Motivating on a shoestring


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Of course you wish your teams were motivated all the time. Of course you wish you could easily achieve all of your targets and objectives. Of course you wish that even the dullest of tasks could be dispatched without fuss. However, there are times when our enthusiasm wanes. We all know the impact of motivation (and the lack of it). The problem is, it’s an expensive activity. Fortunately, there are many ways to motivate your people without having to dip into any budget.


Survey after survey will highlight that one of the quickest, cheapest and easiest ways to motivate people is to thank them for a job well done. This doesn’t mean thanking them for simple daily tasks, as that de-values the sincerity of the words. It does mean noticing when someone has done an especially good job, or gone the extra mile, or being that little more creative. What’s more, just noticing isn’t quite enough. You need to take the time to approach your team member and thank them with an accompanying warm handshake. Interestingly, one of the quickest ways to de-motivate your team is to never do this!

Linking achievement to impact

People’s engagement and motivation increase significantly when they feel they have meaning in their jobs. It’s your job as their manager to help them see how what they do impacts the success of the team and the rest of the business. All of the parts of a business are inter-connected and a great or poor job in one place always has an impact on another, but it’s not always obvious. So, whilst people see tasks as pointless, it’s easy for them to become disillusioned. If, on the other hand, they understand how important what they do really is, they will feel more pride in their work and themselves which will fuel their motivation to do a great job.

Challenging work

Everyone needs a sense of challenge. So, if you want to boost your team’s motivation, find ways of giving them fair, but challenging objectives. They need to stretch themselves and focus hard to achieve their goals. And when they do, their sense of success and achievement will fuel motivational levels.

Public recognition

In addition to the personal thanking for a job well done, it’s also often useful to consider more public recognition. This could take the very overt form of an award for new deals won, to a mention in the company newsletter for team achievements. Whatever you decide, remember that, as with personal recognition, it needs to be sincere and given for something genuinely worthwhile so that it’s not diluted or ridiculed.


One of the most obvious, but easily over-looked methods to motivate is to remind people that those who are motivated to achieve the most, will be first in line for promotions. Of course, you then need to see this through and actually promote them when the time comes!

Making a coach

A less obvious, but equally powerful way to incubate motivation, is to appoint your people as coaches to other, less experienced employees. The experience of helping, supporting, guiding and motivating others is enriching. And, curiously, this helps to motivate the coach as much as the person being coached!

Motivating others need not be an expensive activity, but it is an essential one. In the words of one of a great motivator, Lee Lacocca: “motivation is everything. You can do the work of two people, but you can’t be two people. Instead, you have to inspire the next guy down the line and get him to inspire his people.”


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