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How To Motivate Staff - Is It REALLY Possible To Motivate Your Employees? (Part 1)

  April 15, 2010

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own. Henry Ford

Motivation is a misunderstood word.

Websters says the definition of motivation is: inner or social stimulus for an action; something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.; incentive. Correct as that may be, I think there is a much simpler definition that I like much more.

Motivation: the goal or object of a person's actions

I have spent almost 14 years working in the field of human psychology and understanding why people do what they do and how to persuade them to do what I want them to do.

Doing what? Online marketing.

Almost all of my professional actions over the past 14 years have one common thread running through them: motivation and persuasion; persuading my clients to choose me over their competition, motivating users to buy my clients products or services, persuading and motivating Google and other search engines to view my site favorably over the billion sites competing for those coveted top 10 positions on the first page of results.

Being able to look into human psychology through the searches they do in Google is fascinating and informative indeed. For example, did you know that last month there were over 6.1 million searches performed in Google that included the word motivation? And that over 166,000 of them dealt with motivating employees in some way? To put that in perspective, that's over 5,500 searches DAILY about motivating employees!

Clearly, it would seem, companies are baffled at how to motivate their employees…or if it's even possible.

Some people don't think you can motivate your employees. In Mike Michalowicz's post from June 2009 on his blog The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur he tries to make the case that because no one will ever have the passion about a company that the owners or leader does, companies shouldn't invest time, money and energy into learning how to motivate staff and improving employee motivation. They would contend that true, lasting motivation only comes from within and anything external is temporary and superficial in benefit.

Let me just state this as clearly as I can. There couldn't be anything farther from the truth! So in an effort to cut through the fog and disclose truth, here are some things to remember, to contemplate, to understand and to embrace about human behavior and how to get the best from the people that work in your organization.

It's an Issue of Perspective Really

"There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything...and that is by making the other person WANT to do it." Dale Carnegie

That quote came from one of the most powerful personal development and human relations books of all time written by Dale Carnegie back in 1937 called How To Win Friends & Influence People. But don't let the age fool ya…it's truth is still valid (even more so probably) for today. Perhaps perspective can be better illustrated by this simple story that Dale tells of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

One day, Emerson and his son tried to get a calf into the barn. But they made the common mistake of thinking only of what they wanted (their perspective: motivate the calf to go into the barn); Emerson pushed and his son pulled. But the calf was doing just what they were doing; he was thinking only of what he wanted (the calf's perspective: motivate them to give up); so he stiffened his legs and stubbornly refused to leave the pasture.

The Irish housemaid saw their predicament. She couldn't write essays or books; but, on this occasion at least, she had more horse sense, or calf sense, than Emerson had (and much better perspective of the situation). She thought of what the calf wanted; so she put her maternal finger in the calf's mouth and let the calf suck her finger as she gently led him into the barn. Emerson returned to the house and recorded the incident in his journal, adding this telling declaration: "I like people who can do things."

You see companies that are only concerned about what they want are the ones that have the most trouble motivating their staff. Their employees can often dig in their heels just like the calf in the story above or worse even still just do the bare minimum thereby preventing the employer from getting all they have to offer in terms of intelligence, creativity, passion and work ethic. All this hurts the bottom line and prevents companies from maximizing revenue and profit. Most people like people “who can do things”. And learning more about what your staff wants will certainly help you motivate them, which will help you get more of what you want, which helps you both “do things”.

What Employees Want From Work – The Big Staff Motivation Secret

Twyla Dell writes of motivating employees, "The heart of motivation is to give people what they really want most from work. The more you are able to provide what they want, the more you should expect what you really want, namely: productivity, quality, and service." (An Honest Day's Work (1988))

So if giving employees more of what they want from work is the key to motivating your staff, the question is how do you find out? Is it always more money? The answer may surprise you. In an early 1980's study of thousands of workers and managers by the American Psychological Association the most important motivational aspect of work for people was personal time and attention from the supervisor. Throwing more money at the problem can sometimes work for some people, but even that is only a truly effective motivator if the employee wasn't being paid fairly in the first place and generally is very short term in nature.

So what DOES motivate your staff? Well there are certain things that everyone will want and other things that management will need to find out about their staff. In our next post we will look at the culture of your organization and how that increases or destroys the motivation of your staff. Here is just a few of the things we will touch on:

  • The one thing that EVERY human being wants more than anything else. This may be the simplest but most overlooked thing you can do to increase motivation almost instantly!
  • Something your employees absolutely MUST know and understand. Get this one wrong and you'll pretty much guarantee that none of your staff is as productive and motivated as they could be.
  • You'll learn the best place to put increased funds as it relates to your employees (and no it's not salary or bonuses) to insure an absolute win-win for both you and the employee.

Be sure to post comments of things that have worked in your organization or as always if you have thoughts regarding the topic of how to motivate your staff, by all means post a comment!

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