Are you an organisation who wants to retain talent? Or perhaps you want to become a leader that motivates and inspires?

We all know that motivation is mostly intrinsic. However many times a leader can either make or break their team member’s motivation. Often, people get promoted and are suddenly put in a position of leading with no experience or knowledge. Promoting the right leaders, training and nurturing them into becoming successful managers is critical. Their communication, EQ and motivational skills will either boost performance and retain talent or lower morale and drive good people out.

I remember the first time I ever managed anyone I was about 23 years old, with no prior experience nor knowledge. I was basically handed the position without really asking for it. One day a team member arrived one hour late to work. As soon as he showed up, I criticised and asserted my power without listening to his reason. The next day he called in sick for a whole week and shortly after he quit. Later on I found out that he suffered from depression. I reflected on that experience and realised that I was basically modelling what I though management was from the way I was treated by my current and previous managers. It took several more years, experience and education to realise that there are key elements and skills at being a great leader which have been tried and tested for many years.

1. You Need to be Likable
There’s this thing called chemistry. Some people meet and develop it instantly and other times it takes time. Team members respond well and are motivated by managers who they have built rapport with. They are motivated to move mountains for these leaders. We’ve all heard the saying, “People leave managers, not companies.” I met a guy a few months ago who said this to me when I asked him why he’d been in his job for so long. “I don’t know why I’ve been in my job for 7 years. I should really look for something else, but I guess I have a great manager who I really like. I will probably look for something else once he leaves.” When your team members like you, not only will they be loyal, but are more open to constructive feedback and may even let you get away with not being perfect and having a bad day or two. When first meeting your team members, take the time to know them and connect. Find commonality and show authenticity in your intentions.

2. Everyone Wants to Feel Autonomous
Do you remember when you were a child and were been bossed around by all these adults? You couldn’t wait to grow up, reach adulthood and make your own decisions. Then you get into the work place and you’re still being bossed around and hate going to work. You start to look for another job, until you finally find one with a boss who respects you as an equal and gives you autonomy. You suddenly feel motivated to do good work for this manager and perhaps you knock back better offers because you don’t want to let your manager down. I know I’ve been there. Good leaders not only understand the principle of autonomy, but apply it. For them it’s not about the hours, but the outcome. Rather than telling you what to do, they ask you questions in order to find out what’s important to you. They make you feel as though you are part of the decision making process. Good leaders understand that people don’t want to be managed, but led. They don’t want to be bossed around like a child, but treated as a valued partner.

3. Find Out Their Purpose
Find out what drives your team members. Why they do what they do, and what makes them get out of bed in the morning? If they don’t have a purpose or have lost it, help them discover it through your coaching skills. Give them challenging and rewarding assignments. If there was one vocational skill they could be good at, what would that be? What can you do in order to support them? What are their long term career goals? People need mastery. Which is the desire to get better at what they do. What is the point of going to work when you don’t enjoy what you do and don’t have challenges? Why do you think people get addicted to video games or sports? Because there are goals, challenges and a sense of mastery. The workplace is also similar to a game where there are players involved and are all working together to get higher scores and reach the next level of expertise.

4. Flexibility Goes a Long Way
Many organisations are moving away from the traditional 9 to 5 hours and more towards an agile flexible workplace. At the end of the day you could have someone in the office for 8 hours a day while on their Facebook for 50% of the time and falling behind. Or another team member with flexible work arrangements and is a top performer. Many organisations are now recognising that it is less about the hours and more about results. Flexible organisations usually have a low turnover and a competitive edge When you have team members who have some control over their work hours and can manage external life pressures such as family, studies and care responsibilities, then they are more likely to appreciate the workplace they are working for and feel autonomous is their role. Sometimes as a manager you may not have control about company policies and working hours, yet giving someone who has worked above and beyond an early mark or letting them take the morning off goes a long way towards feeling appreciated.

5. Seek to Understand
By seeking to understand first, your team members will feel heard. Try and change the words “I expect.” Which sound more about you, to, “What support do you need?”“What are your expectations?” When in a goal setting meeting, never ever write down the action plan in your own words for employees to sign. Use open and reflective questions in order to elicit their internal needs and motivation. People are more convinced and follow through with actions when it is their idea. Empathy is another component of seeking to understand. Can you imagine if your work place was filled with apathetic people? What type of workplace would it be? Great leaders motivate by placing themselves in their team member’s place. “If I was Mary, would I want to be spoken to like that?” “If I had a sick child at home, would I want more understanding from my peers?” I once met a man named *Peter who wanted to quit a great job for a top Four consulting firm. His manager had called him on his mobile before he got on the plane to go home from his business trip and said the following, “Doesn’t mean that you arrive home from your business trip at 3.30 pm you stop working. My expectation of you is that you are logged onto your work computer and working until 5:15 pm.” Peter had been away from home for 3 whole weeks on a work assignment. He worked 60 hour weeks and even had to work on his Christmas break and weekends. Peter who prided himself in having a high work ethic said to me that he had no intention of slacking off work that particular day and would have worked until 10 pm if needed. But what he remembers was that it was at that exact moment that he lost motivation to work for this particular manager and decided he was going to quit once a new opportunity came up.

6. People Need Appreciation and Recognition
Human beings are wired to need appreciation and recognition. Why do we have awards ceremonies at university and Oscars? I mean you can always send them their certificates or Oscars by post. So why go to the great lengths to create a whole ceremony built on recognition? Because humans are designed to release Serotonin in their brains. A chemical responsible for feelings of pride and status. What a better way to get a hit of serotonin than at a ceremony while everyone is clapping and congratulating you for all your hard work and achievements. Simply appreciate and recognise your team members with words of gratitude and rewards when they do good work. The rush they may get will push them to achieve more in order to experience that high again. There was a young lady Sarah* who I was coaching that worked in sales. She was the top sales person and constantly closing million dollar contracts. One time her manager told her that she should be lucky she is working for such a reputable brand and he never once acknowledged the great work she did. Sarah was eventually head hunted on LinkedIn by a competitor who value her talent and hard work. In her new role, her employer recognised her achievements by featuring her in their newsletter and gave her a Star award at their monthly conference. As a result their appreciation has pushed her to go further and she is now reaching sales numbers she had never thought possible.

7. Micro Managers Kill Motivation
This also links to autonomy. Have you ever been in a relationship where that person didn’t trust you? Called you every hour of the day to check up on you and questioned your every move? Did this person also control exactly how your day was spent? Manager and staff relationships are no different from any other relationship. Micro managing comes down to three things; needing a sense of control, asserting your control and not trusting. People who are micro managed mostly end up feeling resentful, become disengaged and lose motivation. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and trust. Give people an environment where it’s safe to fail and you support them on their journey to mastery.

8. Include Them in The Decision Making Process
Research shows that when team members are included in the decision making process they feel more valued and heard. It has also shown to have positive effects on motivation and job performance. Now be aware that it is more critical to get them involved when changes affect them directly. Ask them about their thoughts and even objections. Allow them to feel heard and consult with them regardless of what’s in your control to change. For example, one lady I used to work with went on a one week vacation. Upon her return to work, her desk had been moved to another location in the office. This lady became extremely upset and most of her colleagues thought that she was being overly dramatic. Now imagine this; you live with your landlord and you discover that when you had returned from your holiday they had moved your bedroom to the smaller room in the house without consulting with you first. How would that make you feel? In the end everyone wants to feel respected and valued.


Being a manager is one of the hardest jobs in the world because you're not dealing with formulas, but complex human beings. I’m aware that sometimes no matter how great the organisation, job, or manager is, there are some people who may never develop the will, skill or be in the wrong job. As a manager you can’t win all battles, however it’s important to recognise that your role is a vital one. Leading is an art form. It’s a skill that you will learn through trial, error and being self-aware. Remember being an empathetic leader is not about people walking all over you or submission, but rather being emotionally intelligent, assertive and always reaching for a win-win outcome. Great leaders follow the golden rule and treat others the way they would want to be treated.

Be a leader that people follow not because they have to, but because they want to

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8 Effective ways to Motivate and Engage your Staff - Leadership

rana kordahi