Most entrepreneurs say that they are more motivated to make a difference in the world than to make money. At the same time, they often do not ascribe the same motivation to their employees. Many business leaders believe that their employees are primarily motivated by money, but leaders who take the time to know their employees on a personal level begin to see that other factors besides money can inspire them to achieve great things.
In fact, research completed by McKinsey suggests that non-financial motivators are actually more effective in the long run. In the book Leadership Lessons of the White House Fellows, which resulted from a look at more than 600 prominent leaders, author Charles P. Garcia asserts that strong leaders incentivize employees just as much as, if not more than, money. Below are some key strategies for motivating employees using methods other than money.
Always put people first.
Organizations are only as good as the people who run them. Great leaders understand this and they put the needs of the individual before those of the company. To some people, this tip may sound counterproductive, but the truth is that people who feel that their leaders have their backs are more willing to take chances and will go the extra mile down the road. In the end, the organization actually benefits, since people are the engine of any company’s success. Leaders should therefore consider their employees as much as their customers or their bottom line when making decisions.
Listen to employees.
When people communicate, they tend to mean much more than their words convey. Words often have subtext, and nonverbal communication cues can help leaders pick up on what people really mean. Employees often just need someone to talk to, whether things are going well or poorly. Listening intently and paying attention to the real meaning behind words makes employees feel supported and increases their trust in the leader and the organization. This trust motivates people to work harder and not let their leaders down.
Invigorate the team.
Some leaders seem to drain the energy from their teams. Leaders who have a negative attitude or who constantly blame their employees will harm the working environment and ultimately slow productivity. Instead, leaders need to focus on invigorating and energizing their teams. Bringing positive energy to the workplace can accomplish this task, but leaders should also think about how to share their passion and get others excited about their work. When people feel energized and personally attached to the company’s mission, they become more focused on success.
Hold people accountable.
No one will feel motivated by a leader who constantly places blame on other people. At the same time, a complacent leader who ignores underperforming employees will also demotivate others. When people are slacking, leaders need to show initiative in pointing out the problem and becoming a mentor to that employee to help them reach their potential. This attention shows the team that the leader cares about their performance and that their work actually matters. It also shows that the leader doesn’t just sit back and criticize, but instead takes steps to engage with the problem.
Employee wellness has become a hot issue in recent years, and some business leaders have adopted policies that encourage self-care without backing those policies up with actions. Subsidizing gym memberships or offering meditation classes is a great start, but leaders need to encourage people to use these resources rather than pressuring them to work longer hours. When employees start to burn out, their productivity takes a nosedive. On the other hand, when leaders encourage people to take some time off and tend to their own needs, they usually return to the office with more energy and ultimately accomplish more.
Bring meaning to the work.
No one wants to feel like they are a cog in a wheel. People want to know that what they do makes a difference, and leaders have a responsibility to help individuals see the bigger picture and realize the importance of the work that they do. Research has shown that people with a sense of purpose are more resilient and more creative, not to mention more focused on doing a better job. Leaders must show employees how their work improves people’s lives, whether directly or indirectly. Engaging workers in philanthropy can also instill a strong sense of purpose.
Keep an open mind.
Great leaders can keep their employees motivated by supporting their new ideas. Even when someone comes forward with a less-than-stellar idea, leaders can point out the issues in a constructive way and challenge the person to address them. Discouraging creativity will ultimately result in a company of people who feel like a bunch of automatons. Encouraging creativity will bring forth new solutions to existing problems and could even result in new products for the organization. However, employees need to feel comfortable and supported when they bring their ideas to the table.