Leadership: Development of Others – Motivates Successfully

Successfully motivating others requires development of one’s “soft skills,” including the following awareness and abilities:

An awareness of the motivational needs of others and the ability to respond to these needs by (1.) providing meaningful recognition for high quality work that is timely and accurate; (2.) showing sincere appreciation for extra effort; (3.) the ability to be a role model for genuine enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

Leaders are often so concerned with productivity that they forget the human element, including the motivational needs of others. These needs vary between individuals, and leaders must get to know their people and develop healthy workplace relationships in order to understand these needs. Tom Peters years ago recognized this and urged all managers to “manage by walking around” and to “catch someone doing something right” as a means to provide recognition and appreciation and to display a positive attitude.

Leaders vary as to their ability and willingness to encourage others. Pouzes and Posner devote chapters on the topic of “encouraging the heart.” Encouragement and motivation of others are learnable skills, but their development requires leaders to get out of their comfort zones.

To develop awareness of the motivational needs of your people, first observe them and their moods over a period of time, say two weeks. Are they consistently up in their mood, or down? Do they show perceptible mood swings in a day, or week? The wider the mood swings, the more responsive a person will be to your positive attitude, your recognition and appreciation. Not everyone needs lots of encouragement, but all workers notice whether their boss has a positive attitude, and whether they recognize good work and appreciate extra effort.

In order to cultivate the ability to recognize high quality work, leaders must be involved in their conferences with their direct reports, an aware of the performance level. Recognition must be timely, meaningful and specific, for example, “Your monthly report for April was excellent. I would like to use it as a model for teaching new people.”

Often we forget to respond to the need for appreciation. According to those who research motivation, the intangible reinforcers are more powerful than money, once basic needs have been met. Think about highly paid athletes making millions of dollars a year who become upset about not being appreciated. They seem to be saying, “You showed me the money, now show me some appreciation!”

Many people come to work with their positive attitude intact, while the attitudes of others are very much a reflection of their environment. Bosses who display positive attitudes will naturally recognize and appreciate their people, and these behaviors produce positive attitudes in others. A symptom of a positive attitude is that no problem is too big or too daunting. The cultivation of a positive attitude begins inside one’s mind, with how one thinks about oneself, the meaningfulness of one’s work, and a solution orientation. Winnie the Pooh provides an example of the extremes: Tigger bouncing off the wall, and droll Eyore. A healthy positive attitude is somewhere in the middle: feet on the ground, optimism that we can find a solution to each problem and circumstance that arises.

For additional growth in developing motivational skills:

  • Read Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, (author of Emotional Intelligence), and The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner (the chapter, “Encouraging the Heart”);
  • In addition, observe and emulate those supervisors who are successful motivators. Talk to them and ask them to share their outlook on attitude and motivation.
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