The Guide to Motivation

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BetterUp Studios

10 min


What Is Motivation?

Successful leaders strive to leverage the capacity of others, but we all know that some methods are more effective than others. Instead of relying on rewards or punishments, motivating leaders bring people together around a shared vision and inspire them through their own passion.

Positive emotions are contagious. When leaders exude authentic enthusiasm, their coworkers feel more positive too. As a result of this positive ‘emotional contagion,’ individuals are moved to go above and beyond their basic responsibilities on behalf of the greater good.

Why does it matter (according to research)?

  • Supports teams. Inspiring leaders increase team performance, leading to higher job satisfaction and motivation among team members (Gong, Huang, & Farh, 2009).
  • Builds resilience. In times of stress, leaders who inspire help their teams feel more confident, encouraging them to do better work (Lyons & Schneider, 2009).
  • Boosts innovation and creativity. Inspiration is linked to creativity - particularly when there’s a clear, common purpose involved (Judge & Piccolo, 2004; Nohe et al., 2013).

What are some common behaviors of strong motivators?

  • Expressing genuine passion for your work to others.
  • Communicating an inspiring vision for the future.
  • Sharing the core values that drive your decisions.

What are some behaviors that indicate ‘motivating’ is a growth area?

  • Valuing efficiency above integrity.
  • Dismissing another’s lack of motivation as a character flaw.
  • Pushing an agenda on others without ‘buy in’.

How can I work to maximize my capacity to motivate others?

Identify your core values. Knowing and articulating what is important to you is more inspiring than action items alone.

Articulate your vision. The ability to articulate a compelling vision is critical to visionary leadership. Practice often and observe which elements of your narrative spark a light in those around you.

Express enthusiasm. Detached, cautious objectivity has its place, but authentic excitement can get a team into a higher gear. Be it quiet passion or boisterous excitement, do this in whatever way that fits your personal style.

Be a role model. Acting in accordance with your values, modeling ‘good work,’ and living with integrity inspire trust and respect, which are prerequisites to motivating your team.

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Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something that you want done because he/she wants to do it.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
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