Great Leaders

Great leaders believe that their employees determine a company’s success or failure.

It is not the size of the building, how cool the product is, or even having the best equipment or process that determines success. What propels and sustains a successful organization is its diverse team of talented, motivated employees.

Great leaders continually invest in their people and understand motivational rewards for employees. Below are some brief tips on how to increase employee motivation.

People Want to Contribute

Every child, no matter their background, age, or gender, dreams about what they want to do when they grow up. Whether that dream is to be a fireman, a teacher, an artist, or a doctor, we all decide on a career path and strive to learn more about what we are interested in.

For many, a career choice requires hours of learning and financial hardship to obtain the education that is required to become employed.

It is the employee’s passion, knowledge, and interest that creates their desire to contribute. Employees want to use what they have learned, which in turn motivates them to do their best.

Involvement Activities

Motivation is associated with high levels of employee involvement. High involvement activities include:

  • decision-making
  • sharing information
  • informal leadership assignments
  • opportunities for increasing job responsibilities
  • a chance to use education/innate talents

When employees are not provided with high-involvement opportunities, the rate of voluntary turnover increases and other employees stay, but stop caring. Here is something to ponder: The level of employee motivation is directly related to the quality of life at work, which is directly associated with leadership effectiveness. This is a very powerful thought!

Employees feel a lack of contribution when they are not involved in decision-making. Being left out of team decisions or decisions that impact their job are indicators to employees that their expertise is not valued. When situations such as these take place, employees become unmotivated.


They feel their knowledge and expertise is not important and the organization does not need their contributions. Being “in on things” is a motivator, as it signifies the leadership team views their expertise as a necessity for running the business.

Having a two-way conversation is another way to increase employee motivation by asking for input and involving an employee in decision-making.

The “old school” way when providing direction or announcing a change is for the manager to do most of the talking. This managerial tactic is a “pushing” method of communication and facilitates a minimal amount of interaction on the part of the employee.

In contrast to telling, an effective leader will ask for suggestions and recommendations as to how the employee envisions the change. This approach is a “pulling” method, where the dialogue consists of both manager and employee participating in an effective exchange of ideas, thoughts, and expertise.

High involvement in the conversation provides the manager with feedback and the employee with a feeling of satisfaction that his or her input is valued.

What Gets Rewarded Gets Done

It is not new knowledge that people will leave a job where they feel they are not valued. In some cases, the disgruntled employee will leave a stable job for lesser paying one, or even for no job at all. The reward of appreciation and being valued is that important.

No matter their age, gender, or ethnicity, people are motivated to do their best, stay long hours, and give more than they take for those leaders who value their contribution. This reality reveals the power and magnitude that an intangible reward like appreciation provides to employees. If an employee does not feel appreciated, he or she will be physically or mentally absent.

Rewards That Make a Big Difference

Intangible rewards include opportunities to help others informally lead. If an employee does not feel that they add value to the growth of the company, they become frustrated and stagnant.

People have a need to achieve, develop, and grow. Leaders that value their employees communicate how important they are to the business by taking the time to tell them.

Employees never go home from work feeling as if they are too appreciated. No one communicates at the dinner table that he or she was appreciated too much at work today. Appreciation is vital to employee motivation.

Reward Sign

Employees seek tangible rewards of compensation, promotions, training, and improvements to their work environment as concrete, measurable forms that are valued. It is the leader that understands these elements of motivation that attracts employees to come to work for them.

Tangible rewards are highly effective when aligned with the predictors of what want when seeking employment: 1) fairness; 2) accountability; and 3) opportunity.

Accountability is a Big Motivator

Employees expect to be compensated fairly and those employees that are not adequately performing their job responsibilities need to be held accountable. Here is an example of what can really demotivate employees: One employee is effectively doing his job, while another employee is not.

The effective employee is learning leadership skills, seeking opportunities for growth, and working as a team member. The ineffective employee has little motivation to work with other employees, inconsistently meets performance expectations, and has been operating in this manner for quite some time.

The difference between these two employees is very visible and hugely impacts employee motivation. In this case, the leader’s effectiveness truly makes a difference in employee morale!

Employees would like to do what they have been trained to do and participate in meaningful work experiences. As simple as this may sound, employees feel a high level of motivation when their job provides an opportunity to use their areas of expertise and the leader uses appropriate methods of motivation. It is not uncommon that employers are unaware of the intrinsic talents and skills an employee may hold.

Next time the opportunity arises, ask your employees to make a list of their professional interests, talents, and skills. The takeaway – be familiar with the talents, education, and skills that employees have acquired and align those skills with daily work assignments.

How Do Great Leaders Motivate People?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.