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Motivating the Unmotivated

Editor’s Note: Jim Cucinotta is a very senior executive, with over 20+ years of experience in leading sales, marketing, and operations teams.  He is also an author on Flevy.  You can view his firm’s business training guides here.

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unmotivated-employees-in-meeting_pop_18933Working with a team anxious for success is great. You can lead in a very direct and bold way, knowing that everyone will be ready to tackle your challenges. But have you ever managed a person or team that was seemingly impossible to motivate? You tried every traditional method you could think of: giving raises, time off, complimenting work, etc., but nothing worked.

Before you throw in the towel, take the time to really know this person(s) on a personal level. Try to find out what that person cares most about- their family, hobbies, goals, etc. And use this newfound information to connect with them in a whole different way. If you do your probing properly, you will find that the person can be motivated in the following ways:

  1. Improved Esteem. Many times, complementing the person’s work is not enough to drive them. They expect to perform at a high level, but they are looking for the acceptance of their total being versus just their work persona. The person tends to like the acknowledgment for soft skills. Phrases like “That was really nice of you to…” or “Thank you for helping out…” go much further than “Beautiful report” or “Nice Presentation”.
  1. Improved Work Life Balance. Time is our most precious resource. People feel time starved and free time deprived. Their commute time and “extra” hours in the office give them the impression that they have no time to themselves. Maybe Home Office Fridays is the perfect solution or 4 10 hour days or whatever is seen as being flexible to their plight.
  1. Clearer Standing in Company. Nothing demotivates an employee more than being promised things that you cannot deliver.   Make sure that you only tell an employee the truth. If you cannot give them a 10% bonus, don’t tell them it is possible. If you cannot promote them every 18 months, don’t put that they are promotion ready in their annual review every year.
  1. Getting the Little Things Right. Some of the best motivation tactics do not cost very much. Free Pizza Thursday, Casual Friday, Happy Hour, half days before holidays, and handwritten thank you notes are all ways to show that you appreciate your team. It is especially important for people who work in a department where it is hard to quantify their results. They know that their efforts are being recognized.

As managers, many times you only look at how you would want to be treated. You forget that everyone is unique and that you need to treat each team member as an individual if you want to get maximum results. The more you put that in practice, they more of a leader you will become.

About Jim Cucinotta

Jim Cucinotta is a co-founder of Halo Health, a marketing company focused on Digital Patient Education. Jim has over 20 years experience in leading sales, marketing, and operations teams. He has managed thousands of employees over his career and has worked on over 1,000 products that have made it to the retail shelves. He is also an author on Flevy (view his documents here)

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