Every team needs motivation.
Even though you can’t see it or touch it, motivation is a vital business resource, with a direct influence on performance. At a human level, motivation can transform your team’s working day, turning it from a trudge into an enjoyable, rewarding process of collaboration and achievement.
No doubt, igniting motivation is a challenge—but it’s one that too many managers aren’t rising to. In fact, no fewer than 85% of employees report feeling disengaged at work.
Motivation is too important to leave to chance. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the nature of motivation, and check out some practical actions you can take to boost motivation within your team.
If you’re feeling a lack of motivation in yourself, check out our post on rekindling your work motivation.
What is motivation?
Essentially, motivation is about wanting something. When a person wants something to change, that desire gives them a reason to take action.
Motivation directs people’s attention and energy towards a goal. It also gives them the drive to engage constructively with their environment and find solutions to problems.
That’s why it’s so vital to cultivate motivation in your team: it feeds directly into their performance. The more motivated people are, the better they work.
Types of motivation
Psychologists draw a distinction between trait motivation and state motivation.
Trait motivation is more stable because it flows from innate character. In simple terms, who you are determines what you want. State motivation is more transient, springing from impulses or incentives that arise in the moment.
For example, a worker might be motivated by the trait of reliability (they always keep their promises) and also by a state of excitement (they really want to close this deal).
We can also distinguish between push motivation (intrinsic), which comes from within the individual, and pull motivation (extrinsic), which comes from outside.
For example, if someone is working on a major project, they might feel determined to give a good account of themselves (push), yet also motivated by the prospect of a big salary bump (pull).
Managing motivation in others
As a manager, you’ve already seen how levels of motivation can vary across your team—or even in a single person from day to day.
While someone’s motivation level is a personal thing, it also has a real impact on performance and happiness at work. So it’s an issue for you as a manager too.
Here are three ways to boost the motivation of the people on your team:
Offer training in new skills
One motivation that everyone feels is the need to be in control.
When people have control, they feel better, deal with adversity more effectively, and work more efficiently. Just the feeling of being in control can be beneficial—even if people don’t actually exercise the control they have.
One way to give your team members a sense of control over their working lives is by offering them more options for skills training. That way, they’ll feel motivated to learn and develop their skills. That brings a benefit to them, boosting their motivation, but it also increases the overall level of ability within your team. So it’s a win-win.
Give people more responsibility and reward
One of the most powerful drivers of motivation is self-efficacy: the belief that we have the ability to accomplish a task. When people believe in their own abilities, their motivation and performance both improve.
The more responsibility people have, the stronger the sense of self-efficacy and ownership they will feel. Giving them new responsibilities will also shake up their routine and prevent them from stagnating while giving them a reason to repay your faith in them.
Employees may also appreciate the chance to work flexible hours or select their own rewards. You could offer a “menu” of rewards that employees can choose from when they hit their targets.
Mentoring is another way to improve motivation and loyalty, particularly for younger workers. A mentor can help people get back in touch with their abilities and boost their sense of self-efficacy.
Remember that while money is a big motivation, people always appreciate intangible rewards like praise and recognition. Positive feedback triggers a reward signal in the brain. This reinforces the action that caused it, so the person is more likely to repeat that action in the future. So simply by acknowledging someone’s positive contribution, you give them a reason to keep making it.
Listen and encourage
We all want to feel heard and understood, and workers are no exception. Sometimes, the most important thing a manager can do is just to listen, without rushing to judgment or trying to offer a solution right away.
Everybody’s motivations are different, so there’s no “one size fits all” approach for motivating people. The more closely you listen to your team members, the clearer a picture you’ll have of what really motivates them.
For example, employees might be motivated to earn money, rise through the ranks, boost their self-esteem, or enhance their career progression. They might also have more altruistic motives, like going the extra mile to help customers or mentoring newcomers.
Listening can help to boost supportiveness, trust, and motivation. It’s also important that listening is done in a human and authentic way—not just box-checking or an annual survey. Only genuine concern will lead to real motivation.
Find your own way
There are as many ways to motivate people as there are people. As a manager, that’s the challenge and the opportunity.
The good thing is, once you start thinking about motivation at work, you start to notice all kinds of things about your people—including new ways to inject some energy and motivation.
Calm offers a range of fantastic resources for helping your people deal with stress, build resilience, and rediscover their motivation at work. Book a Calm for Business demo to learn how to help your teams thrive.
And managers need motivation too! If you’re feeling uninspired, check out our post on rekindling your work motivation.