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If you’ve read my bio, you’ll know that some of my favorite content we teach at Riverbend is around Motivational Leadership. I am fascinated and passionate about self-motivation, motivation within teams / between colleagues, and between manager and direct report.

Our Motivational Leadership workshop was the original source of my enlightenment around how differently people are motivated. We help participants to identify what makes you enjoy (or even love!) your job. We teach about five different kinds of motivators, and then each motivator has two ways to “show up”. For example, I may be motivated by recognition – but is that recognition from my manager just to me (privately) or do I prefer being recognized in front of others (in fact, on stage at the company wide meeting is ideal).



Being aware of how you’re motivated, your internal drivers, and preferences takes time spent in reflection. Reflection does not come easily for everyone! However, that is a critical step in order to know what to ask for from others or what work environments to seek. Self-motivation also requires an awareness of your energy levels throughout the day, and to manage those to optimize productivity. Combining discipline during specific times of energy helps you accomplish more with less – less time or less energy.

To begin this self reflection process, consider my example above about recognition. When have you felt really valued and appreciated and how did someone go about affirming you in that moment or for your efforts and accomplishments? What was the setting, what exactly did they say or do? Collect some thoughts there about how you prefer to be motivated and when you know you are appreciated. Then also think about how you best motivate yourself. Is it through lists, working with others, having accountability, forming habits, etc? This self reflection helps when you go to communicate to your manager or team about how you prefer to be motivated. This reflection can also be clarifying for career or personal plans and in goal setting.


Motivation in teams and between colleagues: 

Since my introduction to the concept, I’ve also read Daniel Pink’s book, When, which shares more interesting research and insights on how the timing (beginnings, middles, and ends) can be effective natural motivators for individuals and teams. I was pleased to (finally) get around to reading all of White and Chapman’s The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace this week – a classic in regards to approaching motivation and appreciation in a business setting. I was interested to add the level of “appreciation” past motivators to how I think holistically motivation within a work setting.

I think that 5 Languages of Appreciation is a great additional layer of subtly and tool in the toolbox for managers and teams to do Motivational Leadership well. In my previous example of recognition, being able to layer into that whether my recognition (private vs public) should come in the form of a tangible gift, words of affirmation, quality time, or acts of service is another way to customize and make sure the recipient feels fully engaged, appreciated, valued, and motivated.

Being able to say “thank you” or “good job” to a colleague in a way that truly resonates with them is a great skill in building connection, trust, and a high performing team. It also requires that each team member recognize that how they are motivated may not, and probably is not, how a team member may be motivated. 5 Languages of Appreciation has some excellent examples and anecdotes around how different people think about motivation. If you’re struggling with ideas on how to support and affirm someone with different valued motivators and language of appreciation, the examples in 5 Languages of Appreciation could be a great resource for you.


Motivation between manager/direct report:

I believe that talking about motivating factors and how people prefer to be affirmed is an incredible opportunity for managers to quickly learn about differences among their team members. Especially for managers who have a team of multiple people with diverse personalities or behavior styles, getting to the root of what each employee finds motivating can be an effective first step in learning how to tailor a management and coaching style to each employee. This information can also be used as a cornerstone in their retention plan for each team member.

Retention and turn over is a huge problem for many companies. Understandably, companies are starting to become less eager to invest time and training in developing employees because of fear they will leave and take their training elsewhere. However, what I’ve read says that employees who are being developed and who feel appreciated and valued at work will be engaged. Engaged employees produce better results for your company, which shows up in profit, customer service, and organizational culture… among other places! Most importantly, though, engaged employees are less likely to leave – and if they are engaged and thinking about leaving, you’re more likely to hear about it before they do and have an opportunity to step in and possibly redirect or help problem solve in order to retain the talent.


I believe that intentionality and personalization in how you affirm and motivate employees and team members, and even yourself, is a critical piece of leadership with a low barrier of entry. Get to know how both you and how each person in your team prefers to feel appreciated and what motivates them. Then, add in a little knowledge about how teams work together on a deadline. Finally, combine and use these pieces of information to your advantage to immediately impact the engagement on your team among team members and between direct reports and managers.

Author Doreen Linneman

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