To motivate employees, one must harness their fears and encourage them to take prudent risks. That’s tough to do when people feel immobilized, overworked or cynical.
Strong leaders create a safe, secure environment so that staffers can test the bounds of their fears and break through them. Here’s how top executives drive exceptional performance:
- Show grace under fire. When pressures mount, effective leaders stay calm. They control their emotions and avoid panicky reactions.
- Set a higher bar. Rather than accept someone’s existing skill set or work habits, motivational leaders aspire to tap each person’s full potential. This may mean setting performance expectations that exceed what the individual thinks is possible.
- Connect through questions, not statements. If you tell employees how to behave or impose your own views, you may engender apathy or trigger resistance. Avoid monologues when you want to persuade others. Try posing open-ended questions and letting others do most of the talking.
- Use catchy aphorisms. You’re more apt to drive home a key point by uttering a memorable sentence or two rather than a long-winded rant. Reduce your messages to powerful sayings such as, “This is your moment” or “It’s your victory. Now go earn it.”
- Visualize goal attainment. Describe positive outcomes in concrete terms to help your team envision limitless possibilities. Avoid discussing pitfalls that can stymie progress.
- Dare people to take risks. Offer employees ongoing opportunities to experiment with new ideas. For instance, fund pilot programs that they think might solve a vexing problem or let them pursue pet projects for a half-day every few weeks.
By granting people the independence to innovate or develop bold solutions, you lead by letting them apply their creativity. Sweep away restrictive rules that suffocate risk-taking.
— Adapted from Care to Dare, George Kohlrieser, Susan Goldsworthy and Duncan Coombe, Jossey-Bass.
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