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November 8, 2017

How to Motivate People – Your Top Tips

Lucy Bishop


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When it comes to motivational clichés, I've heard them all. "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  Or perhaps that old classic: "Keep calm and carry on."

But, before you roll your eyes, clichés can work. Just look at Nike's world-famous "Just Do It" slogan. It's one that reportedly helped the company to increase its share of the domestic sports shoe business from 18 to 43 percent in the first 10 years of the campaign.

Motivate People to Motivate Themselves

However, if you (like me) are a little cynical about motivational catchphrases, what works for you?

Would money do it? The approval (or feared disapproval) of your manager? Or, do you need a personal stake in something for you to really care about it?

The 36th President of the U.S., Dwight D. Eisenhower, said: "Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to because they want to do it." And, judging from his track record, this mantra served him well. He ended the war in Korea, led the country through one of the toughest periods of the Cold War, and oversaw a decade of growing innovation, prosperity and civil rights.

Nowadays, leaders who motivate their people to motivate themselves are sometimes termed "transformational." They might offer inspirational mentoring, create a powerful sense of purpose, or encourage involvement in projects that team members really care about.

Does Stick or Carrot Motivate Best?

Mind Tools wanted to know more about its social media followers' approach to motivation, so we asked, "What techniques do you use to motivate your people?"

Some of you find that the best way to motivate people is to use both extrinsic and intrinsic techniques. On LinkedIn, Jennifer Cruz suggested that we, "Inspire a shared vision, set goals, and celebrate small wins and milestones."

Twitter follower Srikanth Joshi recommended building up trust: "Empower, participative management, develop team spirit, give responsibility with accountability, tolerance for small errors."

While one Facebook friend commented that, "It's good to use a mixture! It's important to strike a balance between techniques like pay rises/perks, and motivators like assigning desired and enjoyable tasks."

Appreciate to Motivate

Many of you highlighted the importance of rewards and saying thank you – and our co-workers agreed. New team member Alexandra Sundell suggested, "I think it's very important to show appreciation. It can be as simple as telling one of your colleagues 'well done' or 'good job today.' Make sure to pay attention to the little things and share positive feedback with others instead of keeping it to yourself."

And editor Ian Moss demonstrated how flexibility and fairness can bring out the best in people. As he recalls: "I used to be a leader of 20 in quite a stressful, deadline-driven environment. Most Fridays, our workload was slightly less than on other days, so I would ensure that, if possible, some co-workers would get an 'early cut.'

"In other words they could go home, say, an hour early – I would make sure that everyone got their turn. This brought a smile to people's faces but it also meant that, on days when we were extra busy, there were always volunteers to stay and work a bit later. A win-win situation!"



How do you motivate your team? Do you prefer traditional "carrot and stick" approaches? Or do you, like Eisenhower, agree that motivation needs to come from within to be truly effective? Post your suggestions in the comments section, below.

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8 comments on “How to Motivate People – Your Top Tips”

  1. Hi Mindtools,

    Nice reading these comments. These recommendations have been proven to be helpfull. The trick is that people can not be motivated. That's why the comment of Eisenhower is powerfull.

    I've been doing research on this topic and there are 2 kinds of intrinsic and autonomous motivation people have, intrinsic (liking the activity) and identified (groupfeelings, doing something together and for eachother). When we can make sure that there is room for this kind of motivation people will be motivated by themselves. The SDT gives usefull insights. We should not use introjected (gain or loss of status) and extrinsic motivation. Actually this isn't motivation but reasons for movement, not motivation. Money for example isn't a motivator, it is a hygiene factor as Herzberg calls it.

    With kind regards,

    1. Thanks Louis for sharing your ideas from your research regarding motivation. Very interesting the 'identified' angle of motivation. I am curious to understand how that might link with individual's feelings/need of being 'connected'. Any thoughts?

  2. Dale Carnegie wrote in this book "How to win friends and Influence People", written a long time ago.. but still good. One thing that always has stuck with me was his reference to his fishing trips in Maine and his love of Strawberries and Cream... For some reason, fish didn't like the same things he did... I have seen this approach in successful coaches. Why does a stick work with one player and carrot in the other... well because they are different.
    Best Regards

    1. Thanks Wayne for sharing that story. Indeed one things might motivate one person and do absolutely nothing for another.

  3. "Great companies don't hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not."
    Simon Sinek

  4. While all mentioned factors would contribute to a feeling of motivation, an important aspect to be considered is that we are all emotional beings & taking care of people s emotions in any interaction is equally important. A key approach to achieve this is by ensuring SCARF positive feelings in your team, in every interaction.

    1. Thanks Illa for sharing your thoughts. I was not familiar with the SCARF model of motivation and looked it up. Interesting!

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