Employers look for many things when hiring new team members. Technical skills, cultural fit, a positive attitude – these all top the list of desirable attributes. However, there is one trait that’s quickly moving up the list of “most wanted” qualities: The ability to motivate others.

Self-motivation has long been important to employers. After all, managers don’t want to spend time holding employees’ hands or chasing them to get things done. They want to know that their staff has the intrinsic motivation required to get the job done. Yet they also want to work with individuals who can motivate others as well.

Collaboration: The New Normal

Employers’ preference for motivational individuals stems in large part from the overall trend toward more collaborative workplaces. Research indicates that the most successful people and enterprises are those that are the most collaborative, because, simply put, no matter how great your ideas are and how talented you are, you can only exist in a silo for so long.

No matter what the project, there are going to be other people who need to be involved and who are an integral part of the success of the project. By working with others, the whole becomes greater than just the sum of its parts. Everyone brings something to the table, and together the finished project is better than if only one person used his or her own strengths.

The emphasis on collaboration in the modern workplace means that the ability to motivate others is a key skill. Successful collaboration is more than just sharing information or a division of labor. Collaboration generally requires inspiring and influencing others to spur them to action and to recognize the important role that they play in the project. But motivation isn’t just about convincing team members to do what you want them to do. It’s about making them feel good about their contribution and respecting their role in the process.

What Makes a Great Motivator?

Often, when we talk about motivation in the workplace, it’s reward-based. At the base level, there is the obvious: Do your work, or lose your job. Avoiding unemployment is a powerful motivator for most people. Businesses often attempt to motivate employees to go above and beyond by offering incentives as well: You can motivate your sales staff with bonuses for exceeding goals, for instance, or get people to join the wellness program by offering health insurance discounts.

However, motivation goes much deeper than financial incentives – and most employees have no control over those rewards anyway. Even if you don’t have a stockpile of cash to draw from or the power to hire or fire individuals, you can still be a motivator and influencer. It starts by understanding the traits of a great motivator.

  • Be kind. Making enemies is not going to get others to work with you, so be kind.
  • Be transparent. Being transparent is more than just being honest. It’s providing all the information before you are asked, and being upfront from the get-go.
  • Do what you say you are going to do, and do it on time. Lead by example.
  • Learn to choose your battles. Collaboration is about give and take, and if you try to control every aspect of the project, your team will become frustrated and fight you at every turn. Determine what is worth fighting for, and what you can let go.
  • Practice active listening, and listen to understand, not respond.
  • Do more than you must. You don’t have to take on the whole project yourself, but going above and beyond when it counts will motivate others to do the same.

Building Your Motivational Skills

Many of the skills that make great motivators are the same that make great leaders. Leadership skills are among the most sought after by employers and can be best developed in one of the top online MBA programs. However, outside of the classroom, you can build your motivational abilities by:

  • Developing relationships with your co-workers. When your teammates know and trust you, they are more likely to follow your example than if you are aloof and mysterious.
  • Committing to showing appreciation. Send a quick note of thanks to someone who helped you out – or if the favor was a big one, take him or her out to coffee or lunch. People will always do more when they feel appreciated.
  • Practice positivity. It’s not always easy to maintain a great mood at work, but maintaining a good attitude and viewing challenges as opportunities can be infectious.

Being a great motivator doesn’t mean you need to make inspiring speeches while standing on a desk. It simply means inspiring others to give their best through your behavior and interactions. Not only will you be more attractive to employers when you can do this, but you’ll be more successful in your career.


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Larry Tyler
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Larry Tyler

Great post. Very informative and actionable.

Chris Pehura
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Chris Pehura

When working with people, we have two ends of the spectrum. We can manage relationships. Or we can manage production.

When we focus on relationship, we focus on people.
When we focus on production, we focus on things.

We need both in an individual and in an organization; and the wisdom when to do which.

Wendy Porter
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Wendy Porter

Great information! It makes for a much nicer work environment when you have motivated employees/managers. It makes you want to strive for greater achievements yourself. By being a motivator you will help others to follow your lead which leads to greater assets for your company.

Jeanine Joy
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Jeanine Joy

Employers who want employees who enhance the corporate culture can help existing employees become more positively focused and collaborative. Employees who don’t think positively can learn to reprogram their minds to be more positive but they have to know how to change their habits of thought. An individual with negative habits of thought will find it impossible to change to more positive thinking unless they understand how to reprogram their brain. Most of the 60,000 thought we think a day are habitual, not thoughtful.