All I want for Christmas is some motivation..

It’s that time of year! About now, most companies embark upon a yearly performance appraisal process to provide feedback, deliver praise or criticism, and set the stage for the upcoming year(s). This is a somewhat rigid and heavily scrutinized HR activity. What can a leader do to motive their teams outside the confines of this process? Here are five principles I follow:

Communicate your expectations clearly

Make sure people understand project goals, the success criteria, as well as their role and responsibilities clearly. Poor employee morale and performance is often a result of unclear direction or expectations. Employees head down one path while the direction was for them to go down another. If you have already conveyed expectations, but have to make a mid-course correction, make sure the new direction and the reasons for it are well understood.

Get to know your people

You cannot motivate everyone the same way. Different people have different aspirations, be it a promotion, more money, or that next challenge down the road. Understand their working styles and figure out how you can help make their goals a reality. Give people the opportunities to experiment, within reason, even if these initiatives seem somewhat disruptive at first.

Take an interest in the success of your people

  • Connect often with each of your employees. I have seen some leaders do daily 15 minute informal scrums with each individual. Some other leaders will walk around and check in on people by way of casual conversation. Does that seem excessive? Perhaps. But in the increasingly popular matrix organization, it’s the only way to know that you haven’t thrown your people out to the wolves and/or to fend for themselves.
  • It is important for people to get immediate feedback on their tasks. People should be recognized for a well executed project or an innovative concept. Similarly, performance issues should be dealt with immediately so the problem is not compounded. Stand by your people when things go wrong, while taking steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated.
  • Don’t wait for the formal yearly performance appraisal cycle. Have quarterly checkins with your people on progress towards goals, and adjust course or the goals themselves so your employees can be more productive.
  • Spend some time on team-building activities, such as team lunches or day-long team outings, to make sure the team has a chance to de-stress outside the pressure cooker environment they are usually caught up in.

Give people the basic respect they deserve

It doesn’t cost anything at all to treat people with dignity. Use “sorry”, “please”, and “thank you”. If you order your people around, you will soon be perceived as a tyrant who is sending their people on missions they have no interest in or motivation to complete.

Make people part of the vision and goal-setting process

Making people a part of the goal-setting process ensures they have a vested interest in the success of this collective vision. It prepares them in advance of upcoming events and encourages creativity. More importantly, it allows them to seek the learning opportunities they are looking for while contributing to the success of the organization.

How do you motivate your teams? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



4 thoughts on “All I want for Christmas is some motivation..”

  1. User Avatar
    Anuradha Subramanian

    Thx Anna. I agree. I think it is important to remember there is more to the ‘human’ aspect than anything else.

  2. My sentiments exactly. This is how we should treat our teams.

    A lot of times, the team members just want to be heard. They have ideas, they face problems, they are happy with the assignments, they are frustrated with their co-workers and everything in between! I learn so much about each team members just by listening to them. I got invaluable insight of how to work with each one of them and the team members in turn felt they are part of a team. The end result is a incredibly cohesive project team. Why don’t more people pay attention to these simple ideas?

  3. User Avatar
    Anuradha (Anu) Subramanian

    Thx Kimberly. If money were the only motivator, we wouldn’t have so many brilliant scientists investigating some of the most difficult problems in some extreme conditions.

    As a simple example, I once worked at a company where I had to solve a really difficult bug within 2 months of my joining. I needed to go into the office over a weekend to continue working on the problem so we could get a patch out to our customer. My manager came into the office that weekend and stuck around to offer me support. I solved the bug quickly thereafter while he worked in his office, but the fact that he came in over a weekend to support his team during a difficult time was commendable. That kind of gesture creates loyalty and a mutual respect.

  4. User Avatar

    Anuradha, your advice is all the more precious since I personally know that you follow it! That’s yet another way to motivate your people – walk your talk. And, let’s all chant together “Money is not the top motivator.” . . . at least not for most people. Money is like oxygen – only appreciated when removed. Top motivators are sincere, specific and selective appreciation from someone whose opinion we respect, being kept in the loop on what’s going on, and feeling that someone cares about us as a human being.

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