Inspire employees

Motivating Employees

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership


This topic is one that seems to never go away or have a lack of seminars, conferences, and coaching opportunities. I doubt there is anything much new to say that will be helpful beyond my observation that motivation comes from within, de-motivation is what the leadership team must focus on removing. What we as leaders can do is inspire our colleagues and employees to see the vision of where we want to go with our company.

Clarity of Vision

Employees come to work wanting to perform well, achieve the agreed upon goals, and be thought of as successful. So what de-motivates them? Not having the tools to do their assigned task; not being heard when they have suggestions; no positive feedback on their accomplishments or areas for improvement; remuneration that is significantly lower than their peers within and outside the company; lack of support from the leadership team; and inconsistency between the stated goals, mission, vision and the actions of the leadership team. Employees come to us with a full complement of motivation, it is up to us to make sure we remove all the things which de-motivate them and nurture those things which keep their motivation level high.

The rub, of course, is that which de-motivates me is something that you don’t even notice! Perhaps I need to have a clean, neat, well supplied office and surroundings in order to feel comfortable and able to concentrate on my work. You on the other hand couldn’t possibly care less about the work environment as long as your phone and computer are up and running. You may put a great deal of emphasis on having the authority to go along with your responsibility and want to exercise that authority frequently to feel you are adding value to our enterprise. I may want to do things in a facilitated group manner making sure no one person has that authority which you cherish. I may want a stable work life so that I can feel secure about knowing what to expect in life. You may be excited by the constant chaos of change and new challenges. Find out what inspires your employees; it is often things other than actual money or cash. Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, has a lot to say about this topic.


The task of the leadership team is to make sure that despite our differences, we are both motivated to complete our tasks in the most reasonable fashion possible while at the same time keeping the organization moving forward through continuous innovation and improvement in the goods and services provided to the end user. So we must work within the given limits of conducting business today. Constant change in the business model means that we have to have a solid, relatively stable Ethics Process upon which to evaluate all the potential changes and innovations. An attractive office environment will not be a distraction to those who do not need one so perhaps that is the common denominator. Certainly we can work to have competitive benefits and salaries. And certainly we can focus on removing the de-motivating policies, procedures, and environmental issues whenever possible. Leave the motivation to the individuals.

Disparity in Executive Pay

This section would not be complete without mentioning the highly de-motivating executive pay and benefits of some companies these days. It will come as no surprise that very few people other than the CEOs, COOs, and CFOs themselves can justify the more exorbitant perks, benefits, stock options, and salaries being pulled down by executives while others are being laid-off and corporate profits are “in the tank.” Not only is this wide disparity in pay de-motivating to the employees in general, it opens the door to those who would violate their own moral values in order to “get their share” of the goods. It fosters a sense of entitlement that is extremely dangerous to our companies and employees.

As corporate leaders, we should look very hard at pay differentials between employees, functions, and executives. Those differentials may motivate a few individuals and de-motivate the rest of the organization as they see themselves becoming the victims on whose back the opulent are making ill-gotten gains. While it is important to have some differentiation in pay that is directly commensurate with the value added for all the stakeholders, most would not disagree that things have gotten out of hand at a few highly visible companies.


The latest unemployment figures being revealed as I post this are not encouraging. After restating previous unemployment numbers and stating that more than 9% of the workforce is idled or underemployed, we are faced with an economy that has not created jobs at a rate that will relieve the downward pressure on consumption. Faced with these statistics, it is no wonder that the average American worker feels a bit exercised at Chief Executives earning multi-million dollar salaries and corporations earning record profits. Regardless of what one may believe regarding the justification for executive pay packages, the perception is that many are simply greedy and selfish. Perception is reality.