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Effective leadership is closely related to effective motivation. Knowing how to motivate your people more effectively is a prime tool of leaders.

Motivation can be both intrinsic and extrinsic:

  • Intrinsic motivation is when you do something because you enjoy it or see the value in it without receiving anything for it externally.
  • Extrinsic motivation is when you do something because you receive a reward, such as praise, fame, or money.

We need to understand that money is not necessarily the primary motivation of people.

According to research, most people do not leave organisations for money. They leave because of their manager.

I have found that there are three main areas that leaders can influence to motivate their people:

Communication, Care, and Culture.

These three keys help us to motivate our people more effectively.


One of my most impacting leadership experiences was actually not while I was a regional area manager at Lidl in Germany. Back then I was responsible for staff in three to six stores with around one hundred employees in total for about four years.

In 2013, I was part of the “Refresh Team” at one of the conferences in my first year in Sydney. This team was basically about keeping the venue clean for thousands of women. Yes, it was the cleaning team! What I learned then was that cleaning bathrooms and emptying bins require leadership that can motivate like no other area.

There were several aspects that I could draw out of this experience. But the way my leader Matt was communicating with us was outstanding.

  1. He created anticipation & used positive language.
    It started the week before the conference when Matt sent out a simple text. He wrote that he was looking forward to having us on the team and that we will be going to have a great time.
    He started motivating us even before the event. And he used positive language. He prepared his success in leading a team that nobody wanted to be on – let’s be real, cleaning toilets, no thanks!
  2. He demonstrated a great balance of task orientation and people orientation.
    Throughout the conference, Matt made sure we knew what to do. However, he also communicated that we were appreciated.
    Cleaning toilets and refilling paper towels was obviously crucial to the success of the conference.

Effective leaders “motivate people by making clear to them how their work fits into a larger vision for the organization” (Goleman, 2000).
Such a vision needs to be “relevant to the values, ideals, and needs of followers“. And it needs to be “communicated with colourful, emotional language” to be motivating (G. Yukl, 2012).

Communication is a key to motivate our people more effectively. And that does not mean we need to avoid constructive feedback.

More on communication here.


I love this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

As leaders, of course, we need to care about output. Tasks need to get done. 
However, we need to remember who works on those tasks.

This balance of task orientation versus people orientation is a challenge leaders need to face when seeking to motivate followers.

Years ago, I had one staff member who taught me a valuable lesson. Although I genuinely cared for my employees I failed to show it at times. 
One day, this store manager was honest enough to give me some feedback. He told me that it comes across as if I only cared about tasks and not about people.
I was shocked. But I realised my tendency to be very task-focused was true. It worked well with another store manager. But mainly, because he was very task-focused himself.

I started to take more time for this store manager to focus on the people-side of business. It turned out the tasks got done a lot quicker!

Our people want to be supported. This requires us to listen and to be concerned with individual needs and feelings. Emotional intelligence is an essential skill to develop to be more aware of where people are at.

We also need to recognise the basic human need for belonging. People want to be included. Leaders can achieve this by creating an environment with open communication. 

And finally, sharing your vision with your team and considering their place within that vision shows that you actually care for your people.


After discussing the roles of communication and care we can see that they both are crucial for creating a motivating culture.

To know ‘how things are done around here’ makes up the culture of a team or organisation. It has an enormous effect on the performance of a team.

According to Goleman’s study on the impact of different leadership styles on organizational climate, the working environment has a significant influence on organizational performance.

There are six key factors leaders can apply to create a culture that is motivating itself as well as a positive precondition for motivation.

A culture that motivates people needs to:
  1. Be flexibleopen for innovative ideas;
  2. Reflect responsibility and encourage a sense of ownership;
  3. Be defined by high standards;
  4. Involve feedback and rewards;
  5. Give “clarity about mission and values”; and
  6. Inspire “commitment to a common purpose” (Goleman, 2000).

We need to be aware that culture is developing itself if not actively changed. In other words, wherever there is a group of people culture will develop. 
As leaders, we need to be intentional about creating the culture we want to see. 

Changing a culture is actually more difficult in an existing organisation than establishing a culture in a start-up.
Nevertheless, by continuously communicating vision and values, establishing rituals or traditions and integrating systems and programs, culture can be changed or created.

Matt was immersed in a strong leadership culture of motivation and encouragement. This gave him an advantage in leading the “Refresh Team” compared to my experience as an area manager.
Even though our team was allocated to this area (we did not have a choice), Matt communicated his appreciation for what we were doing and did not take us for granted. He encouraged us that the part we played at the conference was significant. We contributed to the experience that the thousands of ladies attending the conference had. 


In conclusion, communication, care, and culture have crucial roles for effective motivation and intertwine with each other. Communication is critical to care for people and to establish a culture. A culture needs to reflect good communication and care in order to be motivating. And if people do not feel cared for their level of motivation might be rather low.
And finally, emotional intelligence is essential for effective leadership and a prerequisite for effective motivation.

Would you like to work on any of these areas in your own leadership and motivate your people more effectively? Just contact me or book your strategy session here.

Happy Wednesday for a change! Have a great week.


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