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How to motivate your sub-ordinates?

Updated on May 31, 2009

The Steps

Step one: Stop thinking of them as subordinates.

The dictionary defines a subordinate as: 1. Of a lower or inferior class or rank. 2. Subject to the authority or control of another

Now why would anyone want to be thought of in these terms? I would HATE for someone to think of me in this way. Even if, by definition, they really are your subordinates, you don't have to think of them as such. Not if you're trying to motivate them, anyway. However you think of these people, it will come out in the way you talk to them also. Your body language and your tone will all imply that you think very little about this person. So you have to change your thinking, even if you are the boss. Remember, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Step two: Lead by example

No one likes to be told what to do by the guy in the chair. People will respect you more if they know you would never ask them to do something you yourself wouldn't do or haven't done, and that you have their best interest in mind when doing so. So get down in the trenches with your people, and show 'em what you can do. Or at least buy them lunch once in a while.

Besides, if you get in there and show them how it's done, then they can never say "I wasn't sure what to do." And people like to follow people who know where they are going. Don't forget either that people are always watching you, waiting to see what you'll do next. It's said that your team will do 50% of what you do right, and 100% of what you do wrong. Do the math.

Step Three: Cultivate a foundation of trust

This should be a hub in itself, really. Surveys and statistics all show that too many employees have little to no trust in management. The reasons for this are many, as are the types of trust at different levels. Trust is a function of two things: Character and Competence. There are many ways to build or repair trust. Here are a few that may help:

  • Talk Straight - No beating around the bush. No giving the runaround. Just the facts.
  • Make your intentions clear - Let people know why you are doing what your doing.
  • Keep your commitments - Do what you say you are going to do. This goes for commitments to others as well as yourself.
  • Give trust - Most people, when extended trust, will rise to the occasion.
  • Give clear expectations - Be precise. Let them know the standards, timeline, and reasons. Don't just say "I want this better." Say "I want it exactly like this..."
  • Show results - The easiest way to inspire trust is to give results. Remember, Trust = Character + Competence

Step 4: Learn what makes your people "tick"

People skills. Get some. No but seriously, understanding the different personality types of the people you work with will make it a whole lot easier when dealing with them. Whether it's to motivate them or discipline them, knowing how to talk to them is key. Which reminds me; Never, ever, discipline someone in front of other coworkers.

Also, knowing what to say is just as important as knowing what not to say. Learn to give credit for what was done right, before stating, if at all, what was done incorrectly. My number one complaint at work was that they never said anything if I went above and beyond expectations, but when I messed up, it was recognized quickly and loudly, and never forgotten.

Step 5: Give them a reason to be motivated

People are motivated to do good work when they take pride in what they do. They take pride in what they do when they feel a sense of ownership, of belonging. So tell your people how much you appreciate them. Reward them for a job well done. Whether it be stock options, casual Fridays, or remembering their birthday, something is better than nothing.

My wife once managed a tuxedo rental store. She had a lot of high school and college kids working under her. One of the things she would do that really stood out was, when they first started, she would ask them for their academic schedules, then schedule them to be off the day before. and the day of, any big tests! Imagine that!

So there's just a few ideas of how to motivate your "co-workers." I hope it helps somewhat. I also hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! I'm amazed how much I remember from reading those books! Read the books people! They really do make a difference.

I want to leave you with this little anecdote. "Employees will do just enough work to not get fired, and companies will pay them just enough so they don't quit..."


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    • ParadigmShift... profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from San Jose, CA

      Thanks you two!! I did consider writing a hub on trust, the only thing is everything I learned about it is from the same book, which has a link up there. It's "The Speed of Trust" by Stephan M. R. Covey. I guess I could try to do it without plaigerising the entire thing!! After all people need to know this stuff!

    • Lifebydesign profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      GReat advice here and yes the trust thing is crucial!

    • Elena. profile image


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Hi PS! Excellent advice! I so agree with that you say that "cultivating the foundations of trust" ought to be it's own hub! Why don't you write it? :-) I'd love to read it! You certainly know what you're talking about, here! :-)


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