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Motivate Others: Motivate Yourself

By Peter Urs Bender |

Take the situation where an employee comes to you with an idea. You think, after reflection, it's a good one. You authorize the employee to go ahead. But you can't resist stage-managing him or her every step of the way. Pretty soon your employee begins to get the idea that he's not trusted very far. What do you think that does to the employee's morale? To his feeling of motivation?

To motivate an employee you have to understand that motivation is an unfulfilled need. What do I mean by that?

You've just been to lunch, and stuffed yourself. You've eaten far more than you should have and couldn't eat another thing to save yourself. Then someone asks you what you'd like for dinner tonight. Dinner!? Your need for food is fulfilled.

The trick is to find the needs in your employees that are unfulfilled. What are they hungry for? Then look for something in the corporate environment that will encourage them to move forward.

One great motivator is helping employees to reach their own goals. Help them set their goals, both business and at home, and give them a hand to meet those goals. Watch for skills with languages, with words, with numbers, with computers, with systems. When you spot them, encourage your employee to use one of these skills to the fullest. It all depends on what your company needs.

A good way to determine your employees' skills and unfulfilled needs is to ask them what they do for fun. What are their hobbies and interests? More often than not you will find a match in your business for those skills. Then just stand back and watch that employee bloom.

The ability of a manager to motivate employees is important in another way. It means that while you are a member of the corporate team, you have to stand a little apart. Great leaders have always had the common touch. They're part of the group, but they're different.

In a nutshell, it's very important to be a member of the group, but that doesn't mean you have to go out with your employees every night. Mingle, but separate yourself from them. You will eventually need that space because when push comes to shove you are the one that has to make the sometimes-hard “final” decisions.

Your employees know that, and may or may not understand it. Being part of the team will help you to bond with your people and they want you to do that. But they also want you to be different.

Another aspect of teamworking is that though you are the senior manager, you may not always wish to be the “leader.” In fact, it may be to your great advantage to delegate the role to someone else on a project basis. That way you develop the natural leadership abilities that are always present in your employees. This will stand you in good stead if you should suddenly become ill, or have to leave the day-to-day running of the business to go on an extended trip. The wise leader always works to replace him or herself in the long run.

It should come as no surprise that employees are not motivated by money alone. Of course, if you're rich you can say that money isn't everything. If you're not, money is everything. Compensation must be adequate for a person to be able to reach maximum potential. But beyond that, many employees would probably say that being trusted with responsibility in the enterprise is their greatest reward and an outstanding motivator.

When it comes right down to it, the toughest part of being a senior manager is motivating yourself to do what you have to do. There are days when you won't want to get out of bed. But you have to. In the final analysis, your business depends on you.

So how do you motivate yourself?

First, set sensible goals. Don't make them airy-fairy or impossible. Think hard about them and write them down. Then prioritize them.

Suppose you want to expand your company, take it into new markets. Planned growth is the only way to go. Don't let yourself get caught in the trap of uncontrolled expansion. That can overextend any company. If you want to tackle a new market, that's fine. But make sure you've got the market you're already in under control. Remember: underpromise and overdeliver.

Read good books. Those of you who read are already aware of the value of reading, and the influence it can have on both you and your company. Select business books that are of value to you, and that will help you to get where you want to go. In my own book, Leadership from Within, you'll find a lot of information to guide you. Or pick up one of the all-time business classics, such as Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly EffectivePeople.

Watch good movies. You might be surprised at the impact a good movie will have on self-motivation. There are lots of them around. Watch them critically. Don't just let them go by you. Try to select those you think will help you – but don't be afraid to take motivation where it occurs, no matter how unlikely the source.

Watch good TV programs. There is a series from Edmonton on Canadian Learning TV (find it at that offers a wide range of courses – which includes business courses – that you will find interesting. Check it out. There will be something there for you, no question.

Look after your body. It should go without saying that good health is a requisite for proper functioning. If you feel unwell all the time, you can hardly feel the thrill of motivation, or expect to motivate others. Set yourself a reasonable realistic exercise program, and follow it every day, or at least a couple of times a week. Try to make exercise fun. Don't just do the grind. Set it up so you can enjoy it.

Work at rewarding projects. Without question the most useful self-motivator is to set up programs you enjoy working at. They can be personal, corporate, or externally oriented.

The point is to look for something that will bring you personal satisfaction, and then pursue it at whatever speed you feel comfortable at.

Don't worry, though, if you don't feel personally motivated all the time. Most of us have periods of slight depression from time to time.

One of the best ways of dealing with a 'downer' is to try to help someone else. In fact, if you can't think of a personal or corporate project that will bring you satisfaction, think about getting involved in something charitable. There are so many causes that have such a great need for volunteers and leaders that they will welcome you with open arms. And one thing is certain. Charitable work often gives back tenfold what you put into it. You have less time to worry about yourself when you're concerned with others.

The main thing is not to de-motivate others by laying your problems on them. Just leave them at home when you deal with your employees. That's part of your job at the top.

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