By: Kerry Siggins, CEO, StoneAge Inc.

“Management is nothing more than motivating other people ,” said Lee Iacocca, who served as CEO of Chrysler Corp. in the 1980s. Sounds easy, right? Hardly. There is nothing easy about managing others. Lee is correct, though; great managers have an uncanny ability to tap into the motivations of others and use persuasive communication techniques to influence winning outcomes and high performance. Unfortunately, too many managers have no idea how to effectively motivate their teams. So, where do well-intentioned but ineffective managers go wrong?

Mistake 1: Telling employees how to do their work. Many managers believe they will save time if they tell their teams how to get things done. This is frustrating and demoralizing, as most employees want to be more self-directed and have autonomy to make choices about their work. Great managers motivate their teams by clearly defining success, removing roadblocks, course correcting when needed and otherwise getting out of the way.

Mistake 2: Talking too much, listening too little. Everyone wants to be heard, and good managers know how to ask the right questions to draw out meaningful and informative dialogue. Make your employees feel valued by asking questions such as, “What do you suggest?” or “I’d like to hear your opinion; what do you think?” Most people will give you clues to what motivates them if you stop talking long enough to hear what they are trying to tell you.

Mistake 3: Not holding regular tag-ups. In today’s world of too many meetings, it’s easy to blow off weekly tag-ups with each employee. Don’t do this. Most people find interaction with upper management to be motivational. Encourage your team members to come prepared with work-clarifying questions, problem-solving ideas, requests for information and information that keeps you in the loop.

Mistake 4: Failing to share the “why.” Managers who fail to share meaningful information with their teams will fail to motivate them. People want to feel like they are “in the know” and important enough to be informed about not just what is happening within the organization but also, more importantly, why it’s happening. Be transparent,ask for feedback, and always share the why behind actions and decisions.

Mistake 5: Not recognizing contributions. There is nothing worse than doing great work and having it go unnoticed or unappreciated. Motivate your employees by recognizing their contributions. Give them a “power thank you.” A “power thank you,” as defined by Mark Goulston, author and psychologist, has three parts:

  1. Expression of sincere and specific thanks.
  2. Acknowledgement of the effort or personal sacrifice made.
  3. Statement about what it means to you personally. Expressing gratitude in this way is memorable, touching and motivating.

Mistake 6: Failing to deal with issues in the workplace. Many managers don’t know how to effectively deal with conflict, performance issues and other morale-sucking behaviors within their teams. Failing to listen to and address these issues will turn your best performers into mediocre ones; therefore, commit to effectively handling employee complaints. Keep the feedback loop healthy by providing regular updates on how you are addressing their concerns. Ask them to be part of the solution and give you feedback on what is and isn’t working. This shows your team that workplace problems don’t fall into a black hole and it’s safe to bring up problems.

Mistake 7: Not creating opportunities for growth. It’s hard to motivate people if they feel like they are in dead-end jobs. Give your employees opportunities to expand their skills and take on new challenges. Allow your employees to attend important meetings, let them cross-train in other functions, give them special projects, and encourage them to attend external seminars and courses. Make sure each team member has a career development plan that outlines their longterm goals, and plan to help them get there.

By avoiding these mistakes, you will increase motivation within your team, and everyone will reap the benefits. With motivated and engaged employees who contribute real value to the organization, you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals and be successful.

For more information, contact Kerry Siggins at To read her blog, visit

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