The best way to motivate your employees

Grace is not a big fan of the snow. She originated in Puerto Rico, after all! But after she sniffed out a bone in the woods next to our house, she was no longer interested in finding her way back inside to curl up on her warm blanket. When faced with something you don’t like to do, can you find a way to make it pleasurable?

Managers ask me all the time how to motivate employees, especially ones that are under-performing. And of course, there are a host of answers based on the unique situation. Money is the first method that managers think about, but it is definitely not the answer, and never the answer for long-term results. But there is one particularly easy way that we don’t always think about.

Encourage the employee to modify the task to include something that they do enjoy. In other words, make it fun! (Or at least enjoyable.) 

I know you are probably shaking your head and thinking to yourself, “Well, wouldn’t that be nice if we could always have fun at work. It’s just doesn’t happen that way. We have serious work to be done.”

I do get that. It’s not always possible. But I think there are lots more opportunities that you realize and easier than you think. It also sends a message that you care about that person, which on its own, will be motivating. 

Grace reminded me of this yesterday when we went outside. Snow had fallen since early morning, so at lunchtime, I decided to shovel a bit of the driveway. Like my husband, Grace prefers a warm, sunny day over a cold, wet, snowy day. Normally, when she sees a thick layer of white stuff, she’ll immediately turn around, hoping that, miraculously, she might find some better weather nearby. With no success to avoid the snow, she does her business quickly and rushes back to the door to return to her soft, cushy bed.

Not this time.

As I went about my shoveling, I absently looked around to find her. I didn’t see her, but didn’t think much of it, perhaps she went down to the basement door hoping to find a quicker entrance to the house, I thought. More minutes went by and I called her name as I continued to shovel.

Then after a few minutes more, I noticed a blob of color set against the snow-white background in the distance, and at first I wasn’t even sure it was her. Then, yes, I could see that she was chewing on something.

I called her again and she brought me her prize, a fresh bone, probably from a deer, and probably left behind by a hunter in our area. Since raw bones are good for dogs, I figured why not let her enjoy something that pleases her so much, even though I was disgusted at the thought of her chewing on it.  (Another reminder that what one person considers interesting does not make it enjoyable and interesting to another!)

Notice how she has positioned herself so her belly isn’t touching the cold ground. She found a way to enjoy her bone in an environment that she normally rushes to avoid. In those times when we have to do something we’d rather not, what modifications can we make?

What happened next made me laugh. My little princess who shivers and shakes in the slightest chilly air, was hunkering down in the cold, wet terrain, with no indication of going inside. Relishing the taste of this delicacy was far more attractive than giving it up because of a few snowflakes.

So when someone resists a task that isn’t that pleasurable, combine it with something that is. Or make a modification that helps alleviate the reluctance.

At times that performance is suffering, it is usually related to a lack of skill or interest. When we don’t know how to do something or we don’t enjoy doing it, we avoid it and gravitate to the thing we want to do.

Recently I was working with an employee who felt very boxed in on the procedures that were required in his work. I knew he was a creative person and felt that the rigidness of the tasks were not stimulating for him. So we talked about how he could introduce change into his own routine, without disrupting the processes that were upheld by the rest of the team.

Think fun. Think enjoyable. Think satisfying. It is easier than it seems to make simple, even small adjustments, and can yield big results in work performance. It shows you care and that, in itself, is valuable.

Have a conversation and brainstorm together for ways to mix it up. Another proven method is using the ProfileXT assessment, which helps uncover areas of occupational interests and highlights ways to bring out the best in your team.

What modifications have you made to make the work of your team more satisfying? Share your ideas and be in touch to learn more!

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