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Category Archives: Motivation Tools

Want employee engagement? Ensure that your people have a sense of purpose about their jobs

In my last instalment in this video series, I talked about how you can create employee engagement simply by being clear about the performance you desire from your staff.  Today’s strategy: create a vision and sense of purpose.

Create a vision and sense of purpose

As a leader, it’s up to you to create a shared vision, so that your team members can see the big picture.  To create employee engagement, you should be creating a sense of purpose; so that your employees appreciate their significance to your department and your organization.  Now, sometimes people don’t understand what I mean when I say this, so let me try and clarify by using an example from my own professional experience.

The bad

Here’s a description of what I do:

As a professional speaker and trainer, I travel to over 100 cities a year giving keynotes and seminars.  Unfortunately, I find myself spending a lot of time in airports, usually running to catch a flight that I invariably miss due to a late connection, and then sitting around for several hours waiting for the next flight.  In the airport, I often have to deal with overworked staff whose customer service skills have deteriorated as the day has worn on.  In a nutshell, they’re cranky, and as a result, often quite difficult to deal with.  When I finally get to my destination, I often find myself eating a poorly-cooked (and overpriced) meal, and then sleeping in an uncomfortable bed.  In a nutshell, I get cranky, and often difficult to deal with! 

So here’s my question – after this description, would you want my job?  I suspect that many of you would answer, “No way, Merge. Keep your job!”

The good

Now consider this alternate description of what I do. Continue reading

When you set your people up for success, employee engagement is the outcome

In the last instalment of my ongoing video series on employee engagement and motivation, I talked about the importance of setting and articulating attainable goals.  Today’s tip continues on that idea.  Today’s strategy is to be clear about the performance you desire.

Be clear about the performance you desire

See, while it’s absolutely critical that you set and articulate goals with your staff, it’s just as important to be very clear about what performance you desire.  As leaders, we sometimes make a critical mistake with our employees, particularly those who are experienced and have been around for a while.  We assume that they can read our minds.  But of course, as good as your employees may be, I can pretty much guarantee that they cannot read your mind.  Continue reading

Feeling undervalued at work?

Last week I blogged about one idea of what to do when you feel undervalued at work, and specifically by your boss.  It was to spread the word about your good work yourself.  I had promised though that I wanted to share one more idea on this topic.

First, reflective

This strategy is at first reflective.  Ask yourself: What do I need to feel valued?  Keep in mind that the answer to this question will differ greatly from person to person because different people are motivated by different things.  Would you like more flexibility – in your work responsibilities, in your working hours, in where you work?  Is it recognition you need – you just want others to acknowledge that you are making a significant contribution?  If this is it, then do you thrive on public acknowledgement or private appreciation?  Are you seeking more autonomy and decision-making authority?  Or perhaps you’d just like more support or assistance, either on a temporary or permanent basis?  Could it be that getting a bigger expense account or more vacation time would translate to you feeling less undervalued?

Next, active

While your first step is reflective, your next step is active.  Once you know what it is that will stop you from feeling undervalued, only then can you do something to actually get it.  Continue reading

If you want employee engagement, set and articulate attainable goals

I hope you’re enjoying this video series that I started at the beginning of this year, focusing on specific strategies you can use to create employee engagement.  My last tip was to give your employees face-time with your customers.  Today’s idea, strategy #16, is very fundamental to good leadership: set and articulate attainable goals.

Set and articulate attainable goals

There are three key words that I want you to take note of : they are “set”, “articulate” and “attainable”.

Let’s talk about “set” first.  There is an old leadership adage – what gets measured gets done.  If you don’t set goals, people don’t have anything to shoot for, there is no destination to get excited and motivated about, quite frankly, there will be zero employee engagement.  If you don’t tell people where you’re going, don’t be surprised if they don’t get there.  In fact, don’t be surprised if they end up some place completely different than what you had intended.  So set goals.

Second, make sure you articulate them.  And by that, I mean, Continue reading

Feeling underappreciated by the boss?

“It’s a good thing I am self-motivated,” said a good friend in a client organization.  “Because if I was looking for appreciation or validation from my boss, I’d be waiting an eternity.”  Sadly, this sentiment is not unique.  Employee survey research repeatedly shows that a significant segment of the workforce feels underappreciated at work.  Which is deeply ironic.  Because employee motivation research also unequivocally shows that employees who are appreciated for their contributions and recognized for their achievements are vastly more satisfied, engaged, motivated and productive than those who are not.

So what should you do?

So what should you do if you feel underappreciated by your immediate supervisor?  Learn to suck it up and live with it?  Well, no.  Just because the boss doesn’t appreciate you doesn’t mean there isn’t value in making sure that your worth is recognized beyond just your immediate department.  If your boss isn’t spreading the word about your good work, then it’s time to toot your own horn.  And yes, if done correctly, it won’t come across as arrogant or conceited or boastful. Continue reading

An unusual but effective approach to motivating employees

So today I’m back with strategy #15 in our video blog series this year – focusing on specific tips for motivating employees.  For the last two episodes, I’ve focused on using fun for motivating employees (see have dress-up and dress-down days and play games).  Fun is a great motivator and I’ll pick up on that theme again in a future instalment.  But today, I want to talk about another approach to motivating employees – give them face time with your customers.

Give your employees face time with customers

This strategy is particularly powerful with the administrative employees on your team, the people who don’t normally meet with the end-consumer of your product or service.  Usually, the face-to-face interactions with your customer happen with those who have sales or business development in their titles.  But of course, there is always a team of people back in the home office who support the sales function, some in a direct manner, but just as many in indirect ways. Continue reading

What does it take, really take, to create engaged employees?

When was the last time you washed a rental car? Probably never. And the reason is simple. Because you don’t own it.  This simple reality offers a compelling insight into what it takes, really takes, to create engaged employees.

Four things you can do with immediate impact

In my latest column for this morning’s The Globe and Mail, I lay out four specific things you can do as a leader to create a level of interest and ownership that would not only get your employees to wash the cars, but also check the oil, and rotate the tires.  Interestingly enough, none of the four are high-level strategic engagement initiatives developed by senior management at the annual planning retreat, or policies developed by a small army of bureaucrats in a backroom somewhere.

What it really takes for an employee to be engaged

engaged employees

I make the point in today’s column that engaged employees occur at an individual level, person by person, and as a direct result of the one-on-one relationship each of your staff has with their immediate and direct supervisor.   Which means that if you’re a manager, supervisor, team leader, or any other title that has direct responsibility for people, then your behaviour and actions will unequivocally determine how engaged each of your employees are.  This is a weighty responsibility, one that I believe no leader should ever take lightly.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link:

But as always, I’d like to hear what you think.  What have been your experiences?  Do the four specific actions I list in this column resonate with you.  Please share your thoughts by commenting below.


The secret fun factor for motivating employees – play games!

Today’s blog post continues our series of specific ideas for motivating employees.  In our last instalment, I told you about a fun approach – to have dress-up and dress-down days.  Well, today’s tip has a strong fun factor as well.  It is to play games.

Play games

Again, your imagination is the limit.  In some of my client organizations, they’ve conducted hallway bowling and hallway golf contests.  Some have even held office chair races.  By the way, it’s a good idea to use chairs with wheels for this one!  Another good one is to post staff baby or high school pictures and guess who they are.  And again, let your staff members organize these – planning is half the fun.  Your role should be to create an environment in which it’s okay to have fun in this way.

Another word about last time’s video tip

I want to take a moment to address some of the reactions to my last episode about dress-up and dress-down days.  Some of you raised concerns about this concept of “workplace fun”.  Continue reading

Motivating employees with dress-up and dress-down days!

In our last instalment on motivating employees, I told you about the value of facilitating lively and informative staff meetings.  So now here is today’s tip.  It’s a fun one: have dress-up and dress-down days.

Have dress-up and dress-down days

Let’s start with dress-up – these can be anything, limited only by your imagination, and of course, the constraints of what would be appropriate in your workplace.  Here are some real-life ideas from client organizations – celebrity look-alike day, crazy tourist day, throwback day, international day, wacky sock day, crazy hat day, ugly tie day, seventies day, favourite cartoon character day, I think you get the idea.  Different holidays make perfect dress-up themes – Valentine’s, St Patrick’s, and of course, how could I forget Halloween.  For even more crazy fun, have twin day – that’s when each person selects a co-worker and they come to work dressed in identical or almost identical outfits.  If you can, give out small low-value prizes to ramp up the fun factor. Continue reading

Again … here’s why the traditional performance review doesn’t work!

Earlier in January this year, the subject of one of my regular columns for The Globe & Mail was titled It’s time to get rid of the performance review.  In it, I made the case for why the “performance review”, long a staple in many organizations, was an archaic practice that no longer served any useful purpose.  So when a colleague and long-time reader of the blog forwarded me a link to this recent article in Harvard Business Review, not surprisingly, it caught my attention.

People Don’t Want to Be Compared with Others in Performance Reviews. They Want to Be Compared with Themselves

performance review

A quick summary of the article …

While you can read the entire article at the link above, here’s a Coles Notes version.  Essentially, in this paper, the authors compare two types of reference points in four studies on performance reviews containing data collected from 1,024 American and Dutch employees. Continue reading