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It's Not About Charisma and Perks

Motivation When it comes to motivating others at work, it's not about relying on power or charisma or perks. Oh sure, you can always play the "power card" if you have to. You are the boss, afterall. Or the department head. Or the team lead. (And at home, you're the parent, right?)

But the secret is, don't start with power. There are so many other ways to get people to do what they're supposed to be doing -- what they signed on to do --and these other ways are much more effective. Try some of them first. Put the "power card" in your back pocket and only use it as a last resort. So what are some of those other ways?

1. Clarify natural consequences. In their book, Crucial Confrontations, the authors explain that what ultimately motivates people are consequences. Natural consequences.

  • Individuals anticipate the consequences that will result from a particular behavior.
  • They weigh those consequences out in their mind.
  • Then they choose how to act, or whether to act at all.

You and I do this too. It's human nature. So how do we motivate by clarifying natural consequences? We help the other person see what happens, or doesn't happen, as a natural result of their behavior.

For example, we might ask, "If you exclude the IT department from the planning team, what are the things that are likely to happen as a result?" If we help them think through those natural consequences, chances are they will see the wisdom, for themselves, of including the IT department. They will be motivated to do what needs to happen. But not because you told them they had to. And the "power card" never left your pocket!

2. Use goals to motivate. Most people like to measure themselves against a standard. They are turned on by reasonable goals. They like to know who can run the fastest, jump the highest and sell the most. And if they get to help set those goals...WOW! That's even more engaging. So work with them to set just-out-of-reach challenges and tasks that will be learning opportunities -- their first sales call, their first solo presentation to the Board, etc.

3. Identify people's hot buttons. What do they do first? What do they talk about all the time? What gets them excited? These are things we ought to know about the people who are working every day to help us be successful as leaders. Do what you can to provide what drives your team members. If you're not really sure what those drivers are, ask. They'll tell you.

Rupert Murdoch summed it up well. "In motivating people, you've got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example -- and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved." Notice that Murdock says nothing about charisma or perks.

Photo on flickr by Erich J. Harvey

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