An Ongoing Battle
“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” – Dwight Eisenhower
Motivation is a popular topic for people in leadership roles. We talk about it, we read books about it, we go to conferences to learn about it. Some people build an entire career around it. For all of that, however, we as leaders have a tendency to give the idea of motivation less of our time and effort than it deserves.
We as leaders – human beings in general, really – want to do things once, do them really well, and then move on to the next thing. We have a tendency to struggle with things that need doing over and over again. We want to motivate our employees once by doing something fantastic, and then we assume they’ll stay motivated for the rest of their careers. That’s not how it works.
Motivation isn’t an event. We can’t just “do motivation” at a company retreat, or staff meeting, or at somebody’s annual performance appraisal. If we really want employees to be motivated then we need to continuously work at creating an environment where that’s possible. That means taking time each day to think about what our people need, what inspires them, what gets them out of bed in the morning.
How often do you do that? Think about the key people in your business. What really motivates them? More importantly, what engages them? They may be motivated to come to work because they need the money, but once they’re there, what about the job really gets them to dive in headfirst? One of your most important jobs is to figure that out and then make sure you create an environment where that’s happening regularly.
None of us is perfect. There will be times we struggle to create that environment on a regular basis. We get distracted by “actual work”, or by some big opportunity or challenge, or something in our personal lives, or who knows what else. Somehow, we have to be able to pull ourselves back to the point where we’re thinking about our people and what really gets their engines running at a high level.
One more question: What about you? Almost every leader I’ve ever met talks about how motivated or engaged they are, but it’s not always true. And it’s not that they’ve intentionally checked out. It’s that they’re tired or feel isolated or just haven’t spent enough time working on what they’re passionate about. So don’t forget to work on you. If you’re not motivated, or you’re not engaged, nobody around you will be either. Good luck.