Top 5 Mistakes Managers Make: Misunderstanding Motivation

Management Challenge Program Designer Kate McLagan is penning our latest blog series “Top 5 Mistakes Managers Make”. Over the next five weeks, Kate will explore these critical mistakes that managers make in their relationships with their direct reports. Read on for Part 5: Misunderstanding Motivation. Click here to read Part 4: Failing to Delegate.

Manager Mistake #5: Misunderstanding Motivation

The workplace today is a very complex social system, and motivating people to do their best work consistently is an enduring management challenge. Managers often find employee motivation to be something of a mystery. Motivation comes from wanting to do something of one’s own free will. Employees don’t engage when they are being over-managed or controlled, so strong-armed attempts (however well-intended) to force employees to be motivated will fail. Employees are motivated by intrinsic factors such as interesting work, challenges, and increased responsibility. For example, when managers provide interesting work, it brings out the employee’s energy and willingness to complete their task. They get excited about the work ahead and thus feel motivated. In today’s workplace, the focus on motivation largely remains on external motivators, i.e. the “carrot-and-stick” approach. With the “carrot” being a paycheck and the “stick” being a threat, these extrinsic factors do not motivate employees from within.

It is important to note that motivation is at the very heart of performance management. People want to “understand the game”, develop skills, and accomplish personal goals. Your expectations of people and their expectations of themselves are the factors that result in positive employee performance and motivations. Interestingly, the techniques that have the greatest motivational impact are practiced the least. If provided the proper environment as well as feedback and coaching, they will engage with their own internal motivators. You will never have employees treat customers better than they are being treated themselves.

Avoid This Mistake:

  • Provide opportunities for the employee to experience increasingly challenging assignments (ensuring he/she succeeds at each level before moving forward)
  • Conduct one-to-one feedback & coaching with the employee emphasizing what they do well vs focusing on their weaknesses
  • Provide developmental opportunities that reflect what the employee is interested in learning
  • Project your sincere commitment to the employee’s success and ongoing development tied to the purpose/mission of your organization

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *