Who owns employee motivation? It’s a good question and an easy one to get wrong because there is a fine line between encouraging employee motivation and owning employee motivation.
In our leadership training, we make the point that the leader’s job is to create an environment that sets the stage for team members to be highly motivated. That involves behaviors like ensuring good communication, providing challenging work, effective feedback, reward and recognition, and helping team members understand how their work will help the organization reach its vision. Providing leadership in these ways reinforces the worth of the employee, the value of their contributions to the business, and their sense of accomplishment when they perform well.
Such leadership encourages employee motivation. However, at the end of the day, it is each employee’s responsibility to actually become motivated, engaged, and excited about the work they do. To quote the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”
So, if your job as a leader is to encourage employee motivation, what is not your job? Here it is, in a nutshell: it is not your job to “make your team members happy.” That is not your job description, and it is an unfair goal to assign to yourself.
What frequently happens is that leaders can caught up in the trap of giving their employees more and more “stuff” in an effort to motivate them. For example, they might have parties, an exercise room, and more. None of these things are wrong or bad in themselves – in fact, they can be quite good in contributing to employee satisfaction. But they will not contribute to employee motivation. Motivation comes from a sense of personal accomplishment. It can never be manufactured by giving people more “stuff.”
Your job, then, as a leader is to create a space where your employees are set up to succeed. Where they can accomplish great things. Where they are able to perform well. That’s where your responsibility ends. It is your employees’ responsibility to ultimately decide to “get on the bus”: to become committed and engaged and motivated. That is their choice, and they alone have ownership of that choice. Motivation will always be an inside job.
- As a leader, your job is to encourage employee motivation by creating an environment that reinforces the worth of the employee, the value of their contributions to the business, and their sense of accomplishment when they perform well.
- It is your employees’ responsibility to become committed and engaged and motivated within the environment you create. Each employee owns his or her motivation. Motivation is always an inside job.