Motivation – You can lead a horse to water……..!

You’ve got a really interesting piece of work, perhaps a new, groundbreaking, project and you’re excited about sharing the news with your team. However, when you tell them about it, they don’t seem to see share your excitement; they’re not as motivated as you are! Has this ever happened to you? Have you been disappointed that people don’t seem to share your enthusiasm?

Do you want to understand why people may react differently to opportunities that excite and interest you?

If so, read on for two points that will help with you uncover and understand what motivates others and enable you to ‘tick their boxes’.

1. One man’s meat is another man’s poison!

For me, when considering why people might react differently to opportunities that excite you, it’s vital to remember that “people do things for their reasons and not yours”. So, how do you find out what their reasons are?

The simple answer is ask them!

However, simply asking the question “what motivates you?” may not elicit a helpful response as it’s not a question that can be easily answered! A more helpful question, maybe, is “ what do you like about your role?” or “what excites you about working here?”. Conversely, you could also ask “what don’t you like?” or “what do you like least about working here?” (although I prefer to focus on the positive so would start with what people like!).

The answer to questions like these will give you a clearer picture of what people do and don’t like about their current role. So, for the things they say they like, you can provide further opportunities to do more of these and for those things they don’t like, you can look for alternative approaches.

Don’t be surprised when the things that people like are different to the things that you like about your role; embrace the difference and make sure you play to people’s strengths. For me, this is a win:win situation: people in your team are happy so they’re more effective at work and are contributing to a positive workplace environment!

2. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!


In other words, you can’t make people be motivated but what you can do, as a manager, is to create an environment that will allow people to be motivated!

When I first realised that this was the case, it was a real ‘light bulb’ moment! I’d been working with my team for about 6 months and I’d done, what I thought, were all the right things; for example I held weekly team meetings where everyone was asked for their views and contributions, but some people still didn’t seem to be as motivated as I was! I was not sure what else to do so I did some research on motivational tools and spoke to a couple of more experienced colleagues and, having done that, I decided to try two things:

Firstly, I asked them how they’d like to be managed. At the time, it was a risky strategy for me as I hadn’t been managing very long and wasn’t sure that I would be able to cope with the answers. However, I took the bull by the horns and asked each person, individually:

“How do you like to be managed?”

“What can I do to help you do the best you can in your role?”

Having asked the questions, I listened to the answers and concluded that people wanted different things from me! I was also able to compare how I was currently managing to how they would like to be managed. For the most part, I was doing OK, which was heartening, but I got some really helpful feedback about what I could do differently. Having had that feedback, I was able to do some things differently which, in turn, led to a feeling of openness and trust within the team where everyone felt able to share the highs and lows.


The second thing I did was to give them a PEAR! In other words, I did 4 things that have helped me ever since when working with others:


urpose – create a sense of purpose where everyone is clear about why the team exists and the part they play in helping to achieve the team goals


mpower – ensure everyone has a personal, and collective, sense of power to achieve the goals


ppreciate and acknowledge – notice what people do and let them know that you’ve noticed. Thank them for jobs well done!


esources – make sure they have the materials, equipment, knowledge and skills to get the job done to the best of their ability.

Using this check list will help you to determine what you might do to create the environment where people can be motivated.


Remember, as a manager, you are a facilitator, creating an environment that allows people to achieve their full potential and set them up for success.

People managers achieve their potential by helping others to reach theirs!

What do you do to create an environment where people can reach their potential? What questions do you ask to really find out what excites and motivates people?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas so please let us know what you, or others, do.

Look out for next month’s blog on The 3 Fs.

Posted by Caroline Lewis

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