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Three Ways to Wake Up and Motivate a Team of Zombies

By Gloria West

There are few things more frightening to a manager than an unmotivated horde of employees mindlessly moving from task to task.

Like a horror-movie plague, a lack of motivation can quickly spread throughout an organization, affecting morale and killing productivity. As leaders, it’s our job to fight back by inspiring our team to maximize their abilities and impact.

These three tips will help you battle and survive the zombie mentality that can consume a workplace and drain the motivation from your team — no homemade weapons required.

Set Clear Goals

Employees who are detail-oriented, logical and methodical tend to be motivated by clear and achievable goals. These are the folks that, as kids, needed only to be dared to try something. While annual performance goals have their place, short-term challenges are valuable tools for motivation.

These short-term goals can be simple — labeling every item in the warehouse by the end of the month, for example, or beating a certain production number every week for the next month. Employees are often motivated just from knowing they have something clear they’re trying to achieve. Make sure the goals you set are specific and measurable. They can be be stretch goals, as long as they are do-able and reasonable.

Create some level of friendly competition between the team and yourself, such as buying breakfast if the goal is reached. And don’t fear what happens if they don’t reach the goal. Goal-oriented people are just that — goal oriented. If they don’t hit it, they understand they won’t get the reward.

Give Positive Feedback

Although research has found that workers respond more strongly to positive feedback, it remains one of the most overlooked areas of workplace leadership. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that only about half of the U.S. workforce feel valued by their employer and more than a third said they hadn’t received any form of recognition in the last year. Additionally, fewer than a third of employees said that direct supervisors express verbal or written appreciation for their work.

Be genuine and specific with praise. Empty platitudes are meaningless or, worse, condescending. Quality and sincere feedback is an excellent motivator.

Keep watch: be present with eyes and ears open for what employees are doing well. Don’t wait for a spectacular feat. They are few and far between. Give positive feedback to those employees who are quietly meeting your expectations, a group that is easy to overlook and can feel invisible.

Give More Freedom and Autonomy

Unlike the walking dead mindlessly looking for their next meal, there is considerable science that suggests real human beings are motivated by being the masters of their own lives. This dynamic absolutely applies in the workplace.

Freedom and autonomy are proven drivers of motivation. Micromanagement, on the other hand, is the barbed-wire covered baseball bat killer of worker freedom and motivation. Fortunately, encouraging worker freedom is pretty easy.

This can take on different forms. Offer flexibility with work schedules or ask people to be part of key decisions. Put employees in charge of something, whether it’s temporarily covering for you or leading a project. Give employees the space to achieve goals in ways they see fit, rather than how you dictate. Let your team members have autonomy — tell them the result you want to accomplish, but let them find their own path to that goal.

Motivated and engaged employees are an essential component of any dynamic and successful business. As leaders, it’s our job to ensure zombies remain firmly in the realm of fiction.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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