Are You Demotivating Your Staff (Featured On The Straits Times – 2 Feb 2018)


The million-dollar question on most leader’s minds is – how can they motivate their people?

When I am asked that question, I say that that a more useful question to ask is not how we can motivate our people – but what we say or do as leaders that demotivates others.

There is no point trying to motivate employees when the environment or leaders do not do what is required to inspire staff.

I believe that everyone came in with a full tank of motivation when they first joined the company. Unfortunately, the level of this tank of motivation diminishes over time – be it because of the job, people, office politics or a boss who demotivates his staff.

Here are three things leaders often unconsciously do that demotivate their people.

1. Telling them what to do.

How far an organization empowers its staff depends on how willing leaders are to grant some degree of autonomy to them.

More often than not, employers are unable to let and trust that their people can deliver the goods – simply because doing so comes with a risk of being held accountable when the results of such empowerment are less than satisfactory.

Most people do not like to be told what to do. When leaders dish out instructions, they are actually suppressing any ideas that employees have and discouraging them from exercising their wisdom and creativity.

Employees like their leaders to be able to use their talent creatively – so make sure you do so if you are their leader.

For instance,  when delegating a task to an employee, say: “I’d like you to have a look at this and tell me what you would do if you were in my shoes.”

When the employee comes back to you with his thoughts, exchange ideas and possibilities with him. Empower him by saying: “if I were in your shoes, these would be my options, but since you are in charge, I would like you to decide what is more useful to you.”

The point: Let the employee make his own choices.

2. Interrupting a discussion

Studies has shown that if a leader allows a group to arrive at a decision through he should not interrupt the discussion. If not, you may come across as a leader who micro-manage everything – right down to what they say and think.

Yet, there is a good timing when you can join the discussion – the halfway point. For instance, If the meeting is scheduled to last 30 minute, you can come in at the 15-minute mark.

Research has shown that the halfway point works as it is likely that the group has had enough information to clock a milestone by then. By appearing at the halfway point, you can value-add for the team to make a sound decision.

The point:Leaders should enter discussion at the half-way point.

3. Lack of Feedback

Constructive feedback is crucial to the team’s journey.

Giving feedback is a form of motivation because it provides clarity of what has been working well and how employees can improve. Most of us thrive on progress – and nothing beats doing something well and discovering a better way to get there.

The entire team will become more motivated when feedback is given and received consistently. This is not just about how the team can improve – but how the leader can grow with regard to how he communicates and get things done with a reasonable amount of autonomy.

The challenge is for a leader to get over his ego if they want motivated staff. When expectations are clear, employees will go all out to make things happen without the leader having to try too hard to motivate them.

The point: Give and received feedback regularly.