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How to encourage, motivate and support your people

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Most leaders acknowledge that people are an organisation’s most important asset. The challenge for all leaders, however, is whether their behaviours and attitudes towards their team reflect that belief.

In business, people should be treated as assets not costs. Assets help generate income and profits and so they are looked after and subject to ongoing investment. Costs, on the other hand, reduce profits and so should be kept to a minimum. Believing that people are assets means recognising how important they are to an organisation’s success and therefore how important it is to look after them and invest in them.

One major form of investment in people is to provide training and development opportunities to help them develop their skills and behaviours so that they can contribute even more to a team’s success.

Leaders should carefully reflect on the level of personal support that they offer to people in their team. They should challenge themselves by asking questions such as:

  • How available am I really for people to talk to me and seek my advice and encouragement?
  • Do I really have an open door policy where I welcome people or is the policy little more than a platitude?
  • Am I readily available to give people the support they need, when they need it?

The importance of an open door policy

However, being available and having a genuine ‘open door’ is one thing, but is it enough? The potential problem is that it puts the onus onto other people to make the effort to go and see their leader wherever he/she may be. Some people may be put off doing so because they do not want to bother their leader with what they feel may be a relatively trivial matter, while others may be concerned about interrupting their leader at a busy time.

Therefore, leaders need to make themselves more accessible to people within their team and make the effort to go to where their team are and not wait for their team to visit them. Leaders should visit different parts of the organisation, meet people, and not just the favoured few, taking time to find out how people are getting on, how they are feeling and offering words of encouragement and advice. Leaders should never underestimate the importance of personal visits to motivate people and they should make sure that everyone knows that they matter and that their contribution is important.

How to motivate people effectively

The better that a leader understands the people within his/her team the more effective he/she will be in motivating individual team members. Getting close to people and treating them as individuals can have a significant effect on their performance and behaviours. To effectively motivate others involves finding out what people want, and do not want, from their job and so it involves spending time talking with them and listening to them, not just once but often as motivators are likely to change. Typical motivators concern rewards, recognition, challenging and interesting work, and being part of a motivated team. Once a leader finds out what will improve a person’s motivation, then he/she can do something about it.

For some people, it is important that they are openly acknowledged by their leader. For others, just to know that the leader is there and willing to support them and stand by them if things get difficult is encouragement enough. In whatever way leaders offer support, their focus should be to provide a positive example to promote a culture of mutual support within their team.

Showing support

The emphasis is on support. Leaders should try to avoid telling people what to do or how to do it and so avoid creating a subordinate relationship. Leaders should encourage their team to think issues through for themselves, but make it clear that they have their leader’s support. They should accentuate the positive and encourage people to think along the lines of what can or should be done rather than on what cannot or should not be done.

Leaders should make it clear that their team have nothing to fear because fear encourages people to behave passively, to hide mistakes, to blame others and so discourages openness and honesty. The increased levels of motivation and self-esteem felt by people who have successfully completed tasks and projects based on their own initiative rather than carrying out someone else’s instructions is highly significant.

When things go wrong, and on occasions they probably will, then leaders need to openly support the people concerned. They must have the courage to stand up for each person in their team, to support them when they make mistakes and show real loyalty to them.

Leading By Example

To find out more about leadership, read our eBook "Leading by Example".

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