Four Steps to Motivate Your Workforce

A leader's job is to discover what makes each worker do their best and produce outstanding results

Clear expectation, recognition, communication and showing you care can help motivate your workers to want to work like you want them to.
Clear expectation, recognition, communication and showing you care can help motivate your workers to want to work like you want them to.

People who work for you are not you. They don't think like you, and they work different than you. And just because you pay them a good salary doesn't mean they're going to work their fannies off the same way you do. To get them to follow your vision and achieve big goals, you've got to give them a reason to want to follow. People are motivated for their reasons, not yours. It is the leader’s job to discover what makes each person tick, do their best, and produce outstanding results.

Think of your children. You tell them what you want them to do, but they don’t always do it. Then you try to bribe them to no avail. Frustrated, you scream, "If you're not home by 10:00 p.m., I'm gonna kill you!" Well, you don't. You let them off the hook. So they continue to stretch the envelope as there’s no accountability, no responsibility and no consequences. It seems like nothing works with your kids, just like with employees.

Do they want to do it?

Leadership is really about influencing others to want to do what you want them to do. The key words are "to want to do." They've got to want to do it. You tell and they decide if they’ll do it. When you tell your kids to clean up their room, they decide if they’ll do it based on their needs, consequences, accountabilities and responsibilities.

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Ask yourself: “What makes people want to follow me?” You know what doesn't work with children and employees: confusion, lack of trust, no integrity, no accountability and no consequences. A lot of managers say, "My people won’t do what I want them to do. I should get rid of them, but I can't afford them to leave, so I don’t fire them.” What kind of accountability is this? If they don't have to do what you want them to do, why should they do more than the minimum to keep their job? You've got to make them want to do it.

Productive employees require two things – money and happiness. Money includes fair pay and competitive benefits, plus working for a strong company with a good reputation in the market. Happiness is the same as being motivated. An effective leader, manager or coach’s job is to motivate people to do what you want them to do. This is accomplished with motivation, inspirational leadership, continuous encouragement, two way communication, an exciting vision, clear goals, step by step directions, performance feedback, holding them accountable, and giving complete responsibility. Great leaders, managers and supervisors encourage and motivate people to perform with energy, effort and enthusiasm so they'll do more than expected with excellence. There are four action steps leaders take to achieve bottom-line results through people.

1. Provide clear expectations

People need to know exactly what you want them to achieve – the expected specific results. Just like professional baseball managers use statistics and the scoreboard to provide accountability and feedback for their players, your employees need to know the score and what is expected.

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The norm is to tell people to work real hard and try their best. But, this doesn’t let people know exactly what’s expected. People must be told, explained, shown and understand specifically what you want to happen, the results you expect and when it must be completed. Examples of clear expectations include:

  • “By Friday, I expect you to have this installed and 100 percent complete.”
  • “By the 30th of the month all invoices must be sent out, no exceptions.”
  • “You must finish this project by July 1st, within budget and all punch-list items completed.”
  • “All timecards must be accurate and turned in by 9:00 a.m. Mondays.”
  • “All footings must be poured by March 2ndwithin the 750 crew hour budget.”

To get the results you want, be specific with clear targets for your team to hit, give them progress feedback via a project scoreboard, and meet with them regularly to discuss the plan to finish per the goal. Make sure your people understand what their individual targets are, what’s acceptable and what’s not, when they hit or miss their targets, consequences for not achieving the results you want, and the rewards for a job well done. 

2. Provide regular recognition and praise

Like winning coaches, effective leaders provide ongoing motivation, recognition and praise to people who do the work and achieve the desired results. Weak leaders, who don’t take time to thank people for a job well done, get weak results. Think of the great coaches. Most are known as great motivators who use different methods depending on the circumstance. Motivation can be provided in different ways – challenges, competitions, listening, training, encouragement, incentives, rewards, recognition, or praise. Of all the motivating factors, the two that provide the biggest incentive for people to perform are regular recognition and praise.

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In a survey why people left their company, over 90 percent said they'd never been recognized or praised by their boss, ever, for anything. People want and need feedback and positive reinforcement for their contributions and efforts. Leaders give praises at least every week to everyone in their sphere of influence. Use words like, “I appreciate you” and “Thanks for a great job.” Leaders use recognition to motivate their people to perform at a higher level. Keep a simple chart in your day-timer to insure you recognize all your staff on a regular basis. Strive to praise everyone at least every week and check it off on your chart so you won’t forget someone. Verbal praises work the best, but occasionally write short handwritten notes to those who went beyond the call of duty. How often do you recognize and praise your people to improve their performance?

3. Provide a clear understanding of the big picture

Employees need a clear understanding of the big picture (company, employees, customers, projects, etc.), what’s happening, what the future has in store, how they fit in, how their contributions add value to the process, and changes or adjustment required to be successful. Leaders share and explain where the company or project is going – its’ vision, future, positive and negatives, and changes required to be successful. People need to know the truth and big picture, otherwise they tend to think the worst. Several times a month I present seminars to managers who are looking for great ideas to build and improve their businesses. When they go back to their offices the next day, their people are often afraid they've been scheming how to squeeze them to work harder. That's not reality, but without information, people fear the worse.

Leaders constantly tell the real deal – business is good or bad, sales are up or down, productivity is acceptable or not, whether people are doing a good job or not, and the profit picture. Hold semi-annual, all company meetings plus monthly project and department meetings where the big picture is discussed and open to questions. When leaders leave their people in the dark, people also don’t see any reason to perform at a higher level.

4. Care about people

Leaders let their people know they care about them as individuals. People need to know you appreciate them as employees; you care about their personal goals, their future, their kids, and their families; and contribution to the company success. People must know they're important, and their needs and wants will be considered as they contribute to the entire organization’s success. Meet with each of your reports on a regular basis to have an in-depth conversation. Discuss how it’s going, how it can go better, what else can you do to work better together, and what else can you do for them to be happy and produce at the desired level.

To continuously show you care about employees, keep a “team member profile” sheet on each person in your day-timer. Include their name, family members, schools, hobbies, sports, interests, goals, challenges, contributions, etc. This way you can refer to it on a regular basis and keep track of each team member’s life.

By following these simple guidelines you’ll get your people to want to do what you want them to do. Without employee problems, your bottom line will improve and your company future will be bright. The key to is to do it! All it takes is a little time to improve results your people produce. 

George Hedley works with contractors to build profitable growing companies. He is a professional business coach, popular speaker and best-selling author of “Get Your Business To Work!” available online at To sign-up for his free e-newsletter, join his next webinar, be part of a BIZCOACH program, or get a $100 discount coupon for online classes at, e-mail [email protected]