You can’t motivate

Photo by Clark Tibbs
Photo by Clark Tibbs

You can’t motivate your employees. You can only try not to frustrate motivated people.

You have to let this insight settle a bit. Don’t you see it as one of the duties of a leader to motivate employees pushing them to do their best? What about all the motivation trainers who have propagated a joyful “Chakka!” as a battle cry? What about all the group dynamics that arose while running over glowing coals?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t help much in everyday life. Anyone who has ever looked into the disbelieving faces after a “Chakka!” call has realized that it doesn’t work. You transform from a person of respect into a freak.

Rather, there are motivated and unmotivated employees. Both need different steering impulses: With unmotivated employees, the point is to find out how it came that far. After all, they were all highly motivated at the beginning of their employment.

Is it about private problems or circumstances at work that have caused motivation to dwindle? Frustration about personal development opportunities or trouble with colleagues; there are many different reasons to lose joy at work.

It is up to the leader to make the right joint diagnosis in a trustful environment. If the levers are in the hands of the leader, it may even be possible to resolve the situation with some few tweaks.

In a joint analysis of the needs, a look back at the time of the hiring may help. Why did you join the company back then? What did you expect? Which expectations were fulfilled, which were disappointed? What are you burning for? What frustrates you?

Motivated employees pose a different leadership challenge. Here, too, it is first and foremost a question of eliminating the potential for frustration so that the original enthusiasm doesn’t get lost. In this case, it’s particularly important to reflect on perspectives. Motivated employees will want to plan or intuitively pursue their career. They demand development and training opportunities.

Especially conservative line organizations often do not offer the desired speed for personal development. Sooner or later, a manager in a well-established position will always find himself in a dilemma – I promote my best employees with the risk that I jeopardize my job or that they even outgrow me.

The more I have grown in my leadership career, the more I have enjoyed developing my people. I was happy when they made the next step up the career ladder or were able to take on more responsibility. This became a great motivation for me. At a seminar, I met a senior fellow manager who saw it the same way. He proudly told me how many outstanding managers he had already developed.

Of course, a motivated leader who truly cares about people is the best role model – you don’t need a “Chakka!” for that.

There is another interesting analysis from psychology. Hackman & Oldham have experimentally proven that the motivation potential is influenced by 5 factors:

What is interesting about this equation is that the 3 factors defined by the task itself – Skill Variety, Task Identify and Task Significance – can compensate each other.

However, motivation is directly impaired if the framework conditions in the space for self realisation defining the Autonomy or the appreciative Feedback is missing.

What about you?

  • Do you try to motivate your employees?
  • Has one of your motivational measures ever failed?
  • Have you ever been afraid of being outperformed by a motivated employee?

Further good reads:

Forbes: Stop Trying To Motivate Your Teams And Do This Instead

Motivation: An employee perspective

10 Ways to Develop Your Employees

Translation into English supported by DeepL and Grammarly

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