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Foster Success for People: Two Musts for Employee Motivation and Positive Morale

Motivation Success


Tired of hearing that people are your most important resource? That's fair. These buzz words have been overused and abused in the board room, in speeches to employees and in business books. People have heard these words so often, in situations where actions degrade their meaning, they have grown cynical.

To battle the cynicism, I propose a better statement of belief. People are your only resource. If you get this, you will create a work environment that foster their ability to increase productivity, build up high self-esteem, and develop new skills and capabilities. To reinforce this growth, you will reward them and recognize them for their contributions. Love them and help them grow or lose them to an employer who will.

In an earlier article, Set Them Free: Two Musts for Motivation, I discussed two criteria that create a motivating work environment: employee involvement and managing the workplace with as few policies and rules as possible for workplace order. Two more musts for motivation are:

  • a work place in which the high self-esteem of each employee is fostered and
  • the opportunity for people to fully develop their abilities and knowledge in their areas of interest.


People who have high self-esteem are more likely to continuously improve the work environment. They are willing to take intelligent risks because they have confidence in their ideas and competence. They work willingly on teams because they are confident about their ability to contribute. Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem and Self-Esteem@Work, says, “Self-esteem has two essential components:

  • Self-efficacy: Confidence in the ability to cope with life's challenges. Self-efficacy leads to a sense of control over one's life.
  • Self-respect: Experience oneself as deserving of happiness, achievement and love. Self-respect makes possible a sense of community with others.

Self-esteem is a self-reinforcing characteristic. When we have confidence in our ability to think and act effectively, we can persevere when faced with difficult challenges. Result: We succeed more often than we fail. We form more nourishing relationships. We expect more of life and of ourselves."

A motivating work environment enhances staff self-esteem. People feel like they are more, not less--more competent, more capable, more appreciated, more contributing. A concept called the Pygmalion Effect emphasizes that the positive and high expectations of the supervisor help mold the expectations individuals hold for their own high performance. This fact is on my top ten list for “what every supervisor must know.” The Galatea Effect, also on the list, states that, even more important than the supervisor’s expectations, the expectations an individual has for her own performance govern that performance. Convinced? If you’re looking for ways to increase staff self-esteem, these ideas will help.

  • Act as if you have high self-esteem. Your behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and example are a powerful role model for staff members. How you look, talk, present yourself, and act send the most powerful message possible to all staff members.

  • Practice personal integrity and fairness. Model it and expect it from others. People who feel they can tell the truth, without fear of reprisal, grow as they experiment and experience success and failure.

  • Provide frequent feedback that reinforces what people do well and corrects the approaches that need improvement.

  • Learn what staff members feel good and positive about doing. Maximize their opportunity to contribute in these activities.

  • Provide assignments that stimulate growth. Ask people to stretch beyond what you have observed them doing in the past. Challenge staff members. Negotiate goals which are realistic, yet a stretch.

  • Provide positive reinforcement, rewards, and recognition to reinforce the standards and practices you believe your staff members are capable of achieving.

  • Create an environment in which people practice self-responsibility. Show that you trust them to report production numbers, deal with employees who are not contributing to the team effort, and succeed and/or fail at implementing new ideas.

  • Demonstrate that it is okay to disagree with the supervisor. Allow the implementation of new ideas, even if they are different than yours. Praise when the approach works and ask the employee to implement more good ideas.

  • Provide clear expectations about performance standards to all employees and express your sincere belief that they can meet or exceed these standards.

More on motivation? See Development Is More Than Training.

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