A Simple Way to Motivate Performance

A Simple Way to Motivate Performance

To inspire: to breathe life into something.

We know that being inspiring is an important aspect of leading others for results.

(And we know when our teams or organizations are in danger because of lack of inspiration.)

But we don’t always know how to do this.

There is a simple way to bring life to your team. Even you could do this! This is the practice of acknowledgement – something that can be done by anyone, with any personality (even yours!).

The importance of acknowledging individual and team contributions to progress cannot be overstated. (This is not to be confused with flattery, which is pandering to someone’s ego.)

Authentic acknowledgment is authentic recognition of the real contributions that another is making.

A study done at Harvard* confirmed that the single most important motivation for individuals in work situations is not salaries, bonuses, promotions, or other financial or status-related rewards, but the sense of having made progress toward a desired goal.

Yet most managers do not even recognize this form of motivation as significant!

*Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work (Harvard Business Press Books, 2011).

Reflection – Ask Yourself:

Have I…

  • Acknowledged others for the challenges they are facing and the contributions they are making?
  • Thanked others for their commitment and their daily efforts?
  • Told others how their work has made a difference?

You can acknowledge other people’s efforts by thanking them directly, writing personal notes, and emphasizing their contributions in a formal work review.

Better yet, acknowledge them publicly, in the presence of their colleagues and other stakeholders. By doing so, you will be strengthening their motivation to achieve results.

Acknowledging Others – A Simple Group Exercise

I use this exercise with teams I consult with and with participants in my leadership courses. Inevitably people are deeply touched by being recognized for their contributions.

Give each member of a group a piece of paper and ask him or her to write one sentence for each member of the team, beginning with the phrase:

“I acknowledge you for ______________.” (Or “I appreciate_______.”)

Say: These acknowledgments can recognize things this person has contributed to you or to others.

  • Have each person read his or her acknowledgments aloud to the others.
  • Give the slip of paper to the person they are acknowledging.

I keep these acknowledgements on my desk. They are great morale boosters when you read them later!

Through this process, your group members will grow more appreciative of each other’s efforts and capabilities, and will deepen their commitments to producing shared results.

To learn more about this – see my book, “Leading for Results.”

Let me know your experience with acknowledgements.

Does this work for you, or have you found better ways to motivate performance?

All the best, Joan

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