10 Ways to Motivate Employees

10 Ways to Motivate Employees

Here are 10 ways to motivate employees that you can use in your daily work as a leader. Whether your team is large or small, the following methods will help you inspire your followers and empower them to perform better, feel better and contribute to your organization with more drive and motivation.

    1. Lead by Example
    2. Let Your Team Come Up With Solutions to Problems
    3. Use Subject Matter Experts
    4. Create Learning Opportunities
    5. Celebrate Growth and Successes
    6. Give Feedback
    7. Follow Through With Promises and Commitments
    8. Stand Up for Your Employees
    9. Share Responsibility
    10. Share Information


1. Lead by Example
The number one tip both John and I give to anyone who is serious about motivating and inspiring followers is to lead by example. It may be one of the most important things you ever do as a leader. When you are in charge, all eyes are focused on you. Your employees – who are all intelligent people – will silently assess everything you do… how you dress, how you behave, what you say, how you treat them and how you approach the work itself. They will then react accordingly. A boss who cuts corners, takes the easy road, doesn’t hold himself or herself to the same standards as others, and doesn’t set a good example can expect to quickly loose the respect of his followers and watch the motivation and drive of the team plummet. After all, if the leader doesn’t hold himself to a respectable standard, why should they?

So, how do you lead by example? Start by strictly following all the rules of your workplace. If you hold your team accountable to a standard of dress or behavior, you must follow it too. Don’t cut corners and don’t take the privilege of your position to any level higher than absolutely necessary. If your work day ends at 4 o’clock, don’t leave at three. Be punctual. Routinely go the extra mile and share the hardships with your team. Behave the way you expect your employees to behave and you will see their motivation rise.


2. Let Your Team Come Up With Solutions to Problems
When you are in charge, it may be tempting to make all the decisions yourself, but doing so deprives you of a valuable advantage. You are just one person with one way of thinking and as creative as you may believe yourself to be, you are still limited by your own experience and imagination. The good news is that you have a team. Your employees are probably just as creative as you are and have different experiences that you may not have.

Never underestimate the power of your team. When faced with a decision or a challenge, consult your employees. Their solutions to problems may surprise you and you may be quite amazed at what they see that you don’t. What’s more, their ability to have a direct say in the team will have a very positive effect on their value to the organization. Few things motivate as strongly as feeling valued. Team members who are given a chance to solve a problem at work feel a much stronger sense of ownership of the project and that in turn increases their motivation to contribute.

This works especially well when you run across a problem that you yourself are not sure how to solve. Next time this happens, assign a person or a group to come up with possible solutions and have them present them to you. Be open to ideas that may at first seem surprising. Don’t discount any of them immediately, but evaluate their potential. Then, if you like a solution, implement it and give the employee or the group the credit.10 Ways to Motivate Employees


3. Use Subject Matter Experts
Unless your team is full of brand new recruits, it’s more than likely that some of its members have previous experience or are experts in a skill or two. Those subject matter experts (SME for short) are your lifeline. Consult them often in the areas of their expertise. Not only will you be getting good advice, but you will also positively impact your entire team. Having a boss who values someone’s skills and experiences can positively affect a person and their desire to contribute. What’s more, it sends a message to the rest of the team that knowledge is respected, which in turn will motivate them all to improve.

Next time you come across a challenge or start a new project, see if by a chance you have someone on your team who has experience in the area. Consult this person and ask for advice and solutions. You can do it in private, if you like. Then, if the solution is feasible, assign that person to work on it and give him or her the necessary resources. Not only will you be getting expert help, but you will empower and motivate all those around you who will realize that they too can be of value.


4. Create Learning Opportunities
According to this study, one of the primary reasons employees leave work places is lack of learning opportunities. It really makes sense, doesn’t it? While a few less ambitious individuals may be fine with sitting in a rut, most of us get bored, frustrated and very demotivated when doing the same thing over and over again. Some jobs have excitement and variety built in, which may already lead to learning opportunities, but in majority of cases it’s up to you to help create them.

Don’t let your team stagnate. Find ways to let them expand their horizons, learn new skills and be challenged. How do you do that, you ask? One way is to let your employees voluntarily switch positions or cross-train each other in their jobs. A more reliable way is seek courses, workshops and instructional learning opportunities for your staff. The internet is a great place to do it on a budget, as more and more reputable training sites are popping up every day. Bringing in guest speakers or workshop instructors may be a more expensive option, but one that shouldn’t be overlooked, if possible. And of course, don’t forget to teach your employees yourself. Share your skills. Expand their professional horizons. It will lead to motivated and re-energized followers who will contribute better and better to your team.

“Every man loves what he is good at.” – Thomas Shadwell


5. Celebrate Growth and Successes
Recognition is everything. While many of us are just “happy to help”, none of us will complain about being recognized for what we do. In fact, lack of recognition is one of the fastest ways to destroy the team you lead. When your employees do something very well or when they achieve a success, they feel proud. They want you to notice. They have put in the extra effort to go above and beyond and give of themselves in a way that sets them apart from their peers. Recognition will validate their efforts and motivate them to keep achieving further success.

Recognizing growth and successes can have a contagious effect. Others will want to be recognized as well and will be more likely to put in the extra effort themselves to get there. It creates an environment that rewards top performers and may even reform some under-performers or simply make them realize that they cannot compete and seek an easier life somewhere else. It can push the entire team to greater heights.

One of the best ways to achieve the above is to create recognition rituals. Those rituals can be official (like presenting an employee with a commendation letter during a meeting), or unofficial (like social gatherings at the end of the work day focused on the person). In both cases, the attention must be on the person being recognized and his or her accomplishments listed. A reward can also be offered, depending on the means of the organization. Even a token prize can be well received, as long as it’s clever, well meant and appropriate.

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6. Give Feedback
Receiving feedback from your employees is important for you, but don’t forget to offer them feedback yourself. Very few people don’t want to know how they are doing, especially if they care about their team and their role in it. Letting your employees know what they are doing well or where they improved is vital to their motivation. Finding out that their boss sees all those positive qualities that they worked so hard to develop can be very empowering.

Of course, not all feedback is created equal. Giving positive feedback to that superstar employee feels great, but doing the opposite with that under-performer is more difficult. Yet negative feedback can be a powerful motivating tool too, if it’s given properly. As opposed to berating an employee, treat a feedback session as an opportunity to help him or her improve. List negatives only as a challenge – something to be overcome – and present solutions and ways to improve. Be as positive and as motivating as you can. While the employee may still react negatively to learning that they are not as great as they believed themselves to be, chances are that if you have kept the session positive, they will get over their initial reaction and resolve to do better. Once you see them improve, don’t forget to acknowledge it.


7. Follow Through With Promises And Commitments
The leader that promises one thing but does another cannot blame his or her employees for decrease in performance. No one wants to work for someone who doesn’t keep their word. There is nothing worse than having your boss promise a day off as a reward for all the extra time you put in, only to forget about it in a week. Follow through with your promises, if you want to keep the respect of your employees. Knowing that your word is your bond will go a long way to making them more relaxed and more focused on what they are doing. Be fair and consistent with your team and you will create an atmosphere of predictability that will make all those employees who believe in you perform so much better.

Likewise, don’t dismiss your leadership commitments. As a boss, it’s up to you to provide direction, lead everyone towards a common goal and take care of your people in the process. It can be a lot of work and it can certainly create a lot of sleepless nights. But since you are in this position, it’s up to you to lead. A leader who embraces his or her responsibilities and bravely takes the reins of the organization even when things are tough can have an almost magnetic effect on others. Do that and your employees will feel empowered to follow your example, because they will feel that the team they are part of is going somewhere under strong leadership.Why Become a Leader


8. Stand Up for Your Employees
When the going gets tough or when your employees make a mistake, don’t immediately throw them under the buss. I get it, you have a boss too and your own reputation is on the line here. But this is where courage and strength of character must win over blatant self-preservation. Your team answers to you, but loyalty goes both ways. You are responsible for them as well. They are YOUR team. Solve any issues that arise internally between you and your followers and then face outsiders bravely as the representative of the entire team. Take responsibility for any mistakes.

Few things motivate people more than a knowledge that their boss has their back. In today’s world, many employees believe that they will pay dearly for any mistakes, so having a boss who will understand blunders, help overcome them and explain them to his own bosses can be a rare find. Be that boss. Of course, you will also have a responsibility to the organization, so a careful balance between the two must be struck, but whenever an opportunity presents itself – especially if the mistake can be corrected – stand up for your team. Notice the difference in how your people perceive you after you do that consistently.


9. Share Responsibility
When you are new to leadership, it’s tempting to try to do everything yourself. After all, you have a plan and you cannot be sure others will carry it out properly. But in addition to facing a potential burnout, you are depriving yourself of the help of a powerful resource – your employees. What’s more, you are depriving your employees of learning, contributing to the organization and feeling valued and important.

The simplest way to share responsibility is to establish what part of your work can (and should) be done by someone else. For instance, if your organization has physical assets it uses on daily basis (like equipment, vehicles, computers, or even food and drink), put someone in charge of managing them. Then, back off and let them do their job, requesting periodic reports on their progress. An equipment manger, a vehicle fleet custodian, or a catering assistant are great examples of this. Likewise, if your organization holds public events or sets up meetings with other organizations, empower one of your more experienced employees to oversee their preparation.

In addition to the obvious benefit of not having to do everything yourself, you will be allowing your people to spread their wings and claim a much stronger stake in the organization. This can double their motivation to do a good job and inspire them. Not every member of your team will be able to take on such extra duties, so be sure to ask, but many people are itching for extra responsibilities in their work place and can be powerfully empowered when they are trusted this way.

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10. Share Information
As a leader, you have access to much more information than your followers. You know things they don’t. You also have a better understanding of what is to come and a better overview of the entire organization. It’s easy to forget that your people are not in the same position as you and will be much less informed of what is going on. Some of the information you take for granted will be a complete mystery to them, because unlike you, they have no access to it.

Since this is the case, it’s not uncommon for a leader to be very surprised when his or her employees don’t share the same enthusiasm about an upcoming project, a proposed change, or an awesome plan. They simply don’t have the relevant facts surrounding this new plan and it’s hard for them to get excited about it. Removed from the context that only you can see, it’s just another floating idea.

Share information with your team. Don’t hold back. Let them know what’s going on behind the scenes or in different departments. Lay out the plans for the future the organization has, so that they can understand where the team is going. Keep them abreast new developments as they happen and regularly update them on the progress of the team. Knowledge is power and once your employees have a much better understanding of the overall picture and the details that go with it, they will be in a much better position to support you on strategic changes or plans that affect everyone.

“Sharing information with employees makes them feel invested.” – Glen Mazzara

The above 10 ways to motivate employees will serve you well whether you are a new or an experienced leader. Practice them as you lead your people and watch how your efforts improve your team. Above all, treat everyone with respect and don’t forget to ask them what they want. In the end, nothing beats a direct question “is there any way we can make this place better?” Make your business a pleasant place to be and be positive and fair.

And if you liked the above ideas and learned a thing or two, then you have to get our leadership manual HOW TO BE A LEADER. It greatly expands on motivating others, getting the real trust and respect of the people under your charge, accomplishing goals, and making confident decisions as a leader. This article is just a sample of what it contains. It’s a manual to being the most successful leader you can be.

Also, don’t hesitate to subscribe to our leadership newsletter, for other practical leadership lessons – like this one – that you can use right away.

Finally, if you have any experience with motivating and engaging others, leave us a comment below!

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7 Comments

  1. These are all very good tips. At my workplace, my boss is a good example and he often asks for our opinion, he always involves us. One thing where he and the rest of the company lack is recognition. Although we do not things to get medals, it feels good to get some recognition for certain achievements and breakthroughs. In my case, many years ago I changed a few things in a certain public event and it improved a lot because of it, and all thanks went to my boss, and not to me. I didn’t do it to get thanked, but when my boss was congratulated for it right in front of me, and he didn’t say anything about my involvement, I was pretty mad. That was one of the few times where he really disappointed me. 

    All in all, I have a good boss, and he has improved a lot over the last years. He is open to feedback. While he lacks in compassion and in nr 10 (communication) he is constantly working to improve himself, so I can’t complain really. 
    I’m sure he would like to read your article 🙂 

    • A good point. As a leader, ALWAYS acknowledge the accomplishments of the team and give credit where credit is due. A boss that takes recognition for the successes of his or her followers still has a lot to learn about leadership. Thanks for sharing this real life example.

  2. I always believe that a  leader is a steward of a great institution. As a supervisor in my department which hundred percent comprise millenials, I do everything I can to support them. It’s very important to know their strengths and weaknesses to he able to drive them in a positive working condition. A leader doesn’t put her/himself in the spotlight; otherwise it’s going to be a  one man glory instead of a team effort. 

    What really struck me the most is that leaders should be standing up for the team members vis a vis Giving feedback. I think these are clear goals in a team to work have your back for each other and at the same time have a clear knowledge on the decisions made or executed , be it good or bad. Thanks for sharing this helpful and encouraging post. I would like to discuss this among my colleagues in our meeting so they too can incorporate this motivations as a leader. It’ sad that some of my co-supervisors think differently and has a tendency to power trip.

    • Well said, MissusB. I especially like your statement “A leader doesn’t put her/himself in the spotlight; otherwise it’s going to be a  one man glory instead of a team effort.” It’s one of the first things we learn in the military when we reach leadership positions. And in a context of a team, especially when a leader is concerned, a one man glory rarely ends well.

  3. I have to agree with you that leading by example is key to managing a successful organization.  People emulates a leader who sets high standard and live up to them.

    I like the concept of sharing ideas with  team members, and asking their opinion and expertise in their particular fields. This will definitely create a healthy work environment. The idea of standing up for your team also resonates with me. Nowadays, the workplace lacks most of these qualities.

    Overall, this is a well written article and if adapted by some bosses will lead to greater success in the workplace.  I must however, point out that not everyone will agree, as people have different ways of leading their teams. You have to find what best works for you and will allow you to keep your team motivated and not losing respect and trust of your team.

  4. Those are great tips! I lead a team in my current workplace and I’m still struggling to provide the best for them. Sometimes, they can’t explore their creativity because we lack budget to do it. Although they understand our company’s condition, they still feel a bit stressed, especially when upper management make absurd decisions to hinder our initiatives even more. Reading your article here reminds me how to become a good leader for my team. Thank you

    • I agreed all idea specialy leading by example leader as leade infront of the follower leading by exampler motivate,inspire and increase the commitment the followers also increase the confidence of the leader.

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