Nickii Messer of All the Geese, an SBM and leadership development company, and operational lead of the school business management programme at Anglia Ruskin University, discusses motivation and how you can positively and proactively motivate the people you lead
Years ago I appointed an assistant and, putting it bluntly, her performance was distinctly lack lustre. It became apparent that her lack of ability was actually a lack of self-esteem. So, each morning before starting work, I made her repeat the words “I am worthy”. Each day I saw her work, and demeanour, improve. Her motivation was feeling better about herself and, as she did, she blossomed into one of the best colleagues I ever appointed.
A newly appointed teacher confided in me that she had recently recovered from an aggressive cancer with a five per cent chance of recovery. She was a very capable teacher but others, not knowing her background, resented her for leaving on time and rejecting promotion opportunities. Only I knew that what motivated her was to do a good job (which she certainly did) and get home to watch her young family grow up. Who can blame her?
So, what motivates you? For me it is different things at different times. Meeting a tight deadline; getting paid; ticking everything off my list (some hope!); being thanked; helping someone feel better about themselves, and so on.
We are all different and, as leaders, it is our responsibility to find out what motivates the individuals in our teams. It’s not as complicated or difficult as it seems. I suggest there are three golden rules to begin with.
Firstly, value each of your colleagues. You don’t have to like them, but you should aim to respect and value them. As a leader, you have responsibility for the colleagues you lead, and you should invest time in getting to know them as individuals and ensuring they feel valued.
Secondly, if something goes wrong or a colleague is underperforming, then look at yourself. Have you done everything you could to motivate and support them? Have you invested time in speaking to them as an individual to find out their needs? Determine what you might do better/differently next time and take action.
Thirdly, perhaps most importantly, avoid de-motivating colleagues. Just as a kind word or action can boost the spirits, so the lack of action or words can sap the energy right out of you. Deflation can have a serious impact on production and take considerable time to heal. Invest time and effort to avoid this.
Some other simple techniques for motivating staff:
- Agree values and goals and actively work together towards these.
- Consistently remind everyone that we are there for the children.
- Communicate effectively – explain, listen and ensure everyone understands.
- Keep colleagues engaged and informed, especially when making changes.
- Say thank you – two little words go such a long way.
- Recognise when colleagues get tired and boost their spirits (acknowledgement, coffee and doughnuts all work well!).
- Learn different leadership styles and use the right one at the right time.
- Employ the right people for the right job.
Finally, enjoy your role as a leader. For me, being in a position to positively and proactively motivate the people you lead is one of the very best motivations of the job. Of course we all get it wrong from time to time but the real leaders are the ones who admit it, learn from it and do it better next time.