When good workers seem to be simply going through the motions, it may be because they're riding on the career merry-go-round—wanting to try something new, but unable to get away from what they're already doing. Here are some questions to ask them:
What do you really want? If an employee tells you he's bored, ask him to write down his first 25 answers to the question, "What do you want?" He doesn't have to show anyone the answers. The important thing is to let employees play with the idea that desire makes a difference at work. With a little encouragement from you, bored employees may start saying things like, "You know, I'd be sort of interested in trying ..."
What are you really good at? Most talented people have a tendency to think what they're good at is their jobs. They're wrong, though. What they're good at is their abilities. Challenge your employees to find the abilities that fuel their job skills. Many bored employees blossom when they discover they have more abilities than they realize. By simply recognizing those abilities, you can inspire workers to start thinking of ways to put their talents to better use on the job.
How do you like to learn? Ask an employee who complains of feeling "blah" to recall the last time he or she learned a significant amount about a new subject. What were the circumstances? How did she find out more? Many workers will be surprised to find they do plenty of learning because they like to—and that this is exactly the sort of behavior you encourage.