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Managers as Motivators: Understand the Guiding Principles

Managers as Motivators: Understand the Guiding Principles

Think the promise of promotion into management would motivate most employees? Not so, according to a survey by staffing firm The Creative Group, which found 71 percent of workers surveyed would not want their manager's job.

"A manager needs to get to know his or her employees," says Carol E. Gilson, vice president of human resources and client services for EMPO, a human resources services firm. "By being genuinely concerned about each employee, the manager will learn what motivates each individual."

Some workers respond to private compliments on their work, while others thrive on formal recognition, Gilson explains. Still others -- particularly salespeople -- work hardest when a generous commission program is offered. And some want to work on special projects.

Study these guiding principles to become a more effective motivator.

Six Big Motivators to Remember

Sharon Jordan-Evans of Jordan Evans Group and coauthor of Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay cites a revealing job-satisfaction survey of more than 15,000 people. All of them named at least one of the first three of these six big motivators:

  • Exciting work and challenge.
  • Career growth.
  • Learning and development.
  • Working with great people.
  • Fair pay.
  • Supportive management/good boss.

"So while fun matters most to one talented employee, another is motivated more by autonomy and yet another by flexibility," Jordan-Evans says. "Motivation -- engagement and retention too -- is therefore largely an individual activity between the boss and employee.

Individual Attention Pays Dividends

Jordan-Evans recommends going to lunch with team members individually to help understand them better. What does each one enjoy most and least about his job? What does he want to learn next, and how would he like to learn it? Ask what you can do as a boss to make their jobs more enjoyable or satisfying.

If Sally would be pumped by learning desktop publishing and taking a crack at the company newsletter, send her to a class. If Jose wants exposure to the senior team, invite him to the next staff meeting. Watch their performance soar as workers get involved in what they really want to do.

Gilson says effective managers all seem to have one thing in common: They invest in their employees psychologically. They truly believe in them and spend quality time finding ways to raise their level of personal and professional self-esteem. Most employees will spare no effort to achieve recognition from someone who truly appreciates their work.

Motivate Every Day

Managers should remember to practice motivational tactics on a regular basis, not just once a year at a team-building seminar, Jordan-Evans advises.

Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group, says, "It's especially crucial to keep motivation high during times of change, such as when a company is expanding or downsizing. Businesses that wait until morale is tangibly lagging to address motivation suffer the costly consequences of reduced productivity and increased turnover. It's much easier to maintain high motivation than rescue a demoralized or unhappy team."

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