Cutting-Edge Leadership

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5 Ways to Infect Others with Motivation

Motivating employees, your team, and yourself.

When I talk to managers, one of their most common issues is difficulty in motivating employees. Here are some (research) proven methods for motivating employees, and they also work for motivating yourself.

Positive Affect is Contagious. Being upbeat and positive is a good foundation for motivating others. There is solid evidence that emotions—positive or negative—can “infect” others through a process known as “emotional contagion.” So, don’t let employees or team members see anything but your positive, “can-do” energy. Remember, positive reinforcement is always better (encouraging positive work behavior) than being punitive and focusing on the negatives.

Be a Motivational Role Model. A good leader would never ask a follower to do more than he or she is willing to do. Set an example of hard work and high levels of activity and many of your workers or team members will follow your lead. Be the first one to tackle a task or a problem, and others will fall in behind you.

Focus on the Shared Mission. Many people lose motivation because they forget about the purpose. A good leader focuses on the mission of the group or organization and gets people committed to that mission. When motivation lags, the leader can remind followers of what the common purpose is and the importance of the work that they are doing.

Set Challenging Goals. Goal setting is one of the best ways to engage and motivate others. But goal setting is a science and requires careful attention to the process in order to be successful. The acronym is to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. What that means is that goals should be associated with specific, measurable outcomes. They need to be realistic, neither too high (so that they are unattainable) nor too low (not challenging), they should mean something to the individual and there should be a time-to-completion.

Celebrate Small Wins. Research has suggested that the best way to drive continuous levels of motivation is to allow the person to experience “small wins”—breaking down a large task into smaller, measurable steps and celebrating the attainment of each step or level. This is the strategy that makes on-line games so “addicting”—as you reach each level in Angry Birds or Candy Crush, or get a small win in your game battle or add a piece to your farm, etc., you are motivated to achieve more. [You can read more about this motivational strategy for your personal career motivation here].

So, the bottom line is this: You can use these motivational techniques to lead groups or teams, but these are also the basics of motivating your children, your students—or yourself.

Follow me on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/#!/ronriggio

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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