How Do I Keep People Motivated?


It’s a question that runs continually in the background for leaders.

With determination and focus, many rely on what comes naturally and feels comfortable. Often telling, directing, and asking the same questions, looking for different results. They do their best to motivate, without really understanding what truly motivates – one individual differently from another.  They hope people will do what’s expected, or at least what’s reasonable.

Frustrated and disillusioned, it’s easier to let things slide for a while, allowing the urgent to distract, before looping back to try again.

Any leader using this strategy knows it’s exhausting.

Commonly, what’s missing are the kind of conversations that deepen trust.

“When trust is high, the speed of execution goes up and costs go down.”Stephen M. Covey, The Speed of Trust.

The myth is that real conversations are a risk to trust. In fact, the opposite is true…when done well, real conversations are the cornerstone of building trust.

But sometimes the need to be liked overshadows the perceived risk of saying what’s real. Even dominant-style leaders resort to over-compensating for their assertiveness, by diluting their follow up conversations and attempts to hold people accountable. Especially when they’ve asserted themselves in the past and it didn’t go well.

Leaders who aren’t as comfortable being assertive, prioritise approval and tend to procrastinate about having the real conversations, fearful of impacting the relationship in a way they won’t know how to resolve.

When leaders haven’t learned that trust is different to like, they waste time trying to convince and persuade, please and perfect.  When what would elicit higher performance is developing their ability to create a space of trust through real conversations and open communication.

As engagement increases, so do sales and profit, and as Covey shares the key to engagement is trust. With disengagement in Australian workplaces at 76%, the kind of trust that inspires people to lean in, is clearly missing.

Creating a space of trust means creating a culture in which people feel safe to share their ideas, try new things, speak up and fail, knowing they won’t be judged, ridiculed, excluded or shamed.  This kind of trust ignites collaboration, inspires innovation and fulfils visions.

It’s got nothing to do with being liked.