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July 17, 2012
Be a Great Leader: Motivate Your Staff
Cash will always be a major factor in motivating people, and a solid compensation plan might even be critical for attracting and keeping your key personnel. However, apart from bonus schemes and specific incentive plans, some other denominators play a crucial role. Providing fancy job titles, offering advanced trainings in various fields, promoting team spirit, and organizing social gatherings or outside seminars might also be important for motivating your staff. However, I personally consider some other factors and especially the art of creating an environment of trust and credibility based on the leader’s authenticity to be the most essential factors for motivating and hence retaining your most valuable treasure.

Powerful recognition. Authentic and honest feedback not only allows people to grow and improve, but it’s also one of the most powerful means for showing deepest appreciation. However, leaders often shy away from providing feedback and employees get often only “criticized” when they do something wrong. Even then, most bosses tend to become either judgmental or too critical. When providing feedback, you should follow some basic principles, which can also be applied to all kinds of situations in your daily life:
  1. Don’t beat around the bush. Get straight to the point.
  2. Articulate the specifics.
  3. Reference concrete examples.
  4. Be sure to explain what could be improved or advise how the behavior may be altered. 
  5. Define what’s expected and show how all will benefit.
  6. Find a joint agreement and define the results you would like to see.
Last but not least, recognize a great performance not just through a salary increase or bonus. Reward your staff through enriching their jobs, providing leadership roles, or mentioning it in front of your client. Furthermore, build a platform inviting your followers to let their passion and therefore peak performance flow and provide a sincere appreciation, which in turn grows from your authentic personality. 

Let your people shine. Nothing is more frustrating than working enthusiastically on an assignment, spending nights for preparing a powerful presentation, looking forward to delivering it to your clients, and then not being allowed to stand in the limelight since your boss thinks the meeting is too important to let you run the show. Such ego-driven behavior kills any motivation. Strong leaders dare to always put themselves second, forget about the command-and-control mechanism, and let their employees shine. Still, they are constantly present and alert for backing them up in critical situations.
Ignite the fire. Especially during times of dynamic changes and uncertainties it is essential to provide your employees with a vision that empowers them to “accomplish the sheer impossible.” When I was working for a large blue-chips company, around 300 middle and top managers were once gathered for an annual strategy convention. When the CEO announced his vision most of us were deeply shocked: “I want to kill our biggest competitor in the industry.” Such a vision seemed to be filled with hatred and unhealthy ambitions just for the sake of meeting ego-driven goals. As a consequence more than 15% of all the managers left the company within six months. A vision has to be nurtured by something that makes a contribution to the whole; a vision aligns people in activities that cut across the organization and facilitate goal setting and planning. A vision is unique and can never be transferred to another company. When you meet these simple criteria, it can become a real catalyst for unleashing an enormous amount of energy.
Walk your interest. In one of my former companies with more than 500 employees, the CEO used to meet personally with most of his people at least once a week. Even if the personal interactions lasted not more than a couple of minutes, they proved to be powerful. The boss not only caught his staff literally by surprise at their workplace but also showed a sincere interest in their work by asking some challenging questions, which was such a simple but tremendously powerful tool for showing deepest respect for his staff. In another company, one of my fellow division managers asked me once what to do so as to motivate his staff. I told him about the law of “walking the interest.” Even after many years, he still did not even know the names of all his people. How can you be a leader if you are not deeply interested in the “people business”?
Practice authentic presence. Global leaders especially face the challenge of having not enough time for seeing their people regularly since they are often traveling. Some people need more attention; some less. I personally noticed a strange thing: most employees want their bosses to be physically present in the office as much as possible even if they have no real need to see them. It seems to give them a sense of comfort. I personally solved the dilemma of not being present all the time by first making regular telephone calls to people I felt needed special attention. I introduced an information-sharing platform that took place once a month and allowed employees to ask questions, exchange information, or present on a specific project. One sincere piece of advice: talk more over the phone and write fewer emails. The written word can always be misinterpreted. A very powerful and nifty means of powerful communication is the availability of web-based voice emails offered by various providers.

Perceive and provide growth opportunities. Nobody wants to perform a 9-to-5 job anymore, although most leaders have not yet understood what that really means. One of the real catalysts for motivating your employees is to live up to an authentic leader’s real task: to create an environment of trust and credibility based on your authenticity, building a platform that invites your followers to use their unique passion for their work. Once a talented engineer announced that she would leave the job so as to gain an MBA since she was driven by the wrong belief that she could not advance in her job without a further education. After several coaching sessions, I found out that her sincere wish has always been to work as a site manager. Luckily enough, I could find an opportunity that met her specific needs, which both helped me to retain an outstanding engineer and prevented her from moving in the wrong direction. I realized how important it is to master the art of perceiving what people really need. Some of them do not dare to open up early enough, so building trust and performing regular “fishing expeditions” is crucial.

Offer a career path. Some companies still struggle to provide a clear career growth plan. People need to know how and where they can grow. When you are looking to fill a vacant position, make sure that you consider internal options first whenever possible. It proves your sincere interest in promoting and developing your people.

Practice an open-door policy. Apart from being a “dealer of hope,” you as a leader are an information platform. Some employees want to constantly know what is going on in the company or seek information for nurturing the feeling of security in their job. Others might approach you even with private problems or conflict situations they face with clients or colleagues. In all cases, you as a leader also play a role as coach, mentor, or information broker. Regardless of the hat you are wearing, you can live up to these roles only when your door is open. I have seen managers sitting in their cubicles with doors shut the entire day. They provided only specific timeslots for allowing their staff to see them. Trust is one of the crucial pillars for gaining “fanatical followers.” Closed doors are not the right means for building trust.

Be sure that your people always get what they need — if not with you, then, in the worst case, with another boss or company. 

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Andreas Dudàs. Swiss, visionary entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker, and expert on authentic leadership. More than 20 years experience in top executive positions in over 25 countries. Founder of the BE SHiRO Group in Switzerland and India, dedicated to empower individuals and organizations to achieve greatness through authenticity. Author of “Do you dare to be yourself? Developing power in life and leadership through authenticity." Learn more about Andreas at www.andreasdudas.com/book.
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