Employee Motivation:
Whose Job Is It Anyway?

When employees are asked this question, you might think the response would be: “It’s my job to keep myself motivated.” But, in reality, the most frequent answer is, “It’s my boss’ job.”

Surprised? Don’t be. In an ideal world, motivation would come exclusively from within. More often than not, however, it’s up to management to maintain employee morale. It takes dynamic leadership to activate, and preferably inspire, self-motivation in those you lead to ensure future success.

Employees are largely responsible for the reputation your company has in the marketplace. They hold the key to the solutions to your problems, the methods to improve quality, new types of services to provide and the ideas about what the company needs to do to move forward in today’s highly challenging business climate. Assuming, of course, that you are a “leader” and not a “boss” and know how to generate from them their own ideas in these areas. Plus, you need to inspire them to show initiative beyond their job description.

“The Boss” VS “The Leader”
Says, “GO!” Says, “Let’s go!
“Says: “That’s the decision” Says: “I’m not sure what the outcome of this decision will be, but we’re all going to roll up our sleeves and pull together to make it happen. And, I’ll do all I can to help you.”
Depends on authority Depends on goodwill
Pushes you to produce Pulls you by acting as a role model
Commands Communicates
Uses people Serves People
Sees what is Sees what could and should be
Focuses on what is most urgent Focuses on what is most important
Lets you know where you are Let’s you know where you could be
Works hard to achieve immediate results Works hard to achieve ultimate objectives
Seeks credit and recognition Shares credit generously
Inspires fear Inspires enthusiasm
Says, “I Says, “We”
Blames for problems Works with others to solve problems
Drives people Grows people
Is concerned with looking good Is concerned with their team looking good; expects high performance, but inspires people to deliver their best

Can you give someone motivation? Many believe that only an individual can motivate himself or herself. But as an executive, manager or supervisor, you can obviously nourish and sustain that self-motivation. The key is to keep them in the right frame of mind by making them feel that they are working with you, not for you. If they feel they are only working for you, many of them will merely go through the motions to protect their job and their paycheck. They will never put their hearts and souls into their work, nor will they show initiative beyond their immediate responsibilities.



In a chapter called “Reward” in the book LOVE ’EM or LOSE ’EM, authors Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans share examples of strategies used to motivate and reward employees—with little cost and huge dividends. Here are a few of many examples:

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em• Give an outstanding employee the precious gift of time: the afternoon off or an opportunity to sleep late.
• Personal note in a paycheck. (“Every two weeks I’m forced to think about something I noticed and appreciated.”)
• Freedom to work from home, to dress casually, to manage a budget, flextime.
• According to the authors, hokey trophies and trinkets are surprisingly effective.

The above examples are from LOVE ’EM or LOSE ’EM: Getting Good People to Stay (Fourth Edition) by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2008.

To make a difference in your company, you must be a great person to work with. By consistently doing the things that build relationships—such as taking the time from your demanding schedule for expressing appreciation, requesting suggestions and then listening carefully to them, and encouraging new and better ideas—you will show employees you care. You also need to pay attention to them. Fundamentally, you gain control by not trying to exercise control. This behavior in a manager helps to encourage employees to be cooperative and productive of their own free will. In fact, the secret is to act more like a leader and less like a boss. In other words, someone you would be excited about working with.

Five Things You Can Do Immediately

Here are five things you can start to do right now. Put them into practice, and you just might see a big difference in the level of job satisfaction.

Never let a single day go by without spending 20 minutes talking to individuals or your team.

At least once a week, thank your employees (individually!) and express appreciation for hard work.

Ask these questions on a regular basis:

• “How is your team performing?”
• “Is there anything I should know about?”
• “What do YOU recommend?”
• “Is there anything I can do to help?”
• “What ideas do you have to help us through this
tough economy?”

If you are really brave ask these:

• “What would you do if you were me?”
• “How can I be a better leader?”

Once a year, give an employee satisfaction survey along with your customer satisfaction survey. You will find that if your employees are happy, your customers will be happy too. Make sure your survey includes this question: “Would you recommend working here to someone else?”

Six Ways to Get to Yes

Again and again, research shows that money is not the major motivator to keeping good people. Good thing. Because these days, there is not a lot of it to go around. So how do you motivate and reward your employees when there is no extra in the till? GAWDA distributors share some successes

1 “A gift card or letting employees off early is really appreciated. More than anything, I try to verbalize my appreciation. I make sure to say, ‘You’re doing a great job. Without your input, there’s no way we could succeed.’ Sometimes a handshake means more than money.”
– Derrick Campbell
, Owner & Manager, Schad & Pulte Welding Supply
2 “We’re returning to commission-based sales to motivate salespeople. It’s been many years since we did anything with commission, and the time is right to go back to that model. One of the best ways to motivate somebody is to give them an opportunity to make as much as they want.”
Todd Ratheal
President, Lubbock Welding Supply
3 “We stress selling rather than taking orders and are empowering salespeople to come up with ideas of how best to accomplish this. It’s created a competitive atmosphere, and they are thinking about how to sell more effectively.”
– Barry Nanz
Owner, Trade & Industrial Supply
4 “Salespeople are provided spiffs on particular products. This has really helped.”
– Vern Lewis
President, Vern Lewis Welding Supply
5 “Job security is a motivator. Our employees are still here, and they’ve all been here for a long time. That means a lot to them.”
– Bruce Leasure
President, Middlesex Welding Sales Co.
6 “We hold a month-long sales competition, with separate categories for outside salespeople and branch managers, to make sure we hit our target. The individuals and branch locations with the greatest sales growth receive $500 gift cards to a store of their choice. The employees love it, and we get great results.”
– Robert Jackson

President, Jackson Welding Supply

If you don’t score high on that question in the survey, you cannot succeed. This holds true in today’s economy, where jobs are almost non-existent. If they want to leave, and are staying only for a paycheck and not for YOU, you are in trouble. It’s your people who will carry you into a successful future.

Be the best leader you can be. Keep in mind, you don’t automatically gain respect because you have a title. You must to earn it. You can do this by being the type of person who others look forward to working with each day.

Warren Bennis once said that a boss is someone who commands others to do what needs to be done. But a leader is someone who inspires and helps people to do what needs to be done and to do it well. Keep in mind that people work FOR a boss. They work WITH a leader.

Employee motivation, of course, involves a great deal more than being a single great leader. It involves your culture, systems, reward and recognition practices, procedures, teamwork and more. But for now, simply ask yourself this question: Would you work for you?

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Christine Corelli Meet the Author
Christine Corelli is president of Christine Corelli & Associates, located in Morton Grove, Illinois, and on the Web at www.christinespeaks.com.