10 Tips to Become a Motivating Supervisor

Are you a motivating supervisor for employees? Here are 10 tips that can help in becoming a motivator.

Does a supervisor actually motivate employees or does a supervisor provide the environment where employees motivate themselves?  Can you motivate someone or do they motivate themselves?

There are more than just these schools of thought on motivation. There are so many things written that talk about the issue of motivation.  You would have to be very motivated to read them all.  The question for each supervisor is, do you choose to do things that can motivate your employees or take it for granted that they will motivate themselves? Different things motivate different employees. One is motivated by money and another is motivated by recognition.

Tips for Becoming a Motivating Supervisor

Let’s look at 10 things you as a supervisor can do to motivate employees or provide the environment where they may choose to motivate themselves:

1. Give employees a clear picture of what is expected of them.

Knowing what is expected of them gives employees an understanding of what they should be striving to achieve. It’s difficult for an employee to accomplish what you as a supervisor expect of them if it’s not clear in their minds exactly what that is. Most employees want to be successful. It is up to the supervisor to provide a clear path to success. Very few employees go to work wanting to do a lousy job. However, many go to work not having a clear picture of what they are to accomplish and more importantly why. We no longer have a workforce content with just taking orders. They want to know more about what is to be accomplished.

2. Provide the tools for employees to be successful.

In today’s world not having the necessary technology can significantly reduce employees’ effectiveness. It can also create frustration and a lack of productivity. Beyond technology, the arrangement of the office and how it is equipped can lead to improved performance. The creation of an office environment that makes working easier can be conducive to employees being more successful.

3. Build trust.

Trust is most easily defined as a reliance on the honesty, dependability, and strength of character of someone. Trust is faith in a person’s abilities or words and includes the degree to which one believes that another person will look out for their best interests. When employees trust a supervisor, they are more productive. Some supervisors take it for granted that they are trusted but have never done the work to ensure trust. A breakdown in trust also leads to a breakdown in communication. A breakdown in communication also leads to a reduction in productivity.

One of the best ways to build trust is to show appreciation for the work of an employee. Appreciation makes an employee want to achieve more and to trust more in their supervisor. One of the most common reasons employees leave their employment or transfer to another position is their relationship or lack of a relationship with their supervisor. Often because of a lack of trust.

4. Show Respect.

Respect can be defined as thinking highly of someone as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements. There are various ways to show respect in the workplace. Complimenting an employee for a job well done is the surest way. Giving deference to their opinions is another.  It is clear to an employee when their supervisor does not respect them. By a supervisor’s actions, it should also be equally clear when a supervisor respects an employee. Simply telling an employee you respect their skills, attitude, or work ethic also can be a very powerful way of showing respect.

5. Show interest in the employees’ careers.

Most employees are interested in advancing in their careers. It may be a promotion or a transfer to a job that they are interested in. Helping employees advance gives them the desire to do a better job. It shows they are more than just a widget hired to do a job. Employees blossom when mentored by their supervisor or other managers. A mentor is anyone who can share knowledge with a less-knowledgeable person and further, more than just teaching, is someone who can provide the mentee with insights, counsel, and life lessons beyond just the technical tasks. This mentor relationship helps employees to have someone who is interested in them and their careers.

6. Offer training.

Training can be the building block to advancement and greater job satisfaction. Training that improves skills and makes the employee more eligible for promotion can incentivize employees to do a better job. 

7. Communicate often. 

The more employees hear from their supervisor the more likely they are to work effectively. Communication is the foundation of trust. The greater the communication the greater the opportunity to build trust. Having effective meetings with employees can result in a greater understanding of the goals of the organization.

8. Give employees a chance to participate in solving workplace problems.

The more employees own the solutions to a workplace problem, the more they are likely to be intent on making their implementation successful. The less they participate in solving problems, the less they may be willing to ungrudgingly implement them. Most supervisors think of themselves as problem solvers. They know that if there is a problem, they will come up with a solution. However, there is always more than one way to solve a problem, and problems can be solved alone, with the input of other supervisors, or with employees. Much of the informal give and take in a workplace is actually collaborative problem-solving. Supervisors and employees often engage in informal as well as formal problem-solving processes that can either enhance communication or, when unsuccessful, leading to distrust. It is important to take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with your employees when collaboration makes sense for the work place. 

9. Explain the goals of the organization.

Employees need to know the big picture. How do they fit in with the overall goals of the organization and especially what those goals are must be communicated to them? Employees must understand why what they do is important. The more they understand the goals the harder they will work to achieve them. 

10. Reward employees. 

Many employers think that money is what is the greatest motivator of employees. Employees must be appropriately compensated or they will not be able to be retained by an employer. There are innumerable studies that show that of all the things that motivate employees, money is not on the top of the list for all employees. A sense of accomplishment often comes out on top. However, that is not to say that rewarding employees through compensation and bonuses does not provide motivation to some employees. Quite often the recognition symbolized by a bonus or an award is what provides the motivation to many employees and not the money itself. 

It’s easier to de-motivate than it is to motivate.

Many things a supervisor does may actually act to de-motivate employees. Avoiding de-motivators can be just as important as providing an environment that acts to motivate employees. As an example, failing to recognize employees who believe they are deserving of recognition is a good way to de-motivate the employees. If the employees are not deserving, the reasons should be explained to them. Paying someone less than another employee doing the same work also can act to de-motivate employees. As an example, fairness and transparency in monetary awards and salary setting can counteract beliefs that can act to de-motivate employees.

Try one or more of these approaches to motivating employees and see what results you achieve. 

About the Author

Joe Swerdzewski, former General Counsel of the FLRA & owner of JSA LLC is the author of The Essential Guide to Federal Labor Relations, A Guide to Successful Federal Sector Collective Bargaining, etc. For more info on JSA’s services, email info@jsafed.com or subscribe to JSA’s newsletter.