The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader


Being motivated at work can mean the difference between just getting by and enjoying what you do and working hard to be successful. As a manager, how do we make sure our staff is motivated, and more importantly, how do we ourselves stay motivated?

canstockphoto6983007aStaff motivation is always a challenge, particularly in organizations where the budget is tight. Most of the time, monetary rewards are associated with motivation, but that’s not always true. Sometimes motivating staff is as simple as acknowledging their contribution and expressing your thanks. A simple note, especially one that is hand-written, can go a long way. If someone is involved in a bigger project, public appreciation for their work can be very motivational (though it may be prudent to speak with them privately before going public to make sure they’re comfortable with that type of attention).

When I was in school taking a class on management, one of the questions the instructor asked was, “What motivates you?”  I was one of the few students in the class that was currently a manager, and I was honestly shocked at the response.  I expected many people to say that they were motivated by the paycheck, and more money would motivate them to work harder.  That turned out not to be the case at all – more often it was a simple gift that acknowledged their contribution that motivated them.  Some employees will hang on to a handwritten ‘thank you’ note from their management for years!

So what motivates you? In my case I like to be challenged and left to my own devices to figure out and respond to a challenge. The quickest way to demotivate me is to micromanage my work.  Unfortunately, I’ve had a number of bosses over my career who I’ve often felt like telling, “If you know what you want and you know all of the minute details on how you want it done, then why are you even asking me to run the project?”  It creates a situation where I really don’t have much desire to do anything since whatever I do probably won’t be right.

On the other hand I’ve had managers who have told me what they’d like the goal to be, but leave the details to me. They stay out of the project except for scheduled updates, and really only care that I deliver on the goal rather than all the details on how I arrived there.  I am much more motivated in a project when I know decisions aren’t going to be continuously second-guessed by my boss.

So what motivates you? 

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