What’s key to keep your staff motivated?

Written by Heiske

Yesterday I participated in a MBA talk of the University of Amsterdam (VU). This talk was about motivation of staff and Purpose. Already for years I am conveying that it really helps to know your Purpose. When I, after a journey of months or even years, was able to determine my Purpose (‘I function as a compass; I help people and organizations to move in the right direction to make them happy and enjoy life’). I realized that it helped me significantly to better position myself. So you can imagine that I was interested to learn what scientific guru’s from all over the world thought about Purpose.

Read my take aways of this conversation below.

1. Majority doesn’t know their Purpose

What I experience in practice is that not many people know their own purpose, let alone the purpose of others. This was confirmed during the session amongst all ‘purpose-guru’s: only half of them voted via mention.com that they knew their purpose as you can see in the graph below. According to research the average percentage is even worse: only 25% is self aware!

2. Why you need to know your and others’ Purpose

Only if you know your purpose you understand what drives you, what motivates you. Your purpose clarifies your ‘why’ in live. The top in Maslov’s pyramid. The reason why you get out of bed every morning.

Maslov’s Pyramid

Since disruptions of organizations is the new normal, employers can not guarantee you a life long career with them anymore; they are not sure if they still exist tomorrow. This means that where you work can not longer be your ‘anchor’; your identity. Your Purpose is!

As a manager you need to know the ‘why’ of every single team member. Only then you can manage them properly; you know how to motivate them. Most managers don’t know their own purpose, let alone the purpose of their staff. This contributes to the reason that the supervisor is factor 1 in performance; ‘people don’t leave their job, they leave their manager!’

3. We are all motivated by 3 things

According to science there are 3 things that we are all motivated by:

  1. To achieve; to stand out. To win!
  2. The need to belong, get along and be loved.
  3. To make sense; we want to find meaning.

We all want to achieve, belong and find meaning!

4. The 3 motivational areas are at risk due to remote working

Remote working has impact on the 3 motivational areas:

  • Achievement is more difficult. The normal way of getting things done is broken. This results in worry and the question: ‘how to do work?’
  • Due to greater distancing connecting and thus belonging is at risk.
  • Since people loose oversight of what’s going on and who contributes what, they loose their own sense of meaning.

During the past weeks I have personally experienced the latter. Due to the fact that I did not have that many presentations and workshops anymore, my impact decreased significantly. The fact that I could not help organizations to create awareness, determine the best strategy, give people insights and make a difference in the performance of teams, I felt I also lost my sense of meaning. How could I still contribute?

5. What Leadership is required now?

  • Bring hope and meaning to your people. As a leader it is now your task to bring hope and meaning to your people. Be clear what you as a team can accomplish if you properly work together and how everyone can contribute. Share why the realization of the common objective matters.
  • Signal safety. In times of crisis there is already so much to worry about. Try to make your people feel safe about their work. Harvard is a great example here. They communicated at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that they guaranteed not to pursue layoffs for at least 3 months. They took away the worry about the job.
  • Connect. Be less a content driven manager. Have sincere interest in your people. Ask what your team needs. Schedule a coffee time moment at 9:00 if there is a need to connect or a ‘let’s close our computer now all together-moment’ at 17:00 if your team tends to work too many hours. Send personal hand-written things. If you try to really connect with people, be aware that a crisis typically triggers us to use more masculine words.

6. Causes for staff to be demotivated and possibility to demotivate them

There are 4 reasons why staff can be demotivated:

  1. Phase of life. You can not solve this. This requires a psychiatrist
  2. Context
  3. Manager. The first question is: ‘is it repairable?’ Have this conversation as soon as possible. Else they will disengage, raise their voice or escape.
  4. Job. The question is can they change their job or the way how they look at their job? Do they place bricks or do they build a cathedral? Both perform the same task, but it depends how they look at it. Do they see the meaning of their job? Can they change the job?

Try to detect early signals as soon as possible, else it will be hard to repair motivation. If they are demotivated, try to understand what and where they got demotivated and what this person really wants.

7. How to motivate new hires in current remote context?

  • Spend time with them
  • Show that you care
  • Make them visible in the group; create a spotlight for them

Having that said, knowing your Purpose is key. It is step 1. It clarifies what you stand for, what drives you and why you get out of bed every morning.

If you don’t know your Purpose yet (don’t worry, you are certainly not alone :-)), we have a great online learning module to help you determine your Purpose: Get to Know Your Flow! At the end of this program you will have your own Purpose, Personal Cover and Elevator Pitch. Mine are shown in the pictures below.

Interested? Learn more about the Get to Know Your Flow program here.