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5 proven ways to motivate your staff without spending money

Motivation isn’t a matter of money. It’s a matter of management, says business and leadership coach Monica Wofford of Contagious Companies in Orlando, FL.

Here she lists five good motivators that are within reach of any administrator, regardless of the payroll budget.

Fit the person to the job

Find out what each staffer’s skills and interests are and make an effort to align those elements with the job.

It’s difficult for people to come in day after day and face work “that doesn’t interest them and doesn’t utilize their skills and talents,” Wofford says. They need to see an occasional break and get some assignments that are exciting.

Absent that, they quit without ever telling the boss. In other words, “they mentally check out of the workplace but still collect a paycheck.”

A good manager has to find out what people’s interests are. And the best way to do that is to talk with them and ask “what do you enjoy doing?” and “what would you like to do?” and “what is your favorite/least favorite thing to do?”

That doesn’t mean anybody’s job has to be changed. It simply means that a good manager hands out the assignments so as to fit the people who get them.

We don’t care if you said so

Don’t expect staff to accept a directive without knowing the why of it.

Gone is the “old-school because-I-said-so” approach to management. People no longer accept that, particularly people in their early 30s.

Those are the Generation Y staffers, or the Millennials, and they make up a great percentage of today’s employees.

They’re well informed because they’ve grown up with all the information they want right at their fingertips. They question directives. They expect to get reasons. And when they don’t, “they take a hike.”

They’re most motivated when the manager engages them “in some kind of collaborative leadership,” Wofford says.

For example, when there’s a project to be done that involves several staffers, ask them what parts of the work they would most enjoy and then let them take charge of those areas.

But to that add: “while I cherish your input, I’ll still have the final say in what we do.”

Take a top down approach

Focus on the people who do well, not on the poor performers. There’s nothing to be gained from putting all the time and effort into “the ones who are doing it wrong.”

The traditional approach to management has been to expend the greatest effort helping the bottom staffers correct mistakes and improve in their jobs.

And while that may be noble, she says, “it’s a great way to de-motivate the ones who are doing well.” What they see is that the way to get attention is to foul things up. They also see there’s no reward for quality work.

Neither does it do much for the poor performers, because they never have an opportunity to grow or even any encouragement to do so. After all, the manager accepts poor work and will correct the mistakes for them.

Turn the focus to the top performers. Give them extra training. Ask for their opinions on best practices. Celebrate their accomplishments publicly. And generally “make a big deal about what they are doing well so the whole team sees it.”

That keeps the top people at the top and also shows the poor performers that if they want attention, they have to improve their work.

Even self confidence counts

The administrator’s own self confidence also makes a difference in motivation, Wofford notes.

And self confidence means having the confidence to let the top performers find better ways to do their jobs and build their skills.

Many bosses are afraid to hire people smarter than they are for fear those people will take over their authority.

And for the same reason, many a boss “blatantly disregards” top performance, particularly when the work is something the boss couldn’t do.

But the best managers are the ones who surround themselves with smart, capable people “and give them room to prove themselves.” They are the managers “who can check their frailties at the door” and give credit to the people who do outstanding work.

And they are the managers who end up with motivated employees.

Four types of staffers

Finally, a good administrator has to recognize that people are different and so are the things they want from a job. Those are the things that motivate them to do well.

In general, Wofford says, employees fall into four categories.

First are the commanders. They want to see action, results, and efficiency. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments, and they get motivated when they have a sense of control over what they do.

Next are the organizers. They don’t want overall recognition; they want recognition for specific accomplishments. They like to work with details, logic, and facts.

Third are the relaters. These are amiable employees. They perform best when they have stability, security, consistency, direction, and reassurance. If they get that from the administrator, “they’ll be as loyal as the day is long” and they’ll do good work.

Last are the entertainers. What they want in a job is friendship and popularity and the ability to express themselves. And what they don’t want is control from the boss and work that requires detail.

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