“Motivation is a fire from within.  If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Managers are expected to motivate the staff they oversee; it comes with the job title. If Stephen Covey, the author of one of most influential self-help book written, states that “motivation is a fire from within,” how is it possible for this to be done?

Taking a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs there are 5 levels that humans must meet in order to fulfill their needs.  The first level is the basic needs of food, water, sleep, etc.  Once these are met, the second level,  safety, becomes priority including having “job security.”

Managers can help give employees this security by making sure that the employee knows his or her job duties and is given the proper training to complete them.

If employees feel secure in their job, then they will move up to level 3, which is the need to belong. Almost everyone who has to work wants to be a part of the work group and develop relationships.  Managers can play a big part in making employees feel that they are part of the team by engaging with them and letting them know they are valued.  If this is accomplished and the social needs are met, the employee will seek the next level.

Level 4 is the need for self-esteem, achievement and respect.  Managers need to keep their ears and eyes open to catch their employees doing what is right and commend them for it.  Let them know often what a great job they are doing and how much you respect them for the efforts they put into their job.  Remember, when they do well you look good.

As level 4 is met the gears start moving and employees will become more self-motivated as they gain the desire to meet level 5, self-actualization. They will want to learn more about the work they do and how they can help solve problems and be creative. They want to be more valuable to the company.

It is at this point that managers need to let employees take ownership of their job and continue to support, commend, and provide the tools necessary for the employee to do a great job.

It is important for managers to ask employees what will motivate them to want to continue to grow and perform well.  Listen to what they have to say and work with them to make it happen.

By understanding our human nature and what makes us strive to reach the top-level we can then understand where our employees are at and what we can do to help them move up the levels to becoming self-motivated on the job.  Their success is your success.