How Leaders Motivate Employees: Team Inspiration Done Right

How leaders motivate employees is a topic that comes up repeatedly in conversations with leaders. I want to be honest with you in this blog post and lay out how I firmly believe excellent leaders can get the most from their team. 

The bottom line is this; people want one thing — they want managers who coach. The traditional view of a manager is someone who assigns tasks, tracks performance, and understands rules and regulations. They’re the problem-solvers who are constantly putting out fires. In short, managers get things done. 

But why do managers tell others how to get things done? Because they often think that they’re coming from a place of greater experience and knowledge and training. But a manager’s real skill lies in motivating the team; they guide people to help them achieve their goals. A great manager listens, explores options with individuals, provides support, facilitates growth, and above all, inspires. 

When you inspire, you get people to do things that they might not necessarily have thought they were capable of doing. A manager empowers individuals to set stretching goals, to reach goals, and makes them get outside their comfort zone. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the team member believes they can do it. A good manager is also a coach who needs that balance of motivation and inspiration to get the best from their people. 

Leaders Know What Makes Their Team Tick

There’s a time of place in each industry, each profession for doing certain things — I grew up a coach’s son, and I would unknowingly sit and study my dad and how he did things. And one of the things my dad did in his role as a basketball coach was to ask many questions. He asked a lot of questions about the simple things that enabled his players to reflect on their performance and recognize where they could make changes to improve their game. But he didn’t neglect the empathetic side of coaching, which allows you as a manager to figure out a way to put your people in the best position to succeed and maximize their potential to be successful. 

As a manager, you need to coach; get to know your people; get to know why they get out of bed every morning and what they genuinely care about. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will tell you that a sense of love and belonging is essential, and it’s significant to understand that as a manager. 

When you’re leading a team, you can assign all the tasks you want and set all the standards you want. You can provide them with the best tools and resources and the most current technology to give them the edge, but until you figure out what makes them feel significant, you won’t see their best work. 

Figure out what makes your team members tick, then provide that support, facilitate the growth, listen and explore options with them because great coaches, just like great managers, realize that their people have the answers. 

Leaders Motivate Through Culture

When people on a team feel like they’re a part of something special and that they belong, they’re going to get more engaged. When you create that positive culture, you make it safe to take risks, individuals can fail and learn, and they can grow. Here’s the key point,  if you want to keep your players in business or sport, you create a culture with the right people, then no one wants to leave.  Make people want to be a part of your organization and your culture, knowing that they will be better and perform at a high level because they are happy. 

Let’s be effective as leaders in our coaching because when you do that, you’re getting your people to embrace their opportunities to improve their skills, stand out, shine, and be acknowledged and valued.  Your team’s excellence helps you achieve your collective goals as an organization — that’s what effective coaching does. 

One of my favorite sayings of all time is when I changed the way I look at things, the things I look at began to change. Don’t look at this from the vantage point of, I HAVE to, think about it as I GET to. You are a leader who can drive this change in your organization, make you massively successful over a long period of time as an organization, and contribute to your people not just inside their professional career but also in their personal life. 

How leaders motivate employees is such a fascinating topic; for more on that subject and many others, check out the rest of the blog series or tune in to The Athletics of Business podcast, where I discuss all aspects of leadership with a variety of inspiring leaders from the world of sports and business. 


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