Canadian Consulting Engineer

Jump-start your staff – some advice

October 1, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The following is advice on how to inspire and motivate staff from Paul Cherry, president of Performance Based Resul...

The following is advice on how to inspire and motivate staff from Paul Cherry, president of Performance Based Results, a sales and leadership company in the U.S. Cherry is also the author of “Questions That Sell.” He has developed performance improvement strategies at Blue Cross, Shell, PepsiCo and Johnson & Johnson.
Most managers rarely ask employees about their motivation needs, because:
1. Managers are afraid the employee might ask for additional resources that the organization can’t provide.
2. Managers think everyone is motivated by money, or by the same things that motivate them.
3. The employees don’t know themselves! They’re not in tune with their own feelings, so they have surprisingly little insight when asked about their motivational needs.
4. Managers hope if they ignore the problem, it’ll just go away.
5. Managers believe employees should motivate themselves.
6. Managers wish to avoid the issue and any possible confrontation that might arise.
7. They’re afraid the employee might quit, and then the manager is really left in the lurch.
8. They’re afraid that, as managers, they might be part of the problem.
9. Managers are so swamped themselves, they just don’t have enough time to spend with each employee.
10. They just plain don’t know the best questions to ask to motivate their employees.
That’s a shame, because the solution to any motivation problem can be as easy as asking your employees the right questions!
Experts don’t necessarily agree on all the different ways people respond to incentives. However, as managers, we can recognize our employees’ most common needs, learn how to bring out their drive, and steer that drive to the next level. Most employees want the same things from their bosses and these fall into four categories:
— Appreciation. Who doesn;t want to feel appreciated? Whether you’re in a business relationship or a personal relationship, you want to feel like you and your responses matter to your partners. Employees want to feel valued by their employers. They want to know that they’re important and that what they’re doing has a purpose, a meaning. This goes beyond a paycheck and into your employees’ emotional needs. Appreciation means that your employees feel respected and recognized for their efforts.
— Guidance. Employees want direction from their bosses. They want to be clear in their responsibilities and their goals. This gives employees a sense of security, because they’re not just cogs in a machine: “they know their employers consider their accomplishments vital. To accomplish this, employers must provide measurable standards and expectations for each employee’s particular position.
— Communication. “An employee who isn’t kept in the loop is not a happy employee! Employees want to feel included in the decision-making process. In this increasingly unpredictable world, they want to know what’s going on in their companies and when changes will affect their jobs. Managers can accomplish this by managing expectations when they ask for employees’ input. This means that managers should ask an employee’s opinion and make sure they let the employee know exactly how much weight that opinion will carry. Example: “I don’t know what top management will ultimately decide, Josh, but how do you feel about this issue?”
— Success. “Employees want to be on a winning team; who doesn’t? They want to know they’re moving in a positive direction, and if they’re not, they want to know what they can do to fix things. No one wants to be a failure or a disappointment at work. Employees want to feel they’re having a positive impact on the business. Obviously, all our employees want to take home the big bucks, but we don’t always have control over their compensation plans. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to uncover other ways to make your employees feel successful.
Start talking with your employees about what motivates them, and really listen to what they say. You’ll be able to tailor your encouragement to each stafferr’s needs, jump-starting their zest to do their best.

The author can be reached at 302-478-4443 or e-mailed at You can subscribe to his quarterly newsletter and down load free sales and leadership tips at


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