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RISMEDIA, October 14, 2010—With the recession finally in our rearview mirror (so they say), most companies are finally beginning to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and at least try to get back to business. But the past year has left its mark: employees are in a funk. They are fearful, overworked, distrustful, and have less enthusiasm and passion than ever. And many leaders are continually frustrated by their team’s performance and low morale and engagement. The answer, says author Jon Gordon, doesn’t involve fancy technology, a new piece of equipment, or extensive R&D. In fact, the answer lies in a basic human emotion: motivation.

Gordon isn’t advocating for a mass hiring of motivational speakers to address America’s sluggish workforce. Nor is he suggesting you spend thousands of dollars on motivational products. In fact, Gordon, who is the author of the newly released, Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture, and who speaks to organizations around the globe says that motivational speeches don’t work. “But,” he continues, “leaders who motivate do. Now, more than ever, a leader’s job is to motivate and rally his or her team through challenging times. You can’t outsource motivation. It is the leaders and managers who must motivate.”

“Most business leaders want to take the emotion out of business,” he goes on to say, “but that is a huge mistake. When fear and negativity are the primary emotions people in your organization are feeling, you have to counter that with an even more powerful emotion, like faith, belief, and optimism. And your success in that depends on your ability to motivate.”

He explains that motivation has long been considered a soft skill that was hard to quantify, so most companies left it up to annual meetings and inspiring rallies to keep their employees fired up. But what leaders are realizing is that it’s quickly becoming a vital part of their everyday job descriptions.

Here, Gordon offers six strategies to motivate your agents and get the results you want:

1. Don’t be too busy to communicate. Recovery or no recovery, these are uncertain times. Employees are wondering what’s going to happen next, whether their job will be impacted, and what action to take. That uncertainty creates a void. Unless you, the manager, fill that void with clear and positive communication, agents may assume the worst and act accordingly. Fear and negativity will creep in and dominate their thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of taking the time to talk with your team. In fact, Gordon says that you should make communicating with your employees a top priority on your list each day.

2. Lead with optimism. The engine for America’s growth and prosperity has always been its “can do” attitude and spirit. Unfortunately, in the past year, optimism has been in short supply. Between the doom and gloom media coverage, the workplace rumor mill, and the overall uncertainty of the economy, it seems that pessimism has become the name of the game. Gordon says that, as a leader, your most important weapon against pessimism is to transfer your optimism and vision to others. This inspires others to think and act in ways that drive results.

3. Share the vision. It’s not enough to just be optimistic. You must give your team and organization something to be optimistic about. Talk about where the company has been, where you are, and where you are going. Share your plan for a brighter and better future, talk about the actions you must take, and constantly reiterate the reasons why you will be successful.

4. Relationships build real motivation. It’s much easier to motivate someone if you know them and they know you. After all, if you don’t take the time to get to know the agents who are working for you, then how can you ever truly know the best way to lead, coach, and motivate them? And for that matter, how can you expect them to trust and follow you if they don’t know you as well?

5. Create purpose-driven goals. When it comes down to it, the real force behind motivation has nothing to do with money or number-driven goals. Real motivation is driven by purpose and a desire to make a difference. In fact, people are most energized when they are using their strengths for a purpose beyond themselves. When agents feel as though the work they do is playing an integral role in the overall success of the company and the world, they are motivated to work harder. Similarly, when they feel as though they are working for something more than just the bottom line, they feel good about the work they are doing.

6. Nourish your team. These may seem like strange words to apply to the workplace, but Gordon insists they are spot-on. He says the main question every agent in every organization wants to know is, “Do you care about me; can I trust you?” If your answer is yes, they will be more likely to stay on the bus and work with you. Agents who feel cared for, honored, and nourished are more engaged in what they’re doing and will work at their highest potential.

About the Author
Jon Gordon is a consultant, keynote speaker, and an international bestselling author. His principles have been put to the test by NFL football teams and Fortune 500 companies alike.

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