The 4 Best Ways to Get Your People Excited About Doing Their Job


Charlotte’s Conundrum

Charlotte dreads her upcoming meeting. She has to give performance feedback to James, one of her longtime employees. He’s frequently late on project deadlines; each time he has a different—and plausible—explanation. But there’s a pattern affecting his relationships with his co-workers.

“Why do we need to get our work in on time while he gets away with being late?” asks Ivy.

“My bonus is affected by timeliness, says Skylar. “I can’t afford to work with James any longer.”

Charlotte knows she has to address the issue but fears alienating James. What should she do?

Here are 4 ways to be a more motivational boss while still holding people accountable.

Best Way #1: Pair Passion with Accountability

Your starting point for making team members accountable is their passions. What turns them on?

Charlotte knows James loves to come up with pie in the sky new ideas, and he’s got a talent for it. She believes James will be more motivated to deliver work on time if it taps into his love of creative thinking. Can he apply his creative thinking to meeting deadlines? 

We’ll soon take a peek at how their conversation goes.

When planning your next feedback session, consider these questions: Do you know what turns your people on? What gets them pumped about the work they do?

Best Way #2: Help People Think

Research shows that people are more likely to take action if they think of the idea themselves. Next time you’re tempted to tell someone how to meet performance expectations, ask them to come up with their own ideas first. More often than not, their idea will be something you haven’t thought of. Not only that, but they are likely to be more invested if it’s their idea.

James looks puzzled when Charlotte asks him how he might use his passion for fresh thinking to deliver projects on time. Then his eyes light up. “I know, what if I block off every Friday morning for fine tuning the last bits of work due the next week? Then I can spend Friday afternoon doing big picture thinking on new projects. That’s the part I love to do!”

Why do the heavy lifting for your people when they can think for themselves? You’ll be amazed at what they come up with on their own.

Best Way #3: Your Personal Plan

“That’s a great idea, James. But we’re going to have to stay on top of this for a while until timeliness becomes a habit. What’s the best way for me to hold you accountable?” asks Charlotte.

“I’m going to schedule Fridays in my calendar for project completion and start up. Next time we meet, let’s check in on how it’s going and brainstorm an upgrade if it needs more work,” suggests James.

This is another application of Best Way #2. You give them the chance to create their own accountability plan. How can this help you be supportive and hold people accountable? 

Best Way #4: Make it Safe

In a perfect world, you’d only need to do this once. But human nature is what it is. So, you might have to follow up if old habits come creeping back. Best Way #4, Make it Safe, is your go-to format for any kind of feedback. Here’s the protocol:

Create safety, offer genuine acknowledgement: “James, I appreciate the quality of your work. Can we talk for a couple of minutes about how you can be an even stronger contributor?”

Ask THEM what they feel good about, then add your own positive feedback. Starting with self-feedback is the key to success.

Ask THEM what they would improve: “What do you think you could do differently next time that would produce even better results?” 

Ask permission to fill in the gaps if something wasn’t mentioned. Again, this puts them in the driver’s seat and reduces the threat. And, as with any constructive feedback, make it specific, neutral and focus on impact. Specific questions to ask:What do you want to commit to? When should we follow up?

What’s Your Payoff?

While engaging team members in their own accountability is an investment, the results can be thrilling. Imagine this: Your team is on the same page. They’re engaged, motivated, with the right skills. Your culture supports easy productivity. You’re confident as a leader, looking forward to your next big challenge.

Would you take that if it was offered?