Thursday, May 30 2024

Leaders who truly understand motivation and its impact on their business will achieve greater results. Wikipedia defines motivation as “… an internal state that propels individuals to engage in goal-directed behaviour.” Looking at it another way, when it comes to motivation, we are all tuned into the radio station WIFM, or what’s in it for me?

Some managers want to treat all their employees the same to avoid the perception of favouritism. But is that fair or equitable? When you have a team with varying tenure, responsibilities, and personalities it is unlikely they will appreciate the same set of goals, rewards and support. While the goal is the same, it is not equal.

Let’s look at the most common types of motivation.

Reward Motivation

Rewards can be fun, create healthy competition, and spice things up. However, the key is to be certain the expectations are clear and equitable for all. Alternatively, there are risks to using rewards as motivation:

Used alone, this method can set you up for disengaged employees, because there is a risk some will consider rewards as the sole reason for performing their jobs effectively.

The reward you choose may hold little or no value for your staff, because they don’t appeal to their WIFM.

If the reward is deemed too difficult to reach, little effort will be made. An individual may think “there is no point in trying, I don’t have a chance with ______ on the team.”

Fear Motivation

Fear is another form of motivation, but it is ineffectual to threaten someone to produce needed results. Ultimately it generates stress and usually only meager outcomes. Are you very certain that fear is your only option? Motivation through fear might be required in urgent or dangerous situations, but its not a good, everyday approach. If you rely upon fear motivation, you do not know what motivates that person; you haven’t done one-on-one coaching, and most important, have not built a trusting relationship. High trust built during good times will serve you and your team well through tough times.


How do leaders engage and motivate employees? Coaching is a key strategy. We ask questions and listen, provide clear direction, and set goals together. Regular coaching with your direct reports gives you the opportunity to get to know them better. What makes them tick? Also, what demotivates them?

So, do you know the why of your direct reports? What is their WIFM? If you’re not sure what motivates them, make it a goal to start asking. You may be surprised how simple it can be to show your appreciation and the return you’ll get on that investment.