Staff Motivation: What pushes people to do more?

April 14, 2014 By  Leave a Comment

Have you ever wondered why people hire personal fitness trainers instead of working out on their own? Or business owners hire business coaches? The answer is actually quite simple: the trainer, or coach, gives their ‘trainees’ the motivation to go beyond their comfort zone, and gets them to do much more than they thought was possible.

Everyone has a comfort zone, that personal, mental space we live in, where we know what the boundaries are, and where we feel a sense of security. We’re warm and cosy in this zone that we’ve created, and we rarely venture outside of it.

I’m not saying that a comfort zone is a bad thing – it isn’t. It protects us, and stops us doing stupid things, like jumping off a cliff. But this comfort zone can keep us from learning and developing new skills.

It might be the same person knuckling down to do some exercises, or the same business person walking into a room full of strangers to lead a presentation, but someone is changing their mindset. The trainer or coach is telling them they can do it. They believe it and that belief allows them to achieve much more.

Shouldn’t all employees be self-motivated?

It’s proven that the right mentor can push an individual to do so much more. And this is just as true in the workplace as it is in any gym or business coaching group. Encouraging employees to stretch beyond their comfort zone can result in your team meeting tighter deadlines, improving product features, offering a better customer experience and a whole host of other business benefits.

The difficulty is that most people, when left to their own devices, will choose to stay inside of their comfort zone.

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." ~ Michelangelo

How can you motivate your employees to step out of their comfort zone?

Firstly, you need to understand your employees. If you understand your employees, then you’ll know what really motivates them, which means that you can tailor and personalise the incentives and rewards that are available to them. Never underestimate the power of a personalised reward to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone. Invest some time in finding out what your employees like doing outside of work, what are their hobbies?

Secondly, you need to understand your employees’ roles and their skillsWhat are their strengths, and how can you leverage those strengths? Once identified you could delegate more responsibility to them accordingly, or give them a bigger, more prominent, project to lead that suits their skillset. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to undertake a secondment to a different team, and learn a new skill set. Encourage your team to discover what else they can do. Tell them why you believe they can achieve it, and instil a sense of confidence in your employees.

You’ll quickly find that if your employees believe they can do it, and they have the incentive of a personal reward, then they will achieve it. And, once your employees start achieving things that they once thought were impossible, then the boundaries of their previous comfort zone slip further away. They’ll start to challenge themselves more and become highly motivated to perform beyond your expectations.



John Sylvester is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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