praise ourselves for the things we do right? The more we acknowledge ourselves, the more our self-esteem grows; the more our self-esteem grows, the more confident we feel, which in turn helps us to give more confidence and praise to others. This sort of self-recognition goes a long way, just as long as it doesn't get out of hand.  

You cannot motivate another person to do anything. But you can provide the means and the atmosphere that will encourage that person to motivate herself or himself. As a leader, you must set the example by demonstrating the appropriate behavior -- recognition and praise. Once you do, you'll notice that employees will go out of their way to do a great job, because you took the time to thank them. Actions that get recognized or rewarded get repeated. 

Bob Urichuck is an internationally sought-after speaker, trainer, founder of the "Buyer Focused" Velocity Selling System, and a best-selling author in six languages. His latest books, Velocity Selling: How to Attract, Engage and Empower Buyers to Buy and Motivate Your Team in 30 Days, are new in 2014.