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Keeping Your People Pumped

Excerpts - Business Week, March 2006
Jack & Suzy Welch  

Here are four more motivational tools – all non-monetary and each effective.

  • The first is easy: recognition. When and individual or a team does something notable, make a big deal of it. Announce it publicly, talk about it at every opportunity. Hand out awards.

When we suggest that to business groups, almost inevitably someone expresses concern about the people not being recognized: They might be hurt or de-motivated. This nonsense indulges the wrong crowd! If you have the right people – competitive, upbeat team players – public recognition only raises the bar for everyone.

  • The second tool, celebration, should be easy but isn’t. We often ask audiences if they think their companies celebrate success enough, and typically no more than 10% of the crowd says yes. What a lost opportunity. Celebrating victories along the way is an amazingly effective way to keep people engaged on the whole journey. And we’re not talking about celebrating just the big wins. We mean marking milestones such as an important order or a new way to increase productivity. Such small successes are chances to congratulate the team and boost spirits for the challenges ahead.
  • The next motivational tool is really powerful, but it can only be used if you’re absolutely clear about your mission. Now, you may be thinking: “Aren’t all bosses clear about the mission?” Alas, too often they’re not. In the course of our travels, we’ve discovered that their missions fall by the wayside.
    To move forward, a team has to understand and buy into where it’s going. It needs a collective sense of purpose. And that’s exactly what a great mission gives you, a bold, inspirational creed. A mission allows bosses to say: “There’s the hill, let’s take it together.” Now, that’s motivation.
  • The final motivational tool is probably the most difficult to implement. Yes, many great leaders have it, but for the less seasoned, it’s hard to get just right. We’re talking about balancing achievement and challenge. People are motivated when they feel as if they are at the top of the mountain and as if they are still climbing it. Simply put, bosses who create jobs with just the right push-and-pull have a real competitive advantage.

You can fulfill those needs with open appreciation, a sense of fun, an exciting shared goal, and individual attention to the challenge of each job. It’s a tall order for any boss, but the returns are incalculable.

Jack and Suzy Welch are co-authors of the best seller Winning (HarperCollins 2005). They look forward to answering your questions about business, company, or career challenges. Please e-mail them at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..