By the
Mind Tools
Editorial Team


Energizing Your People to Achieve Good Things


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Encourage your team to fly high.

Your people may have all the expertise in the world but, if they're not motivated, it's unlikely that they'll achieve their true potential.

On the other hand, work seems easy when people are motivated.

Motivated people have a positive outlook, they're excited about what they're doing, and they know that they're investing their time in something that's truly worthwhile. In short, motivated people enjoy their jobs and perform well.

All effective leaders want their organizations to be filled with people in this state of mind. That's why it's vital that you, as a leader and manager, keep your team feeling motivated and inspired. But of course, this can be easier said than done!

In this article, we'll go over the key theories, strategies and tools that you can use to help your people stay enthusiastic about their work.

Types of Motivation

There are two main types of motivation – extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation is when you use external factors to encourage your team to do what you want. Pay raises, time off, bonus checks, and the threat of job loss are all extrinsic motivators – some positive, some less so.

Intrinsic motivation is internal. It's about having a personal desire to overcome a challenge, to produce high-quality work, or to interact with team members you like and trust. Intrinsically motivated people get a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment from what they do.

Every team member is different, and will likely have different motivators. So, it's important to get to know your people, discover what motivates them, and find a good mixture of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, so that you can motivate them successfully.

Why Does Motivation Matter So Much?

You can't directly control a person's interest in his or her job. Of course, an individual does have some responsibility for motivating himself , but you can encourage that process by creating an environment that helps him to become more intrinsically motivated. Individuals, teams and even whole organizations can reap the rewards.

Motivated people are highly adaptable, particularly when it comes to change , and they have a positive attitude at work. They help to spread an organization's good reputation, reduce rates of absenteeism, and improve performance and profit. They also work hard to achieve their goals , and work with a greater sense of urgency than unmotivated people.

You can use the following steps and strategies to create a motivating environment.

Step 1: Check Your Assumptions

You may not realize it, but your management style is strongly influenced by what you believe about your people.

For example, do you think your team members dislike working, and need continuous supervision? Or, do you believe that they're happy to do their jobs, and are likely to enjoy greater responsibility and freedom?

These two fundamental beliefs form the backbone of the team motivation concept Theory X and Theory Y .

Theory X managers are authoritarian, and assume that they need to supervise people constantly. They believe that their team members don't want or need responsibility, and that they have to motivate people extrinsically to produce results.

Theory Y managers believe that their team members want more responsibility and should help make decisions. They assume that everyone has something valuable to offer.

In short, your beliefs about your team members' motivation affect the way you behave toward them. So, it's important to think carefully about how you view your people, and to explore what you believe truly motivates them. (It can help to think about it from your own perspective – would you prefer your own boss to manage you using Theory X or Theory Y? And how long would you stay working for a Theory X manager?)

Step 2: Eliminate Dissatisfaction and Create Satisfaction

Psychologist Fredrick Herzberg said that you can motivate your team by eliminating elements of job dissatisfaction, and then creating conditions for job satisfaction.

In his Motivation-Hygiene Theory , he noted how causes of dissatisfaction often arise from irritating company policies, intrusive supervision, or lack of job security, among others. If you don't address these issues, people won't be satisfied at work, and motivating them will prove difficult, if not impossible.

Once you've removed the elements of job dissatisfaction, you can look at providing satisfaction. Sources of job satisfaction include clear opportunities for advancement/promotion, an increased sense of responsibility, ongoing training and development programs, or simply a feeling of working with purpose .

Step 3: Personalize Your Motivational Approach

Remember, your team is made up of individuals who have their own unique circumstances, backgrounds and experiences. Consequently, each person may be driven by different motivating factors, and be more or less adept at self-motivation . When you make an effort to understand each team member, you can help them stay motivated.

There are a number of tools and strategies that you can use to tailor your approach to motivation – and not all are completely consistent with one another. However, it's important to remember that every individual and situation is different, so make sure that you choose the theory or model that best fits your circumstances.

Let's explore these in more detail:

  • Sirota's Three-Factor Theory argues that there are three crucial factors that motivate your people. These are Equity/Fairness, Achievement and Camaraderie. You can help to ensure that your team members remain motivated and positive by incorporating each of these factors into their work.
  • McClelland's Human Motivation Theory is subtly different. McClelland believed that we all have three different drivers, the need for Achievement, Affiliation and Power, with one of them being dominant. If you structure your motivators and leadership style around a team member's dominant driver, your efforts should produce good results.
  • Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs identifies five needs that we all have, from the most basic to the most complex. These are physiological/bodily, safety, love/belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization (the sense of doing what you were born to do). Maslow's Hierarchy is usually presented in a pyramid – you place the basic needs at the bottom, because you need to meet these before you can address any of the more complex ones. According to this approach, you can motivate your team by addressing all of the levels.
  • Amabile and Kramer's Progress Theory highlights how progressing and achieving small "wins" can be motivating. It suggests six things you can provide – clear goals and objectives, autonomy, resources, time, support, and the ability to learn from failure – that give people the best chance of making recognizable and meaningful progress at work.
  • You can also use Expectancy Theory to create a strong, motivating work environment where high performance is standard. It clarifies the relationship between effort and outcome, and you can use it to tailor motivational rewards to individuals' preferences.
  • According to the Pygmalion Effect , your expectations can affect your team members' performance. For example, when you doubt that someone will succeed, you can make her feel undervalued and you undermine her confidence. The Pygmalion Effect is useful because it reinforces the idea that you can encourage people to perform better at work by having and communicating high expectations of them.
  • Of course, money does matter, and Understanding Strategic Compensation can help you structure your team's extrinsic rewards. Whether you reward people with increases in base, performance or group-performance pay, understanding the differences between them, and their inherent benefits, can help you structure financial compensation in a more motivating way.

Step 4: Use Transformational Leadership

Motivation is vital in the workplace, but this will only take you so far, and then leadership takes over (click here to visit the Mind Tools leadership section). Once you've used the motivational approaches we've discussed above, you need to take the next step towards becoming an inspirational, transformational leader .

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When you adopt this leadership style, you can motivate and lift your team to new heights, and help it to achieve extraordinary things. Transformational leaders expect great things from their team members, and they spark feelings of trust and loyalty in return.

To become a transformational leader, you need to create an attractive, inspiring vision of a meaningful future, encourage people to buy into this vision, manage its delivery, and continue to build trusting relationships with your team members. Set aside time to develop your own leadership skills, and focus on your own personal development, so that you can become an inspiring role model for your people.

Key Points

As a manager, your goal is to keep your team members motivated and enthusiastic about their work. It's important to strike a balance between extrinsic motivators, such as pay raises and changes to working conditions, and intrinsic motivators, like assigning people tasks that they enjoy.

First, analyze your own assumptions about your people. It's important to remember that they will likely respond more positively when you use a participatory style of management, where they have responsibility and can make their own decisions.

Next, use Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors to eliminate any causes of dissatisfaction among your team members, and then take steps to introduce elements of satisfaction.

Everyone is different, so tailor your motivational approach to each team member. There are many strategies and tools that you can use but, the more you know and understand each individual, the more effective your efforts will be.

Finally, remember the importance of leadership in motivating your team members and encouraging them to exceed their expectations. By taking steps to become a transformational leader, you can encourage loyalty and trust, and inspire, support and recognize others. More than this, you can inspire them to achieve extraordinary things.

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Comment (1)
  • Over a month ago MichaelP wrote
    James and the editorial team tks for another great article for us to learn from and discuss.

    The line that caught my attention the most was:

    The trick to motivating people successfully is to find a good mixture of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

    My simplistic approach is always to pay attention to Herzberg and eliminate the motivators and then try and keep out of the way so the intrinsic motivation of people trying to succeed in life in line with the findings from the likes of Maslow, McClellands and Alderfer. Oh and check in order to praise fueling the needs for recognition.

    Who else can share their approach to maximize the intrinsic motivation in your staff?