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With all the talk of down-turn and the impact it has on people, managers have to work even smarter to maintain the motivation of their colleagues. Adversity is a time when leadership shines through and as all supervisors and managers have leadership responsibility isn’t now the time to step forward and lead from the front?

Motivation is one of those fuzzy topics that many managers struggle with. What, for instance, are people motivated by? How do you work out each individual’s motivations? How do you know what techniques to use? These are all questions that go through our minds. Motivation theory is also riddled with high faluting, academic content which in itself is a mine field. However, there are four key motivators which apply to all of us who go to work each day.

These are:
• The motivation to acquire things such as food and housing, at the basic end, through to things which give us status and enjoyment. When the opportunity to buy these disappears it leaves a vacuum.
• The motivation to bond with colleagues, teams, companies and managers. People like to belong and need to know they are ‘part of the team’.
• The motivation to understand what is going on. Our instincts drive us to process information – if the information stops flowing this unsettles us.
• The motivation to defend what we have. In the simplest terms humans don’t like moving backwards, so if we can’t go forward we will fight hard to stand still!

In these tough times, managers would do well to focus on six activities. Each of these will help team leaders make the best from an uncertain situation and build motivation - if they are delivered well.

1. Aim for and celebrate quick wins – set short term goals and make a fuss when they are achieved.
2. Think and do things differently – encourage people to be creative, if you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always got.
3. Be inclusive – remember that everyone has a need to bond and understand.
4. Listen to your people – let them air their concerns and listen intently, don’t flannel them.
5. Learn and act on learning - actively work out what you are going to stop, start and continue doing.

And finally

6. Keep positive – if you are negative and downbeat, this will filter through to your colleagues and is hugely demotivating.

All management challenges have one thing in common - they are easy to talk about and much harder to do. Execution, commitment and follow through will determine those organisations that succeed in the face of adversity. Equally, great motivation comes from great leadership so now is the time to lead from the front if you want your people to stay engaged and deliver great results.

Richard Leech is the Managing Partner of Cambridge based One Engage and Retain, a division of The One Group which has offices in Cambridge and Peterborough

July 2008

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