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Keeping Employees Motivated with Leadership


“Leadership is not a tough job…it’s the toughest.” I heard a boss say that one time and as the years have passed, I realize how true that statement is.

We don’t have to look far to see how this applies to our everyday life. We see it in sports, business and politics. Great organizations are headed up by great leaders. And what makes a great leader? Thousands of books have been written with multitudes of theories on the answer to this question. Is it in a person’s traits or can it be taught? The conversation and debate rages on.

However, there is one leadership imperative that we all deal with when running a company, an organization or a group. How do we keep employees motivated. Do we pay them more?

Maslow’s “Heirarchy of Needs” places money at the bottom of the pyramid. Frederick Herzberg says that money is a “dissatisfier.” Can that be right? What both Maslow and Herzberg are saying is not that money creates dissatisfaction. The point is that money does not serve as a motivator long term. Money is like food. It does not matter what you ate yesterday, you are still hungry today. The average “high” from a pay raise lasts two pay periods.

So, if you can’t motivate people with pay, how do we keep our employees motivated to help to grow the company, to increase sales, to become more productive, and ultimately, increase value for our customers?

Both Herzberg and Maslow agree: People react to things like achievement, recognition, work itself and additional responsibility. These are some of the things that make people feel good about who they are and what they do.

Simple things like award recognition for goals achieved, giving an employee an additional responsibility and then following up with a simple, spontaneous award (i.e. dinner certificate) can work wonders on employee morale and motivation. We have pizza parties for our entire facility when goals are achieved and give out gift cards when accomplishments are made. 

Don’t get me wrong, this does not take the place of raises. Remember, people still need to “eat.” But, in keeping your employees motivated, sometimes the smaller rewards go so much farther.

Bob Palka is the owner of Jacobs Ladder. He can be reached at bpalka@jacobsladderexercise.com.


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