I once had a conversation with a friend who had just been put in charge of an entire floor of help-desk employees at his company. “I’m worried that I can’t keep all of these people motivated,” he confided to me. “I can’t hand out rewards and raises like candy, because those are finite resources. And I can’t just go out and be super-cheerful, shouting out atta-boys left and right, because that doesn’t seem genuine.”
“Why doesn’t it seem genuine?” I asked him. “Have you tried it?”
“Well, no,” said Dave. “I had a boss once who was always really enthusiastic and never had anything but praise for everyone’s work. It seemed over the top, and frankly, kind of fake.”
I asked him, “How did you feel when that boss directly praised you? By name?”
He thought about it for a second. “Well, to be honest, it felt pretty good. It made me feel like I could accomplish anything.”
Dave realized then that direct, positive praise from a leader can have a big impact on the morale and motivation of an employee. He didn’t have to play games with his team; he could express his enthusiasm for the job, and his pride and faith in them. This is a form of intrinsic motivation: a way of stimulating morale and effort through intangible but positive factors like knowledge, recognition, responsibility, and accomplishment.
Still, being a positive, outgoing leader can be tough for some of us. If you’re someone who enjoys sitting down and working uninterrupted, rather than having upbeat meetings or social time for most of the day, trying to figure out how you’re going to motivate your team can be anxiety-inducing.
One way to do that is to practice positive motivation in your everyday life. Here’s an example. I often stop by the local grocery store in the morning before I start work – they’ve got an amazing breakfast bar with lots of healthy options that I can grab and go, along with my coffee. A few days ago, I stepped up to the checkout counter. “Hi, how are you doing this morning,” the cashier said in a very monotone voice. Her eyes were half-closed and she looked drowsy and sad.
I gave her a big smile. “I’m doing amazing today, and it’s only getting better,” I said brightly.
The cashier rang up my purchases with a quizzical look on her face. “You’re in a good mood,” she said, a little bit wryly.
“Why would I choose to be in a bad mood?” I replied.
She paused for a moment to think about that, and then her expression brightened. “You’re right! It really is a choice, isn’t it?” She handed me my change and said, “Have a great day,” in a much more enthusiastic voice than the one she’d greeted me with. As I left, I heard her greeting the next customer just as enthusiastically.
I hadn’t done anything – except to bring my enthusiasm into the store with me. That stuff is contagious – and it should be shared.
Every chance you get, practice enthusiasm. Be enthusiastic and happy when you’re interacting with others, even during mundane tasks like buying paper towels. As a team leader, that enthusiasm is important and genuine; it can help bring your team together and motivate each person to do their best.
Excerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory For more information, get your copy of Gregg’s book, One Team, One Dream today! Available in both print and electronic versions!
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