Why Are Smart Leaders So Dumb At Motivating People

According to a recent Gallup poll, only about 25 percent of American employees say they are engaged in their work. A near majority, 43 percent, admit they’re checked out.

These results are startling. Why are so many people feeling disconnected at work? The sad truth is that even the smartest leaders don’t always know how to motivate their people. So what can you do to buck the trend and keep your employees engaged? Here are some thoughts:

Stop motivating with rewards and start inspiring with purpose. Many leaders think that if you hand out rewards people will be happy, but that’s not necessarily the case. People are driven by a purpose, a connection to the mission of their team and organization that helps them understand the importance of their role.

Stop motivating with perks and start inspiring with a greater cause. Usually when morale is low, it’s situational, because something’s going on that makes people feel frustrated and tense. But when people are connected to a cause greater than themselves, they have a different mindset. By thinking of themselves as part of something bigger, they can overcome day-to-day frustrations and move forward positively.

Stop motivating with compensation and start inspiring with growth and development. Most leaders think the more you pay people the happier they are. While it’s true that people who are paid what they’re worth are happier than those who aren’t, what really makes a difference is when that compensation is viewed as part of an overall investment in their professional growth and development. People get excited about their work, and their employer, when they’re treated as a worthy investment.

Stop motivating with words and start inspiring with actions that matter. Many leaders are terrific with words. They’re able to fire people up with great speeches, but ultimately none of it matters if their actions don’t match their words. It is the leader who follows up with action that inspires others, even if they’re not the most eloquent.

There’s a big difference between motivation and inspiration, sometimes called intrinsic motivation by leadership theorists. They’ve known for a long time that motivating people by dangling carrots doesn’t work, but it’s a mindset that remains deeply ingrained in our business culture. It’s not hard to see, though, that it isn’t serving us well. If it were, we wouldn’t have so many employees who feel disconnected and demotivated.

Humans don’t do their best work under conditions of external reward, but when they’re inspired by the purpose and meaning of what they do.

So if you want to stop motivating your people the wrong way, lead with the kind of motivation that allows people to feel there is purpose, meaning and a higher calling for what they do.

Lead from within: Be the kind of leader who really gets their people and understands what motivates them to come to work and do what they do every day.


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The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Raghunandan

    13. Jul, 2020

    Agree Lolly, this pandemic has shown leaders how to be more resilient and more human based on the circumstances we all undergo. There are variojs reasons if i see from Indian context, it may be family run business, seniority in the organisation , not approachable team member, may be political clout in the organisation. In current climate, it is more of being human which will be considered than the title one carries.

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