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What Is the Secret to Motivating People in Tough Times?

Like many organizations, we're forced to try and do more with less. How do we still innovate and keep people motivated/inspired to keep giving their all? —Strapped for Resources, supervisor, manufacturing, Flint, Michigan
February 28, 2012
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Related Topics: Employee Communication, Employee Engagement, Motivating Employees, Dear Workforce
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Dear Strapped for Resources:

Let's boil your problem down into simple bites. Many leaders see motivation as a game of punishment and rewards. Forget the threats. Forget the cash. (Heck, there's no cash, anyway.) To engage your people, you need to find out what it is that moves them—a search that costs you nothing. In a whipsaw economy, that's the only way to get (as Thomas Edison put it) the "10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration" that make up innovation.

The best leaders find and channel what it is their employees, by nature, already want to do. If as a leader you can tap this internal motivation, you will have reached the source of engagement and innovation.

And here's the source. It is human nature to want to grow our abilities, connect with co-workers and control our work lives. People share three basic psychological needs, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, culture or life experiences, shows the psychological theory of self-determination. Everyone has a need for competence, relatedness and autonomy.

Satisfying—or frustrating—those needs have a profound effect on employee health, well-being and performance.

As a leader, it is not your job to satisfy these needs in others. That is up to the individuals. However, you can create conditions that help people strive to satisfy these needs. The result is internal motivation, which supports active engagement, innovation and results when directed toward business goals.

How do you create conditions that encourage this innovation-generating internal motivation? It starts by focusing on building a motivational workplace. Such a workplace:

• Adopts the employee's perspective.

• Communicates in an informational way, avoiding judgment and controlling language.

• Generates opportunities for employee choice.

With that foundation, you can further support innovation with four key practices:

• Make innovation a strategic priority.

• Demonstrate your own commitment to innovation.

• Align systems and processes to support innovation.

• Encourage cross-functional collaboration.

You can't threaten or "incentivize" your way to innovation. Only when you touch the heart—simply defined in the workplace as supporting employees' three basic psychological needs—can you reliably support innovation, especially when times are tough.

SOURCE: Craig Perrin, AchieveGlobal, Tampa, Florida

LEARN MORE: The decision to empower employees will boost motivation and innovation, but only if senior executives champion the idea.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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