Okay, you got me!  As managers, we can’t really “motivate” anyone to do anything – at least, not in the long term.   Oh sure, we can briefly dangle a carrot (or wield a stick), but take away the external factors and poof –there goes the motivation.

Rather than focusing on penalties and incentives, it’s far better for us to create an ongoing environment where motivation can happen.  What follows is a list of 12 best ways to do this.



1) Make sure that people are working on something bigger than themselves. Offer someone a raise, and they will do exactly the minimum necessary effort to reach that goal.   By contrast, tie peoples’ efforts to something bigger – like, say, “changing the world” – and they’ll give you their 150% every time.



2) Focus on community. We humans are social creatures.  If we feel close and connected to our workplace community, we’ll go the extra yard – regardless of the compensation (or the absence of a corner office).



3) Create a well-defined role for each individual. Nothing demotivates people like role ambiguity, and for good reason.  We all want to do our best at work, and how is that possible if we don’t know what our roles are?   Create and communicate well-defined roles and watch motivation skyrocket.



4) Allow opportunities for strong contribution. What manager hasn’t micromanaged an employee – to negative effect? We need to get people involved!  Give them a strong opportunity to contribute and watch motivation rise by leaps and bounds.



5) Connect effort to the larger team and organization. Sadly, sometimes you just can’t tie an employee’s effort to a really big picture, like “changing the world.  In such a case, at least connect things to the larger organization.  We humans are tribal creatures. We like to be a part of a worthy organization…one that cares about us in return.



6) Assure continuous progress.   I don’t know about you, but I’m a learner by nature.  Learners, by nature, are willing to stay in a situation (even a non-ideal one) for quite a long way as long as they feel like they’re making continuous progress along a steady path



7)  Design and build things that are enjoyably used and widely adopted by the people for whom it was intended.   This is a long way of saying, “Make stuff that people like and use.”    It’s so hard to care about a product or service that you know is irrelevant.    So make good stuff—it’s as simple as that!



8) Get to know what employees are thinking and needing.   Of course, you can just ask people where they’re at–which is pretty basic.   But make sure, as well, that you give employees a strong voice in the department, via social media and employee engagement surveys.



9) Appreciate contributions big and small!  Some companies favor large awards ceremony, Hollywood-style.   An Indian company might opt for a Bollywood theme. Other organizations might take a more personal approach, pinning praising-notes to the bulletin board or sending out hand-written post cards.   The key is to make people feel seen, appreciated and valued.



10) Commit to open, honest communication. Let employees know, as clearly as possible:

“what” is expected of them, “why” they’re doing what they’re doing and “how” it all fits into the greater good.



11) Support a career path development.  Let people know you care about their career and development. Let them know there’s a place to grow. Make mentoring a big priority.    Let people understand that you see a future for them, and you’re willing to help them get there.


12) Engage in social interactions outside work.  These can be anything from recreational events, to community services, to well, yes, teambuilding scavenger hunts. 😊


Listen in as Dave Blum, founder and president of Dr. Clue, talks about this blog post and adds a few more items to the list of tools for motivating employees.