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How to Motivate Employees in Less Than 5 Minutes

Motivating your team can be more art than science, but here are four techniques that work.
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Have you ever bought a new gadget or toy for your kids or yourself and seen that mildly annoying “batteries not included” sticker?

Getting the right batteries for your new gizmo is similar to finding the right motivatio n for your employee s. The end goal is the same: energy for action, but you need the right connection to trigger that flow of energy.

Motivating your team can be more art than science, but here are four techniques that will increase your chances of finding the right fuel:

1. Focus on the bigger picture. One of the most universal motivational triggers is connecting a current action with a bigger vision. For example, when you started your business, it’s very likely that you had some motivation beyond having a business for business’s sake. You might have wanted freedom to build a better life for you and your loved ones, to help people or to make the world a better place in some way. What drives you is the bigger picture, not the daily to-dos.

Your team is no different. If you’re seeing a lack in motivation or productivity, it’s probably because they’ve lost the connection between what they are doing and their “why.” Actively search for their “why” during conversations, so that when there is a lull in motivation, you can be there to remind them of the big picture. Help them see how their puzzle piece fits in to build a larger picture.

2. Emphasize the importance of process. Sometimes teams procrastinate because they don’t think there’s any harm in putting off certain tasks. Little do they know that what seems inconsequential to them is actually a cornerstone for your next steps. You might need to explain the chain of events that are necessary to accomplish the big goals. No step is unimportant. Like they say in theatre, there are no small roles, only small actors. In your business, there are no small steps, only small thinking. Of course, this only applies if you don’t have unnecessary redundancies. If you do, it’s a good idea to do an audit and clean out the cobwebs of your procedures.

3. Pay attention to what excites them. The best kind of motivation doesn’t come from you; it comes from people themselves. When you’re having a conversation with someone, pay close attention to what they say and how they say it. Chances are, they are giving you clues on how to best motivate them in that moment.

I like to call these clues "keywords." They are words or phrases that stand out from the rest. Keywords are more charged when spoken. The person will lean in or sit up straighter. Their voice might get louder or more pointed. Their eyes might widen when they say their keywords.

For example, I was running a communication training session for a small group of company leaders. I could tell that one person was not receptive to the training. During our first break, I approached him and asked for his thoughts.

“Don’t get me wrong, the training session is great and all, but you've got to understand that there’s been a lot going on with the company and I just don’t see how this helps us move forward.”

When he said the words “move forward” his gestures and voice accentuated his point. After a little more discussion and keyword investigation on my part, I concluded that forward motion, progress and the future were big motivational triggers for him. He also hated anything that had to do with feeling stuck, reviewing past events or repeating himself.


I spent the remaining five minutes of the break making a case for how the training helped his company move forward, achieve their goals and even help his employees progress further within the company. After our brief conversation, he was extremely attentive and participatory the rest of the day. When you detect more energy behind certain words, latch on to them and use those keywords to help your motivational efforts.

4. Use positive reinforcement. One of the best ways to lay the groundwork for future motivation is to acknowledge and reward successes. If you motivate someone to take action, but don’t acknowledge the accomplishment, they will be jaded when you approach them again in the future for something else. Recognition of past successes is a motivator for future progress. Failing to do so can lead to bitter and defensive employees.

Leaders need to be a constant source of motivation. Your team should come to you to recharge their batteries, not leave feeling more drained. Pay attention their needs.