Seven Easy Ways to Motivate Employees and Increase Productivity

If you’re a manager, you can become a motivator by inspiring your employees to high performance—and produce beyond the ordinary.

  1. Seven Easy Ways to Motivate Employees and Increase Productivity Purpose. Even the mundane can become meaningful in a larger context. Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks once said about providing propose, “People want to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to be part of something they’re really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, that they trust.” Sometimes that’s all people need to get their skates on—because nothing is worse than feeling that they’re are stuck doing a meaningless task.
  2. Autonomy. Empower people to innovate and make decisions. Be clear about performance expectations. Reduce your direct supervision of their work. Don’t micromanage.
  3. Appreciation. Reward your employees’ small as well as big successes. Recognition is easy and need not be expensive and time-consuming.
  4. Involvement. Interact directly with frontline employees, observe their work, solicit their opinions, seek ideas for improvement, and work directly with the frontline to identify and resolve problems. Encourage employees to talk about the “undiscussable,” even if others don’t want to hear it.
  5. Challenge. Put people in situations where they can grow, learn new skills, and gain new knowledge.
  6. Urgency. Disregard command-and-control and, instead, become an expediter and facilitate your employees getting their job done. The pioneering management guru Peter Drucker encouraged managers to frequently ask of employees the one question that can initiate more improvement than any other: “What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?”
  7. Empathy. Care about your employees’ success and give them hope about their performance. Be sincere. Demonstrate you value differing opinions.

Idea for Impact: The bottom line on motivation is this: People know what motivates them. Ask them. You may not have any idea what they want.

Inspirational Quotations #718

And in the end, through the long ages of our quest for light, it will be found that truth is still mightier than the sword. For out of the welter of human carnage and human sorrow and human weal the indestructible thing that will always live is a sound idea.
Douglas MacArthur

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The relation of master and servant is advantageous only to masters who do not scruple to abuse their authority, and to servants who do not scruple to abuse their trust.
George Bernard Shaw

It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.
Voltaire

Selfishness is the only real atheism; unselfishness the only real religion.
Israel Zangwill

People who soar are those who refuse to sit back, sigh and wish things would change. They neither complain of their lot nor passively dream of some distant ship coming in. Rather, they visualize in their minds that they are not quitters; they will not allow life’s circumstances to push them down and hold them under.
Chuck Swindoll

When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart.
John Bunyan

Friends love misery, in fact. Sometimes, especially if we are too lucky or too successful or too pretty, our misery is the only thing that endears us to our friends.
Erica Jong

Almost any difficulty will move in the face of honesty. When I am honest I never feel stupid. And when I am honest I am automatically humble.
Hugh Prather

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.
Thomas Henry Huxley

Old age and sickness bring out the essential characteristics of a man.
Felix Frankfurter

At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise… that denseness and that strangeness of the world is absurd.
Albert Camus

Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.
Margaret Thatcher

Books I Read in 2017 & Recommend

  • 'The Practice of Management' by Peter Drucker (ISBN 0060878975) Management & Leadership: Peter Drucker’s The Practice of Management. Drucker’s conception for the organization as an integral part of society, his elucidation of the nature of managerial and leadership tasks, his emphasis on good governance, and his prescription for effective leadership have served managers well over the decades. The Practice of Management is one of those books that Drucker’s admirers tend to appreciate more with every successive reading. [Read my summary.]
  • Psychology & Self-Help: Josh Kaufman’s The First 20 Hours. A learning addict’s approach to learning new things to a good-enough level—but not to perfection. “In my experience, it takes around twenty hours of practice … to go from knowing absolutely nothing about what you’re trying to do to performing noticeably well. … It doesn’t matter whether you want to learn a language write a novel, paint a portrait, start a business, or fly an airplane. If you invest as little as twenty hours in learning the basics of the skill, you’ll be surprised at how good you can become.” [Read my summary.]
  • Management: Leigh Branham’s The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Discusses many ideas for employee “engagement practices” in great specificity to help managers and leaders keep their antennae up for signs of employees’ bitterness and discontent, and correct before they lose their best and brightest people. This practical volume can also help employees discuss and resolve their workplace needs and aspirations. [Read my summary.]
  • Influence & Leadership: Jeswald Salacuse’s Leading Leaders. “You need to take account of the interests of the persons you would lead. Leaders will follow you not because of your position or charisma, but because they consider it in their interest. Your job as a leader is to convince them that their interest lies with you.” [Read my summary.]
  • 'The Unschooled Mind' by Howard Gardner (ISBN 0465024386) Education & Teaching: Howard Gardner’s The Unschooled Mind. To enable the highest degrees of understanding, any skills instruction must be systematically reinforced by instruction in which the deployment of the skills makes holistic sense. [Read my summary.]
  • Psychology & Self-Help: Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Habitually, your narratives and emotions dictating your actions. Frankl’s key message is that amid the various stimuli and responses, you have the freedom to choose your responses to any given set of circumstances. Frankl also introduces “logotherapy,” the psychotherapy system he conceived to help you uncover a sense of purpose in life and survive nearly anything. [Read my summary and my notes on Frankl’s exposition of the meaning of suffering.)
  • Biography & Entrepreneurship: Howard Schultz’s Pour Your Heart Into It. According to the ‘founder’ of Starbucks, Starbucks succeeded because the company offers more than just good coffee. The extraordinary growth of Starbucks derives to the corporate values he endorsed, viewing people as being more important than profits. The Starbucks marvel is not only about economic growth and brand success, but also about its socially conscious corporate ethos. [Read my summary.]
  • 'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) Biography & Leadership: Nicholas Carlson’s Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! Beyond the tome’s gossipy narrative of Mayer’s management style, readers of this page-turner will be interested in Yahoo leadership’s strategic and tactical missteps. Particularly fascinating are how Yahoo missed opportunities to buy Google and Facebook when they were mere startups, the rebuffing of an acquisition bid from Microsoft, a lack of strategic focus, the leadership skirmishes with activist investors, the revolving door at the CEO’s office, and an Asian-asset drama. [Read my summary.]
  • Biography & Leadership: Donald Keough’s Ten Commandments for Business Failure. Celebrated Coca-Cola executive Donald Keough offers a predictable, yet insightful—even if circuitous—exploration of ten (and a bonus) leadership mistakes. A worthwhile read for its many nuggets of business history, including his take on the infamous New Coke debacle. [Read my summary.]
  • Management & Leadership: Jeffrey K. Liker’s The Toyota Way. Toyota’s long-term standing as the epitome of quality production is undeniable. According to Liker, the genius of Toyota lies in how it has steadily institutionalized common-sense principles for waste reduction and continuous improvement. “Toyota is process oriented and consciously and deliberately invests long term in systems of people, technology and processes that work together to achieve high customer value.” [Read my summary.]

Also, my book recommendations from 2016, 2015, and 2014.

The four books I re-read every year are Benjamin Graham’s Security Analysis and The Intelligent Investor, Phil Fisher’s Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

You may be interested in my article on how to process that pile of books you can’t seem to finish and my article on why we read self-help books.

Wish you all very enlightening reads in 2018! Recall the words of the American philosopher Mortimer J. Adler, who said, “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”

Our 10 Most Popular Articles of 2017

Top Blog Articles of 2017 Here are our most popular exclusive features of 2017.

Pass this on to your friends; if they like these, they can sign up to receive our RSS feeds or email updates.

  1. Zeigarnik Effect: How Incomplete Tasks Trigger Stress. Unresolved and interrupted tasks thieve the attention of your brain until you have a clear—if subconscious—proposal of what you’re going to deal with them. Just the simple act of capturing a task that reaches your head can achieve that sense of completion.
  2. Lessons on Adversity from Charlie Munger: Be a Survivor, Not a Victim. Berkshire Hathaway’s Vice-Chairman overcame “horrible blows, unfair blows” on the road to success. Munger counsels, “Feeling like a victim is a perfectly disastrous way to go through life.” Don’t operate life on the assumption that the world ought to be fair, just, and objective. You are neither entitled nor unentitled to good treatment.
  3. How to Guard Against Anger Erupting. The most effective way to deal with anger in yourself is by not disregarding or repressing it. When anger rises past a threshold, it requires a reasonable and pleasing expression—an outlet—to be diffused. The key to expelling anger in a way that must feel good and fair is to invoke your calm, wise self and put out some of the fire of the emotion before moving forward.
  4. Why People to Act Immorally and Justify Their Unprincipled Behavior. People can rationalize behavior that is at odds with their own moral principles. When people feel angry, pressured, or depressed, their mental footing tends to ebb away. They are more likely to engage in self-absorbed behaviors that they would otherwise spurn, especially if the payoff for such behavior is high and the odds of getting caught and punished are low.
  5. Rewards and Incentives Can Backfire. Offering rewards for motivating people to do unlikable tasks could sometimes become counterproductive. In what psychologists call “the overjustification effect,” a reward, instead of motivating, could fortify a person’s revulsion for the task. In other words, the reward could reinforce the belief that the task can’t be worth doing for itself.
  6. Choose Your Role Models Carefully. The modern world has a dangerous problem with hero-worship—pop artists, rappers, film stars, sportspersons, capitalists, and so on command attention and affection as never before. While admiring, and drawing wisdom, meaning, and inspiration from heroes can be constructive, you must take “hero narratives” with a grain of salt. Don’t blindly place much faith in today’s experts and celebrities.
  7. Expressive Writing Can Help You Heal. People often block out thoughts that provoke negative emotions as a way of reducing their stress and regulating their moods. By exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings with a reflective, inquiring, honest attitude, you can shift perspective. Standing back and reflecting on your suffering from different points of view can bring about an improved emotional state.
  8. Twenty Reasons People Don’t Change. If you have trouble getting people to change, perhaps one—or more—of these twenty reasons are to blame. Be realistic about changing others’ hearts and minds. If you can learn to accept them for who they are and let go of your conceptions of their perfection, your relationships become richer.
  9. The More You Can Manage Your Emotions, the More Effective You’ll Be. People who lack the capacity to withstand psychological distresses such as anger, fear, frustration, and sadness are at a marked disadvantage in life. When faced with life’s unceasing challenges, they engage in destructive behaviors, often with verbal and physical aggression toward themselves and others.
  10. Six Powerful Reasons to Eat Slowly and Mindfully. Cultivate a healthy relationship with food. Dedicating time to eat slowly, mindfully, and intentionally—and enjoying the pleasure of food—can make an enormous difference in your diet and health.

And here are articles of yesteryear that continue to be popular:

  1. How smart companies get smarter
  2. Make decisions using Bill Hewlett’s “Hat-wearing Process”
  3. Temper your expectations, avoid disappointments in life
  4. Stop asking, “What do you do for a living?”
  5. Ten rules of management success from Sam Walton

See our top 10 lists for 2016 and 2015.

Inspirational Quotations #717

It has been a thousand times observed, and I must observe it once more, that the hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowned with fruition.
Oliver Goldsmith

A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.
Zhuangzi

There is no greater impediment to progress in the sciences than the desire to see it take place too quickly.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.
Mohandas K. Gandhi

A man’s memory may almost become the art of continually varying and misrepresenting his past, according to his interest in the present.
George Santayana

The only truly affluent are those who do not want more than they have.
Erich Fromm

Morale is the greatest single factor in successful wars.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

The search for truth is more precious than its possession.
Albert Einstein

Absence of occupation is not rest; a mind quite vacant is a mind distressed.
William Cowper

The hallmark of courage in our age of conformity is the capacity to stand on one’s convictions not obstinately or defiantly (these are gestures of defensiveness, not courage) nor as a gesture of retaliation, but simply because these are what one believes.
Rollo May

Your readiest desire is your path to joy even if it destroys you.
Holbrook Jackson

In the future, instead of striving to be right at a high cost, it will be more appropriate to be flexible and plural at a lower cost. If you cannot accurately predict the future then you must flexibly be prepared to deal with various possible futures.
Edward de Bono

There are two modes of establishing our reputation—to be praised by honest men, and to be abused by rogues. It is best, however, to secure the former, because it will invariably be accompanied by the latter.
Charles Caleb Colton

I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can do. In fact, that’s good taste.
Lucille Ball

When you can’t have anything else, you can have virtue.
Don Marquis

Right is its own defense.
Bertolt Brecht

It is a truth but too well known, that rashness attends youth, as prudence does old age.
Cicero

Inspirational Quotations #716

Not everyone will become a great leader, but everyone can become a better leader.
John C. Maxwell

The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment.
Bertrand A. Russell

I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.
The 14th Dalai Lama

Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.
Martin H. Fischer

Those who love to be feared fear to be loved, and they themselves are more afraid than anyone, for whereas other men fear only them, they fear everyone.
Francis de Sales

The prompter the refusal, the less the disappointment.
Publilius Syrus

No one should negotiate their dreams. Dreams must be free to flee and fly high. No government, no legislature, has a right to limit your dreams. You should never agree to surrender your dreams.
Jesse Jackson

To catch a husband is an art; to hold him is a job.
Simone de Beauvoir

Rich people see opportunities. Poor people see obstacles. Rich people see potential growth. Poor people see potential loss. Rich people focus on rewards. Poor focus on the risks.
T. Harv Eker

Training and managing your own mind is the most important skill you could ever own, in terms of both happiness and success.
T. Harv Eker

Neither praise or blame is the object of true criticism. Justly to discriminate, firmly to establish, wisely to prescribe, and honestly to award. These are the true aims and duties of criticism.
William Gilmore Simms

Many things can make you miserable for weeks; few can bring you a whole day of happiness.
Mignon McLaughlin

Prepare yourself for the world, as the athletes used to do for their exercise; oil your mind and your manners, to give them the necessary suppleness and flexibility; strength alone will not do.
Earl of Chesterfield

Five Pitfalls of Coaching Success

According to Coaching, Mentoring and Managing: Breakthrough Strategies to Solve Performance Problems and Build Winning Teams (1996) by William Hendricks, et al., some managers instinctively do things that thwart their team’s performance.

Examine if you’re guilty of one or more of the following.

  1. Five Pitfalls of Coaching Success Do you tend to speak at your employees, not with them? Your style of instruction could be accompanied by the frequent use of phrases such as “I want” and “you should.”
  2. Do you tend to exaggerate situations or behavior? Your tendency to color an employee’s behavior using qualifiers such as “always,” “never,” and “everyone” could be dragging him down. Generalizations could crush the employee’s sense of self-esteem. If you want to create positive change, instill pride, not shame.
  3. Do you sometimes assume that your employee knows a problem and the solution? It’s possible that the employee may not recognize the problem. Skillfully use lines of questioning that can help the employee drill down into the details and reveal a higher-level issue.
  4. Do you often fail to follow up? If you don’t follow up on directions or performance expectations, you will inevitably find yourself reacting to unpleasant surprises.
  5. Do you not reward improved behavior? If you don’t reward positive changes in behavior, you will not expand behavioral adjustments to permanent performance improvement. Managerial feedback and coaching is all about reinforcing positive behaviors and encouraging corrections to damaging behavior.

A Sense of Urgency

The most successful managers I know are highly attentive of their colleagues’ sense of urgency and incessantly adapt to them.

In his excellent Steve Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson evokes Apple CEO (and operations wizard) Tim Cook‘s responsiveness and a sense of urgency:

At a meeting early in his tenure, Cook was told of a problem with one of Apple’s Chinese suppliers. “This is really bad,” he said. “Someone should be in China driving this.” Thirty minutes later he looked at an operations executive sitting at the table and unemotionally asked, “Why are you still here?” The executive stood up, drove directly to the San Francisco airport, and bought a ticket to China. He became one of Cook’s top deputies.

Idea for Impact: Bosses and customers often respond more positively to your focus on creating a sense of urgency before emerging problems erupt in a crisis.

Inspirational Quotations #715

A great idea is usually original to more than one discoverer. Great ideas come when the world needs them. They surround the world’s ignorance and press for admission.
Austin Phelps

True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.
Winston Churchill

Faith embraces many truths which seem to contradict each other.
Blaise Pascal

Life is the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.
Herbert Spencer

You’ll likely learn more of enduring value from an hour of wise googling than from any course.
Marty Nemko

The people who oppose your ideas the most are those who represent the establishment that your ideas will upset.
Anthony J. D’Angelo

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect.
George Santayana

Real, constructive mental power lies in the creative thought that shapes your destiny, and your hour-by-hour mental conduct produces power for change in your life. Develop a train of thought on which to ride. The nobility of your life as well as your happiness depends upon the direction in which that train of thought is going.
Laurence J. Peter

The artist doesn’t have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews. The ones who want to write don’t have the time to read reviews.
William Faulkner

The want of money is the root of all evil.
Samuel Butler

The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
Robert A. Heinlein

The more a man possesses over and above what he uses, the more careworn he becomes.
George Bernard Shaw

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Alvin Toffler

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.
Andrew Grove

Wisdom is the daughter of experience.
Leonardo da Vinci

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
Warren Buffett

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Inspirational Quotations #714

By nature man hates change; seldom will he quit his old home till it has actually fallen around his ears.
Thomas Carlyle

You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.
Benjamin Franklin

Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.
Zig Ziglar

History is not the story of heroes entirely. It is often the story of cruelty and injustice and shortsightedness. There are monsters, there is evil, there is betrayal. That’s why people should read Shakespeare and Dickens as well as history — they will find the best, the worst, the height of noble attainment and the depths of depravity.
David McCullough

No one has ever loved anyone the way everyone wants to be loved.
Mignon McLaughlin

The only real failure in life is one not learned from.
Anthony J. D’Angelo

It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.
Harry S. Truman

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
Albert Einstein

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.
Max Lucado

Let every dawn of the morning be to you as the beginning of life. And let every setting of the sun be to you as its close. Then let everyone of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others; some good strength of knowledge gained for yourself.
John Ruskin

Your faith is what you believe, not what you know.
John Lancaster Spalding

Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Whenever I hear people talking about liberal ideas, I am always astounded that men should love to fool themselves with empty sounds. An idea should never be liberal; it must be vigorous, positive, and without loose ends so that it may fulfill its divine mission and be productive. The proper place for liberality is in the realm of the emotions.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe