Tips for Emerging Leaders: Motivation

This is part eight of a 12-part series.

Successfully leading a team can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a professional’s career. However, addressing a diverse group effectively can be difficult for new leaders. From open communication and recognition to delegation and empowerment to self-awareness and empathy, there are a plethora of leadership arrows professionals must carry in their quivers to be successful. So during this series, we will examine 12 areas of focus and reveal practical tips to help new leaders in some of the most important aspects of leadership. Eighth up: motivation.


While businesses focus on recruiting and retention, one of the most important skills a leader can have is motivating employees. In fact, maintaining high productivity levels is nearly impossible without actively motivating your employees to excel and engage in new ways. According to a Gallup study, employees work 20% better when motivated; and likewise, employees are less productive when unmotivated in their jobs. And the productivity results have a long-term effect. According to Inc., motivated employees are 87% less likely to resign in their roles compared to unmotivated individuals. Increasing productivity and retaining engaged workers begins with a focus on motivation techniques and strategies.

  1. Create Incentives

Although professionals may be motivated by different things—from time-off to bonuses to development—one thing is certain: employee incentive programs have been proven effective in motivating people. According to Achievers, businesses that use incentive programs report a 79% success rate in achieving established goals. Moreover, a strong incentive program can improve employee performance by up to 44%. These plans can range from offering profit sharing and stock options to employee development and internal training courses to something as simple as a “jeans day.” Depending on the size of your organization, successful incentive strategies will differ. See what works best for your company and employees to determine which is best for you.

  1. Explain the “Why”

A more direct approach to motivating employees is by effectively casting a vision. One issue some leaders have is directing down as opposed to guiding up. By simply creating policies or delegating work without explaining the purpose, importance, and thoughts behind the directives, employees can feel disconnected from the overall goal and not fully engage with the work. To motivate employees to connect on a deeper level, create buy-in by explaining the “why” behind the “what.” Clearly communicating the purpose and vision of the company’s goals gives employees a behind-the-scenes understanding of their work and helps them take a stronger interest. It also helps shift the perception of the leader from an authoritative approach to a coach and teammate.

  1. Create Smaller, Attainable Goals

One issue that can cause a lack of motivation is a feeling of discouragement when seeking what may be perceived as “unattainable” goals. While big-picture goals set the long-term mission and strategy for an organization, they can be overwhelming on an individual level. When an employee has a difficult time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, they can become less motivated to get out of the tunnel. With each large goal you create for your employees, be sure to break them down into incremental, short-term, achievable tasks. From a time standpoint, it may be helpful to move away from monthly goals to weekly or even daily goals. Be sure to allow for recognition or even celebration when specific, smaller goals are met to keep employees motivated for the next task at hand.

What are some important motivation tips you’ve learned during your career? How has a focus on motivating your team helped you lead a successful team? Let us know in the comments section below!

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