“Remember – As a Manager, You Cannot Motivate Anyone”

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The quotation in the title is from one of my favorite blogs on leadership: Blanchard LeaderChat.

This particular post was on a mini case study on motivation. While I encourage you to read the entire post, it’s the final recommendation for leaders and managers that we all too often forget or don’t even realize:

Remember that as a manager you cannot motivate anyone. What you can do is create an environment where an individual is more likely to be optimally motivated. Ask (and genuinely care about) how a person is feeling, help them recognize their own sense of well-being regarding a particular issue, and provide them with rationale without trying to ‘sell’ it.”

Why do you want your employees to be motivated?

You cannot order someone to be motivated any more than you can order people to be happy or satisfied at work. But you can, as the post points out, create an environment in which it’s easier to be motivated.

Think about why you want your employees to be more motivated at work – increased productivity, better customer service, etc. Now think about what your employees need in order to be more productive or provide better customer service.

Do they need more or better tools to get the job done in a more effective, efficient way? Are there roadblocks in their way (internal politics or red tape)? Are they properly empowered to offer the best customer experience possible in the moment without having to seek layers of approvals first?

Once you’ve eliminated the roadblocks to your end goals for increased motivation (reactive response to existing situations), you can begin to focus on what else employees need to engage more fully in the work (proactive measures).

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A combination of solutions works best

Are you recognizing employees when they do give exceptional customer service, reinforcing for them what it is you want to see again and again? Are you encouraging all employees to notice and appreciate the actions and behaviors of their colleagues that contribute to increased productivity for all?

A combination of reactive solutions (removing roadblocks) and proactive measures (recognition and appreciation) are critical to creating a truly motivating environment at work.

What could your superiors (and colleagues) do to create a more motivating environment for you?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.


3 Comments on ““Remember – As a Manager, You Cannot Motivate Anyone”

  1. Hi Derek,
    When I saw the title of the blog, I immediately disagreed. You can and should motivate your employees. But, I agree with the comment that you cannot simply tell them to be motivated. Only a really green manager would try something that naive. Agree with the environmental approach to motivation, but there are things that a manager can do directly, such as modeling being motivated, showing real interest in the work being done, and showing how that work helps the company. All of that makes for a better environment, even in really difficult work places.

  2. Mcaeal, your suggestions below are very true. Nevertheless, they don’t guarantee motivating your people. In all my sessions about motivation I make it clear that you cannot motivate people. However, you can create an environment.

  3. I do think the title is somewhat misleading.

    Derek, surely a good manager, who leads well creates motivation in their teams either collectively or individually. A manager or leads by example creates motivation.

    To imply a manager cannot motivate is incorrect.

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