Leaders: The Keys to Purposeful Motivation

Carrot and Stick

You motivate everyone around you every day whether you know it or not.  Motivation can be a positive force or a negative force.  They key to success in motivation is to recognize its power and use it to positively change the lives of everyone on your team.

Successful leadership relies on motivating your team to accomplish the goals you have set.

Lee Iacocca said this: “Management is nothing more than motivating other people

Purposeful Motivation

Purposeful motivation is not a one-time event.  It isn’t something you set in motion and let it run.  You can’t just delegate motivation to someone else.  As a successful leader, motivation is your number one job.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”~ Zig Ziglar

As basic to life as a shower is, so is motivation to leadership.  You just can’t lead without it.

The In’s and Out’s of Motivation

There are two types of motivation: Positive and Negative Motivation.

Positive motivation works by drawing people in. Negative motivation works by pushing people out.

Let’s examine both of these types of motivations to see how they work toward organizational excellence.

On Positive Motivation

Congratulation, Celebration, and Cultivation will bring Calibration

To motivate your team to succeed:

  • Congratulate members on their positive outcomes
  • Celebrate positive movement towards the goal with the whole team
  • Cultivate the strengths of each person on your team
  • If you do these things, they will Calibrate their behavior to your expectations


“If you woke up breathing, congratulations!  You have another chance.” ~ Andrea Boydston

Every day each member of your team does something worthy of your congratulations.  Let’s start with showing up for work.  Do you say good morning as you walk in the door?  This makes for a great way to start the day.  Wouldn’t you like to hear someone say, “Thank you for allowing us to benefit from your strengths today?”

Then there are the obvious ones like completing projects on time, facilitating a meeting well, giving a presentation to the executives.

Nothing says thank you like saying thank you. It’s that simple.


“There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate.” ~ Robert Brault

Somewhere near the end of a year, each team will be establishing its goals for the following year.  These goals usually define success as accomplishing something by year-end: sales goals, profit goals, new customer goals, etc.

The leader sets the vision for how the team will accomplish its goals.

It’s hard to stay motivated if the goals are something that can only be achieved twelve months in the future.  Help your team stay motivated by breaking the year-end goals into smaller pieces: quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

Then you can celebrate reaching goals not just at the end of the year, but at the end of each day, week, month, and quarter.


“Mentor, mentor, mentor. Encourage and cultivate the next generation of leaders” ~ Tom Peters

It is human nature to grow, to become better every day.  A leader can tap into that desire and provide opportunities for their team to achieve greater and greater success.  Investing time with your team through mentoring is an essential component to motivation.


cal·i·brate  [ kálli bràyt ] Noun: To check, adjust, or determine by comparison with a standard. –  American Heritage Dictionary

As your team sees their success, they will model their behavior after yours.  Through your motivation, a cycle of expanding success is started.

On Negative Motivation

Domination and Denigration will bring Repudiation

To motivate people to fail:

  • Dominate each discussion with only your opinions
  • Denigrate individuals by focusing on every misstep and weakness
  • And they will Repudiate your behavior and leave


“Your job is to make the best decision, not to decide.” Jamie Dimon

There is a limit to the knowledge of any one person.  The leader who limits decision to only their opinion will see their team lose interest in offering differing thoughts that many times are better thoughts.


“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations” ~ Steve Jobs

The only way to never make mistakes is to never try.  The leader who disparages their team for mistakes will soon find the team stops trying.


“Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk of life”  ~ Napoleon Hill

Loyalty is a two-way street.  But it starts with the leader being loyal to the team.  Negative motivation is a sure way to eliminate loyalty, and ensure failure.

So what are some of the ways you can learn to positively motivate your teams toward achieving excellence in their daily work? What are some of the tricks and techniques that have worked best for you? Conversely, what have you seen in your workplace that has soured the mood and made people leave? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Denis McLaughlin
Denis McLaughlin is President of Leadership GPS, Inc.
He is a Leadership Development Expert, Coach, Teacher, Speaker, and Writer
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Image Sources: michael-whitehead.com.au

6 responses to “Leaders: The Keys to Purposeful Motivation

  1. You should work in a low pay business and see what a drain on a manager it is to motivate people that are discouraged, disengaged, deceitful and angry. You just keep complimenting every chance you can hoping to get them on the same page. Over looking many of the low to no perfomance issues and hope that they don’t get worse.


  2. Dave, you raise a good point. Since I don’t know your exact situation I will respond more generally. First it sounds like you are doing a great job staying away from the negative motivators raised in the article. And congratulations for complimenting your team. I would suggest that you think about the third positive motivator – cultivation. Is your team growing? Are they learning and building their strengths? Are they able to achieve more and more each day on their own?

    Lastly if I am reading your response correctly, it sounds like you may be trying to raise morale by overlooking some poor performance. In my experience, I have found that not dealing with unsatisfactory performance actually lowers the morale of those who are trying their best to succeed, and those that are not performing well don’t get the change to improve – which I believe we all desire every day.

    Thanks again for responding


  3. To quote just a very few. One of the things never worked for me is when my boss zigzags between good and clear principles and between needs or irrelevant pressures, then makes bad decisions because he does not have the guts to decide what is right.

    What always worked for me is a boss who takes care of me, pushes me to achieve, sets the example, is someone who I can look up to and inspired me in ways new to me. This I tried to do for my subordinates as well, and it always worked for me.


  4. I love this article. I especially love the part about congratulating your team. We use social networking such as facebook and website to highlight good things people do in our organization- a little thought that came to my mind as I was reading “Leverage Social Networks to Drive Business Results” by Lisa Anderson.



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