Top tips for motivating people

Posted on: January 30, 2016

I’ve written about motivation before. But last week – at one of MBL’s “Managing and Marketing a Profitable Surveyor’s Practice” – I was asked to produce a blog that pulled together some of the many ideas for motivating people. They apply to property folk as much as others.

  1. Accept that different things motivate different people – There isn’t a one-size-fits-all with motivation. People are motivated by different things at different times. For example, an agent may be motivated by short term financial gain whereas a valuer may be motivated by professional recognition.
  2. Consider what people find rewarding – Intrinsic motivation is related to rewards based on the task – and this is often not appropriate in a professional services environment where extrinsic motivation (that is, unrelated to the task) is often a greater motivation – pride in a job done well, pleasure at seeing a client situation resolved speedily, satisfaction at achieving a good result in difficult circumstances and respect from fellow professionals.
  3. Reward the activities you want to encourage – If you measure people’s contributions purely in financial terms then it is only natural that people will put most effort into achieving success in these. Often, firms need to consider how they can measure, monitor and reward activities that are beyond fee and profit targets.
  4. Focus on ‘health’ rather than ‘hygiene’ factors – Most people will be familiar with Herzberg’s model of hygiene and health approaches to motivation. This means that you should ensure that the basics are ok (e.g. job security, pay and benefits, working conditions, supervision and autonomy) before trying to increase motivation through ‘health’ issues such as achievement, recognition, job interest, responsibility and advancement. People focus on the hygiene factors when the health factors are lacking.
  5. Think about your attitude to people – Consider McGregor’s “Theory X and theory Y”. Theory X suggests that people cannot be trusted. They must therefore be controlled and need financial incentives and threats of punishment. If you apply this approach to intelligent and hard working professionals then they will often rebel against it. Theory Y suggests that people seek independence, self-development and creativity in their work. If treated right, they will strive for the good of their organisation – this is a better model to adopt when considering professional service firms. The later development of this theory – Social (Schein) – indicates that behaviour is influenced most fundamentally by social interactions. People are responsive to the expectations of those around them, often more so than financial incentives.
  6. Understand the psychological contract – People enter a psychological contract with their employer. Try to understand what this is – it may be to work very hard in order to progress a career (in which case working long hours is acceptable) or it may be to do the minimum to satisfice the job function (in which case long hours are not acceptable). We talked about the difference in the psychological contract between someone joining the military (it will be OK to accept orders without question) and signing up for a professional training contract (it will be OK to ask questions and challenge).
  7. Clarify goals – A motive is a person’s reason for doing something and comprises three elements: Direction (what a person is trying to do), Effort (How hard a person is trying) and Persistence (How long a person continues trying). So make sure people know what they are expected to do and how their progress will be measured. Goal setting theories of motivation (Ed Locke) are also useful: “A goal is what an individual is trying to accomplish; it is the object or aim of an action”. He offers some interesting insights: Difficult goals lead to higher performance than easy goals, specific goals lead to higher performance than general ‘do your best’ goals, knowledge of results (feedback) is essential if the full performance benefits of setting difficult and specific goals are to be achieved. The beneficial effects of goal setting depend partly on a person’s goal commitment (determination to try to achieve it). But you should note that Earley suggested that goal setting may be harmful where a task is novel and where a considerable number of possible strategies are available to achieve it. This means that people might need more support and structure in new activities.
  8. Think about their choices – The expectancy theory (Vroom) attempts to explain how people choose which of several possible courses of action they will pursue. The choice process as seen as a cognitive, calculating appraisal of: Expectancy (If I tried, would I be able to perform the task I am considering?), Instrumentality (Would performing the action lead to identifiable outcomes?) and Valence (How much do I value these outcomes?). So think about what you are asking people to do, whether they have the right skills and confidence and whether their effort and contribution will be measured and valued.
  9. Engage people in decision-making – No one likes things being imposed on them. The natural reaction is to resist. So you should consult with and engage people in your planning and decision-making so that they feel their views have been heard and they are committed to the decisions that they have helped to make. 
  10. Do they perceive you as being fair? – Justice theories of motivation are concerned with equity theory which suggests that a person is motivated to maintain the same balance between his or her contributions and rewards as that experienced by salient comparison person or persons. They will consider two types of justice: Distributive justice – Whether people believe they have received or will receive fair rewards and Procedural justice – Whether people believe that the procedures used in an organisation to allocate rewards are fair. And remember, you might think something is fair but others may disagree.
  11. Provide positive feedback – If you only provide negative feedback when things go wrong, people will lose confidence. I often speak of the work of Nancy Kline and here 5:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback.
  12. Minimise stress – Stress is caused when people https://www.kimtasso.com/creativity-7-creativity-good-bad-stress/ have meaningless work whether they are in a high or low pressure environment. Make sure people understand the relevance and importance of their work. Help them become more resilient too https://www.kimtasso.com/10-tips-to-increase-your-resilience/
  13.  Acknowledge generational differences – What motivates one generation may be different to another. Millennials are proving a challenge for many of their managers who are of a different generation.
  14. Celebrate the successes – Often we are so focused on what still needs to be done that we forget to reflect on and celebrate what we have achieved. Spend some time with people looking back at what has been achieved and thanking them for their contribution before moving on to the next goals.

Most of these ideas are discussed further here: https://www.kimtasso.com/faq/how-do-you-increase-motivation-for-marketing-and-business-development/ There are also various blogs about change management that might be useful when motivating people through organisational change.

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