Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

5 Words That Motivate Employees to Achieve More

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The triggers that motivate people to achieve can vary. Money, power, purpose, the opportunity not just to make a living but to make a difference... When you wake up in the morning, what is the passion that fuels you to start your day? Are you living this in your work?  If others asked you what drives you to achieve, would the answer be obvious?  

Regardless of what motivates you and drives you to reach peak performance, it must be managed with a balanced approach. Too much motivation and attention in one area can weaken other parts of your game.

As you read through the following five words that motivate us to achieve, think of how you associate with each of them. Share your story and perspectives with others – and comment about it. The more we can discuss it, the more we can help one another become better leaders.

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1. Trust

Trust is a powerful motivational tool and those leaders that are more transparent with their employees will find surprising results and new types of opportunities to develop talent. Leaders that have the backs of their people will win the trust of their employees who in turn will be more motivated to achieve.  I once had a department manager that always looked out for me. He was upfront in communicating his performance expectations and his feedback was direct.  He never treated me like a subordinate and looked for ways to include me in senior management meetings. This opened my eyes to what lied ahead in my career and thus motivated me to reach the next level and in the process exceed the expectations of my boss.

2. Validation

The need for validation has been heightened as of late from Millennials who seek to prove themselves faster amongst older generations in the workplace.  Employees never want to be stereotyped or marginalized, but for many younger professionals this serves as the trigger to awaken them from within. But this certainly is not just a generational issue as many of us have been questioned about our ability to achieve at a high-level. I learned this the hard way throughout my career.  For example, as a former C-level executive (in my early 30’s) and later as a successful entrepreneur, people began to envy and / or doubt me, thus igniting my hunger and drive to overachieve – and ultimately prove them wrong.

3. Self-Indulgence

People can be motivated for selfish reasons to achieve (money, attention, fame, etc.). As a leader, be aware of your employee’s motivations. Are they balanced and well-intentioned? Self-indulgence can bring tremendous short term benefits – but with longer term repercussions. Must we be reminded that greed and selfishness contributed greatly to America’s recent economic hardship? Motivation that satisfies our self-indulgence is can also be risky. To paraphrase Peter Drucker in his book, “The Effective Executive” every time you meet a person with great strengths, you are also meeting someone with great weaknesses.  

4. Impact

As employees reflect on their lives and careers – they want to contribute in ways that measure their achievements based upon the long-term benefits that the company they serve bears. As a leader, allow your employees to have sustainable impact in the work they perform. Allow them to make a mark toward significance.  Create the opportunity for their achievement to leave a long lasting legacy that rewards the organization they serve and for future generations to learn from.

5. Happiness

Happiness fuels one's self-esteem and gives people hope for a better tomorrow.  We are all victims of taking our work too seriously.  Step back and enjoy the journey. Your motivation to achieve is ultimately based on earning a living that brings you tremendous joy and satisfaction. And then always strive be aware of whether your employees are satisfied in their work and that you are deliberate in having this type conversation with them. Never assume.  Employees will smile to save their jobs even if they aren’t content.  Assure your employee happiness and allow each of these motivational factors to influence the process organically.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to motivate employees to achieve even more than they thought possible. Encourage them to exceed expectations by taking responsible and timely risks. Embrace diverse thinking and measure each one’s ability to innovate. Never underestimate an employee’s ability to perform until you have properly evaluated and put their abilities and potential to the test.

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