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Motivation Innovation: How to Inspire Peak Performance from Your Team

by Mike Freel, PhD on April 14, 2021

Silhouette of victory team on mountain with sunset and sky backgroundMotivation is inherent in leadership. Whether or not you take the view that leaders can actually motivate someone or that they can only establish the environment for employees to BE motivated, our organizations expect us as leaders to get the most out of our employees. That’s where motivation comes in.

Motivation isn’t just about teasing with a carrot. It’s about finding out what actually motivates our employees. There isn’t a form that you can use to find out how others are motivated. It takes effective leadership and the ability to build relationships with others to find out what truly motivates them.

Motivation is based on individual NEEDS. What you need is different than what I or another person may need. Leaders manage to mess up motivation and subsequent performance when they don’t pay attention to what people NEED. Since everyone is different and your relationships with your followers are different, you have to lead everyone differently. This is where leadership gets messy!

As a leader, you need to find out how each person is motivated. If you want your staff to merely perform to the bar, to the minimum level of acceptable performance, you don’t need to motivate them. You just need to keep them satisfied and happy. But if you want employees to go the extra mile, to work hard to continuously perform above the bar, you need to motivate them

One way to motivate employees is through job design. Some employees need to be experts in one particular area. If that’s the case, you can provide additional development opportunities, training or certifications in one specific specialty or field. Others prefer to work in an environment with varied, multiple jobs and required skills. When that happens, provide them with those opportunities and encourage them to take on the projects and initiatives that interest them.

One topic we will discuss in the upcoming session on motivation is the role money plays in motivation and performance. The bottom line is that money never motivates. Motivation is based on individual needs. Money is merely a means to satisfy the need. You can offer employees any amount of money, but if it doesn’t help them to accomplish their own personal goals or aspirations, no amount of money will ever be motivating. Money has a role, but it is not the need.

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Think about what motivates you. Are you someone who likes the challenge? Do you like public recognition? Do you appreciate the quiet thank you or pat on the back? As a leader, what happens if you try to motivate someone the wrong way? Leaders must recognize there is a direct link between employee motivation and performance. You don’t want to stifle employee motivation by doing it the wrong way. As a leader, your motivation style needs to be in line with how the employee likes to be motivated. See? It’s messy!

Motivation is linked to improved performance. If you are satisfied with the status quo, then you don’t have to worry about motivation. More than likely, you aren’t satisfied with doing things the same old way they’ve always been done. If you want to promote improved performance and encourage employees to perform above the bar, then you need to motivate them. A little understanding of how motivation works will go a long way in driving organizational performance.

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Meet the Author

Mike Freel, Ph.D., has served as a seminar speaker for Cassling’s Investing in You educational program. Mike Freel, Ph.D., is currently an Associate Professor and Program Director for Bellevue University's Master of Health Administration. Dr. Freel has a professional background in healthcare, as well as experience in corporate organization and employee development. He has served in several healthcare roles in the clinical and academic fields. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and serves on the Education Advisory Board for the Nebraska Hospital Association. He earned his Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where he researched emotional intelligence in clinical nurses. He has authored several publications on EI and leadership and presented on various healthcare and leadership topics for local and national conferences.

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