The Secret to Motivating Other People

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

I’m often asked this question: Can you motivate someone else? The short answer is…absolutely not! No matter how hard you want it, no one can motivate someone else to do what they don’t want to do. You may get someone to do a task by enticing him/her with a sweeter carrot or threatening that person with a sharper stick. But that is not representative of personal motivation.

With the above said, you can influence other people to do a particular task and amazingly, this strategy works both professionally and personally. If you can tap into the underlying desires people have, you will get amazing performance from them. And if you’re a leader, the trick is to find alignment between what your people want and what will help grow the organization. Here is a three-step process to positively influence motivation:

STEP ONE: Ask the individual what s/he wants.

The first step in finding what motivates others is to make time to listen to them and find out what they actually want out of their job. The key is to not make assumptions about what you think they want; rather, you need to actually ask them what they want. Maybe they desire:

A new big title.

More time off to spend with their family.

To make more money to buy a new truck or send a son/daughter to college.

STEP TWO: Show people how they can get what they want.

If someone wants to become a supervisor one day, offer ideas of things s/he can do to help make that happen.

STEP THREE: Allow others to get what they want while also benefitting the organization.

When my oldest son was 11, I remember him wanting to buy a motorized dirt bike for $400. I even told him I would pay for half of it. While he thought that was generous, he didn’t have any other money for the purchase. So I gave Taylor a list of extra chores he could do around the house—like cleaning out the garage and raking leaves so he could earn some money.

He became a dynamo of energy as he tackled chores he otherwise loathed doing. The difference was he was doing them to get what he wanted. Meanwhile, I also got work done in a way that freed me up to do other things, namely landscaping which I love to do. That’s what made the whole thing a true win-win. I found alignment between his personal goal and my desired outcomes.

So you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? How does motivation directly affect the workplace?” Well, motivated employees tend to produce happier customers, positively affecting the bottom line. In fact, workplace cultures with the highest total motivation scores also have received the highest customer satisfaction ratings. To learn more, watch this short video clip.

So even though the secret to motivating other people is that you can’t do it, you can dramatically influence others when it matters most.

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