First of all it's not your job to motivate them. The concept of motivation implies that it is the responsibility of people to motivate themselves. As long as you see it as your responsibility to motivate them, guess what, you will always have to motivate them by finding clever, creative and innovative ways to accomplish this and trust me sooner or later you will tire of this responsibility. It is better to have them understand that their motivation is their responsibility not yours as their manager. Motivation is an inside-out not an out-side in individual responsibility.
The role of a manager is only to create a positive motivating, validating and empowering motivational climate in which employees are willing to take full responsibility for their own motivation.
Having said this if you have employees who need constant motivation either they don't understand the above concept or you need to re-consider their role in your organization.
There are two traditional methods of motivating employees that are being used in thousands of companies by millions of managers to "MOTIVATE" their employees. They are: fear or punishment and reward or incentives. Both of these motivational environments are temporary and appeal to the outside-in need to be motivated.
Fear Motivation is based on punishment of some kind from the withdrawal of a privilege to being fired. If fear motivation is the dominant type you or your organization uses, I will bet you live with a great deal of frustration and poor performance not to mention the negative climate and culture. People can build up an immunity to your threats. And if they are no longer concerned about the punishment, these methods just won't motivate them over the long term. Fear motivation is also negative and tends to de-motivate, the opposite of what you are attempting to accomplish.
Reward or incentive motivation is based on a want or need of the employee. The problem is, if they don't want what you are rewarding them with, guess what it won't be a motivator. I worked with a client years ago where the average yearly sales compensation was over $150,000 per employee. The president was frustrated because their potential was in excess of $300,000 a year. No additional incentives would improve performance because each of the employees was satisfied with his or her current compensation levels. So offering them bribes, bonuses or nicer drapes in their office just didn't work to get them to work harder to sell more so they could earn more.
There is an old saying that says. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." You can, however, put some salt in his oats to make him a little thirstier.
The only motivation that works for the long haul is turning over the responsibility of motivation to the individual. That's why it is called self-motivation.
This third type of motivation is based on a person's attitude development. He or she does more or does it better not because you want them to, threaten them or promise them the moon but because they want to.
The key role of a manager is to hire self-motivated employees, then do as little as possible to get in their way or de-motivate them.
Tim Connor, CSP is an internationally renowned sales, management and leadership speaker, trainer and best selling author. Since 1981 he has given over 3500 presentations in 21 countries on a variety of sales, management, leadership and relationship topics. He is the best selling author of over 60 books including; Soft Sell, That's Life, Peace Of Mind, 91 Challenges Managers Face Today and Your First Year In Sales. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-895-1230 or visit his website at www.timconnor.com.