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Motivating Employees As A New Manager

Wait, now I have to motivate these people to work? What did I actually sign up for? Don’t worry, there’s some good news. You are not accountable to motivate your team members every second of the day. Part of leadership is knowing when and how to motivate employees. 
As you learn about what drives each person on your team, you will develop a deeper understanding of how to motivate others when it’s needed. Taking a coach approach to leading empowers managers to commit to developing their co-workers as part of their role.

Two Types Of Employee Motivation

This is where you get a little bit of a break. Each person has their own intrinsic motivation. This is their own internal drive to succeed and develop as a professional. Research from a variety of notable sources show that intrinsic motivation can be energizing and boost the performance of team members. But what drives each person is different.

This is why it’s important to get to know your team members to find out what motivates them. Is it a variety in their work, attending industry conferences, or maybe it’s an opportunity to work on a really important project?

Extrinsic motivation refers to the potential rewards an individual might gain if they go the extra mile. This is not simply about incentives and perks. Extrinsic motivation depends on if the person actually believes their hard work will generate a reward, that they will actually be noticed for their contributions, and they have to WANT whatever the reward may be (a promotion, recognition, increased responsibility).

Learning what makes people tick

So what does this all mean for you? Are you supposed to become a detective and find out what makes each person work hard? The answer is…sort of. 

First you need to be genuinely interested in learning what motivates people to do good work. Next you have to be consciously observing your team (not stalking them) to understand what is driving employee performance. Circumstances like these can help:

  1. 1-1 meetings: These meetings are excellent protected times you should have built in to be working with team members. After debriefing a project or discussing their responsibilities, listen for what makes them more energized. Yes, you can also ASK people about what motivating factors drive them. (crazy idea, we know)

  2. How they respond to professional development: You’ll get to know who is more intrinsically motivated by how much professional development they seek to engage in. Are they keeping up with the industry or requesting speciality hard or soft skill training? People who seek to challenge themselves will do this wherever they go. These are usually your high performers who are on a mission to better themselves daily.

  3. What they volunteer for: When people put themselves out there for opportunities, responsibilities, or projects with enthusiasm it’s an important factor when it comes to what drives them. Maybe it’s the desire to contribute and make a difference or the opportunity to have increased visibility in the organization. When they raise their hand, pay attention.

How motivation pays off

Imagine motivation as the first domino in a winding line of perfectly placed dominoes. When people are motivated at work, they are engaged at work. When people are engaged at work, they perform at work. When people perform at work and get recognition for that performance, they become loyal to an organization and the company culture. All of these things impact each other in a positive way.

Think about what is possible when each person on your team is motivated, engaged, and contributing? This is every manager’s dream. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you continue to strive for tapping into each individual’s motivation, you’ll contribute to a win/win situation. You’ll be surrounded by happy employees with a high level of job satisfaction who WANT to be doing what they are doing and that might actually make you happy too.

Coaching Strategies For Motivating People

You might have some questions about the “how” of motivating people, so here come your handy tips. Let’s imagine you have been observing, listening, and coaching and you are starting to get an idea of what drives people on your team. Here’s how to sustain that motivation:

  1. Make sure to check in regularly about where people are the most engaged with their work. Asking a simple question like “What about your current workload is most/least exciting to you” can help you gauge where an employee’s motivation is currently being leveraged.

  2. Collect opportunities to professionally develop. Whether they are external or internal professional development activities, make sure to bring these to your team for those who will jump at the chance to learn and grow. 

  3. Use information about what motivates your team to inform project planning. Where possible, try to draw on individual motivations to assign work. You can’t always control this, but seize every opportunity to give people the kinds of work that drives them. 

  4. Get good at recognizing effort verbally. When people go the extra mile, say it in simple ways and share the impact. Even if every person isn’t driven by this, roll the dice that they just might be. Most humans like feeling noticed. For the ones that don’t, make sure to recognize them privately. For a small percentage of people, public recognition literally makes them want to hide under their desk so pay attention. 

If this seems like extra work, it is – but the good kind. You may not have all of these initiatives and awareness built into your job description, but this is part of being a great leader and increases employee engagement in order to develop a fantastic work environment. It’s an ongoing journey so give yourself some space and time to figure out what makes everyone tick – and yes, this includes you. And don’t forget to share with YOUR manager what you need to stay motivated and lead by example.

Talent Development in the Age of AI



About Stephanie Licata

With more than two decades of leadership and management experience, Stephanie Licata is a skilled professional coach, adult learning specialist, consultant and speaker. She has trained thousands of leaders and managers in the art and science of coaching as part of large-scale projects to develop coaching cultures within organizations. Stephanie received her professional coaching certification from New York University, and is also certified at the ACC level with the International Coaching Federation. She holds a BS in counseling and a Masters in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.

Picture of Stephanie Licata M.A. A.C.C.

Stephanie Licata M.A. A.C.C.

Stephanie is a learning and leadership strategist and coach who thrives on helping organizations create workplaces that work for everyone. She has trained thousands of Cloverleaf users at all levels to maximize the platform's potential. In addition, she has trained thousands of leaders across several industries in the art and science of coaching for developing individuals and teams. Stephanie has a Masters in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and is an ICF and NYU certified coach.