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Published on November 13, 2019

9 Reasons Why Motivation Matters in Leadership

9 Reasons Why Motivation Matters in Leadership

Motivation drives nearly every action of our lives. Think about it, what motivated you to walk into the kitchen and make a sandwich? Hunger. What motivated you to get up and go to work this morning? At the very basic level, it was probably the desire to keep a roof over your head and food on the table.

Motivation is an incredibly powerful force in our lives and is part of our human nature. We all need a “why” to push towards.

This “why” is behind every business idea that has ever been put into action — both successfully and unsuccessfully. You as a manager may have buckets of self-motivation that never runs dry, however, if that drive can’t be passed on to those around you, then accomplishing the goals of the group will be difficult, if not next to impossible.

Project deadlines, long-term growth, and even day-to-day objectives depend on solid leadership that fosters motivation.

Understanding the importance of motivation in team members, and knowing how to go about building this is a requirement of every leader’s toolkit. There’s no concrete method for motivation — after all, human nature can be unpredictable.

While motivation in leadership may at times be incredibly challenging, its benefits can mean the difference between an exceptional team and a floundering one. Let’s break down the relationship between leadership and motivation and how to go about building it in your team members.

1. Motivated Members Make for a Stronger Team

At its very basic level, strong leadership motivation allows a team or company to accomplish its goals. If nobody is motivated to do the work, then nothing is going to get done. It doesn’t get more plain and simple than that.

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Disengaged team members can place a company in a very risky position. On the other side of that coin, employees who are motivated and actively engaged in the work their company is doing make for an organization with stronger output.

Imagine you have a team of seven employees and all seven are motivated to accomplish a single goal. Now imagine that same team and only two of the employees are motivated and the other five would rather waste the workday surfing around the internet. Accomplishing that single goal is going to require a lot more time and energy.

2. Better Communication Equates to More Success

Communication is, without a doubt, one of the key elements to strong leadership that fosters motivation. People have a natural desire to feel recognized and learning how to effectively communicate with your team members, both one-on-one and as a group will make all the difference.

According to a 2014 Gallup survey of 1,015 workers, 46 percent of them said that they rarely or never leave a meeting understanding what they are supposed to do.[1] This statistic should be a wakeup call to every leader that they need to refine how they communicate with their staff.

How is someone on your team supposed to successfully carry out a task if they’re unsure of what the task entails, why they’re doing it, or how to best go about it? Effective leaders are always good communicators and motivation is a product of that.

3. Projecting a Positive Attitude Is Paramount

Henry Ford said,

“Think you can or think you can’t. Either way, you are correct.”

Optimism is a leader’s most important tool in fighting employee pessimism that can kill motivation and derail goals. If you’re not motivated to be a better leader, then creating motivation in those around you is going to be difficult.

As a leader, you’re not just directing the duties of who does this or that, but molding people’s beliefs in the work they do. From the emails that you use to communicate with employees to how you conduct yourself in the break room, a positive attitude sends the message that you have confidence in your team. That’s an incredibly powerful tool in cultivating motivation.

4. Focus on Intrinsic Over Extrinsic Motivation

It can be easy for leaders to focus on extrinsic motivation which translates into people being motivated because of the opportunity for reward or fear of punishment. While setting the bar to meet a certain sales quota in order to attain a bonus, or risk being fired can be a powerful motivator, it’s only tapping into one type of motivation.

Intrinsic motivation occurs when people are motivated to perform a behavior or activity because it results in personal satisfaction.

A perfect example of this is a 2013 study that looked at nurses who were assembling surgical kits.[2] Nurses who met the health-care practitioners who would use their kits worked longer and made fewer errors than the nurses who never met the user of those kits.

5. Make Individual Connections That Communicate the “Why”

As pointed out in the example above, the nurses had a greater connection with the “why” behind their task of assembling the surgical kits. A text message can communicate this “why” to team members, but it may not always be the most effective way of building motivation.

Leaders grow and thrive when then they establish strong bonds with those on their team by getting to know them. Relationships build real motivation and when you know your team members on more than just a name basis, you have a greater chance of communicating the “why” behind the goal. In turn, your employees are more likely to care about the work they do.

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6. Praise Team Members and Build Motivation

There’s a reason that your teacher put a gold star sticker on your homework when you got all the questions correct. Positive praise simply feels good and people like to be recognized for a job well done.

According to a study by Harvard Business School, employees who receive praise from a manager are more motivated — i.e. more productive — than those who do not receive praise.[3] What a surprise, people who are told “job well done” are more motivated to continue doing good work.

If a leader demonstrates to those around them that their work is valued and appreciated, those team members are going to feel more motivated to tackle the next task at hand. Learn more about this type of motivation: 5 Ways to Make the Best Use of Extrinsic Motivation

7. Hold People Accountable and Provide Feedback

Equally as important as a leader’s ability to praise, is a leader’s ability to correct mistakes or improper actions. When a leader neglects poor performance, it can set a dangerous precedent and demotivate previously engaged employees. People simply aren’t as motivated to do good work when others on the team don’t pull their weight and a leader doesn’t step in to correct it.

Whereas praising a team member in view of others can be a powerful motivator for the entire team, correcting an employee in private can preserve employee egos. By providing feedback to a team member in private, you’ll be in a better place to motivate without the distraction of others.

8. Ask Questions Often and Work Towards Solutions

A motivating leader regularly engages with those around them to find out where they stand with the job. People need to know that their leaders have a genuine interest in their role on a team and an opportunity to express concerns or share ideas.

  • Does your team member have all the resources they need?
  • Are they being challenged or encouraged to develop new skills?
  • Do they see a problem that’s not being addressed?

Don’t underestimate the value that showing a genuine interest in an employee’s role can have in creating motivation. By asking questions often and listening to your employees, they’ll feel that they’re more equipped in taking on new responsibilities and have greater respect for leadership.

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9. Promote a Healthy Working Lifestyle

Workers who are healthy and happy are going to be more productive and feel better about showing up each day to get the job done. Employee burn out is a real thing and if employees are constantly being pushed to work longer hours with more responsibilities, motivation can suffer and resentment towards the leadership can emerge.

There are times, of course, when burning the midnight oil is simply part of the job. Making the right moves, though, can prevent tired employees from throwing their arms up and walking out the door. Healthy initiatives from providing healthy snacks, to building in an activity to provide a little stress relief can help keep a team motivated.

Final Thoughts

Effective leadership creates results, and in order to achieve those results and set bigger and better goals, a leader must understand motivation’s role to the “why.” When a leader is able to translate this message to their team members and act as a role model and teacher, they’ll surround themselves with more motivated employees.

Leadership motivation encompasses a range of factors and each plays a part in a team’s overall success. It might start with a leader’s self-motivation, but it should include the entire team as a whole.

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Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

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Jeremy Diamond

Jeremy is a lawyer and entrepreneur. He is the Senior Partner of Diamond and Diamond Lawyers, a national law firm based in Canada

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

Want to know the good news?

No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

Absolutely!

But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

“I’m not smart enough to…”

“I don’t have enough experience to…”

“I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

  • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
  • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
  • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

But this isn’t true!

If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

Ditch the Dwelling

Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

Easier said than done, right? Try these:

  1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
  2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
  3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
  4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

Be Patient about the Process

No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

2. Connect with Your Purpose

One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

Find Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

3. Find Strength in Unity

The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Recruit Some Cheerleaders

If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

Form an Accountability Group

Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
  • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
  • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
  • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
  • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
  • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

Tying it All Together

Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

But here’s the bottom line:

A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

More About Mental Strength

Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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