To Motivate or to Inspire?

August 30, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

Inspiration vs motivation

I think first of all it’s important to distinguish between motivating people and inspiring them. Motivation suggests moving people to action, i.e. getting people to do things despite the fact that they may not always want to perform those tasks. Inspiring people however rouses them to action by making them actually want to perform them, usually because they perceive that is a meaning and a purpose to them. Personal inspiration also works well – people follow their leaders, so inspire your staff by your own actions and behaviour and set the tone for your workplace.

1. Big picture In my opinion the biggest motivator or inspiration for staff is seeing the bigger picture and feeling like they are an important part of that picture. This is perhaps more true in Financial Services than many other industries because of the bad rap that people in this business have been getting from the media, friends and family and people on the street. People need to be reminded that FS organizations play an important role in society and the economy, they create jobs, they enable the flow of resources and money, they literally keep the economy going and perform a critically important function for our world.

Within organizations, managers need to clearly, consistently and regularly communicate the organizational vision, mission, purpose and strategy down to every member of the team. This ensures that each individual is clear about the big picture, realizes the importance of it and also the importance of their role in the whole. Very often the top teams and people a level below are aware the overall vision and strategy and the people “lower down” the hierarchy get to know long after the fact (if at all), which leads to a severe disconnect and a feeling of “I don’t matter”. This is extremely de-motivating and can adversely affect morale and performance. Regular updates on vision and strategy to the team is a must.

2. Respect It’s important to respect the contribution of every person in the team and make them feel that what they do matters to the whole. A team full of MD’s with no associates does not get a whole lot done! Including each member of your team in the big picture is a great first step and regular acknowledgement of their successes is important for younger/newer members of staff to feel like they matter and that in turn makes them want to contribute more. Every role and every person is vital – remember to treat them and their work with respect and you’ll go a long way to keeping them enthusiastic about working with you.

3. Recognition Recognition is more important than reward in my opinion, because most organizations in the industry offer competitive packages so the money isn’t the key factor in motivating and inspiring staff any more. People love to be recognized for what they do – it makes them feel valuable and that they are contributing, that what they do matters. Managers who thank their people regularly for the little things done well and praise them publicly for the bigger things win the loyalty of their people. Nothing motivates people more than being recognized for a job well done. Nothing de-motivates people more than working their behinds off and no-one acknowledging it. (Note also that if you must criticize your staff, do it in private and offer constructive suggestions for how they can do better next time). There’s more to recognition than the annual bonus. Awards such as “Top salesperson of the month” and “Most valuable team-member of the Quarter” are simple and effective ways of recognizing your team.

4. Fun This may seem like a strange one for a list on how to motivate people who work in FS, but it’s absolutely vital to create an atmosphere that’s collegiate and make sure that the workplace is a fun place. A high percentage of people in the city complain about “Monday blues”, which suggests they don’t enjoy where they work. Do you think your team enjoys coming to work? Encouraging teamwork and a collegiate environment where collaboration is rewarded is also important. Happy people are productive people as many employee engagement studies have demonstrated, so think about ways to create a happy work environment. A few ways to do this are organizing regular team outings and informal events like pub nights, games nights, doing volunteer work together, team days and so on. Make sure you as the manager attend them yourself and also make it a point to chat to everyone in your team about themselves and their lives, not about work. Knowing your employees is as important as knowing your clients. One bank I worked at used to get a drinks trolley into the dealing room Friday afternoons and everyone would gather round for a bit of banter!

5. Listening Many managers make the mistake of talking to their people, not with them. It’s vitally important to listen to what your staff actually wants. For instance, when was the last time you asked your team (collectively and individually), what they want and expect from their jobs, from you as a manager and from the organization? Sometimes people are afraid that if they do ask these questions, they will not be able to deliver. I think it’s important to ask people because they want to be heard and know that their opinion is valuable. Assess the suggestions and then act on those that you can and explain clearly why you cannot act on all of them. As long as you’re fair, people will be happy that at least they were listened to. FS workers are human beings first and employees second, so listen to them and treat them as people first.

6. Challenge your people People like to be stretched and want to grow and improve so agree goals that stretch your employees but are also achievable. Goals must be designed to challenge individuals and help them grow within their area of expertise as well as in terms of their soft skills while keeping their career goals in mind. Also explain to them why you believe its important for them to grow e.g. you may want someone to build on their leadership skills so that they can manage their own team in the next 2 years. For people with very uni-dimensional roles (e.g. quants), ensure that there are tasks and responsibilities that help them grow in other aspects as well e.g. involve them in a client presentation, or allocate the organization of the next team event to them or get them involved in organizing voluntary activities.

7. Empowerment and responsibility People in general and Employees in particular crave self-direction and want to take responsibility for their results but in order to do so they need a conducive environment. Many managers struggle with this and it’s important to realize “their way” is not just as good as yours it’s often better because they have a fresh set of eyes. Empower your people – give the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs well and in their own way. Allow for mistakes and help them to grow and learn from them. No one grows in an atmosphere of fear and innovation and creativity wither in such an environment.

8. Growth and improvement All people want to evolve and improve, get better at what they do and be rewarded commensurately. Investing in your employees as people and helping them improve personally as well as technically is critical. A company is only as good as it’s people so foster your people, help them to be bigger and better than they are today in all spheres. Make sure you balance skills training courses (e.g. software and project management) with leadership development courses such as “dealing with conflict” and a programme of inspirational speakers for your staff and invest in executive coaching for them. Regular networking events and opportunities to meet senior management such as “meet the top team”, “web-chats with global heads” and “town halls” are all great ways to help your staff realize you care about their development and are also giving them opportunities to raise their profile within and outside the organization.

9. Believe in them Do you believe that your people can do what’s desired of them? If not, then why are they working for you? When someone we look up to believes in us, we begin to believe in ourselves, so always let your team members know that you believe they have what it takes to deliver the desired results. Expect the best from them and let them know it – constantly reinforce your faith in their abilities and tell them that you think they’re the best at what they do. They will rise to meet your expectations, because you believe in them.

10. Trust This sounds basic and it surprises me how often it’s over looked. Being fair and equal in the way you treat your staff is really important to ensure that your team performs well. Your people will make mistakes so be there for them and back them and they will repay you a thousandfold. Be consistent in your treatment of people and earn their trust so they gift you with their trust and commitment.

A word on Reward (Money) & WIIFT (What’s In It For Them) Monetary reward is an important motivator when people are under-paid, which in this day and age ought not to be the case given legislation, head-hunters and agencies as well as the many market surveys on pay in the financial sector. Assuming people are reasonably well paid, all the other factors listed above are more critical motivators or inspirers. People want to know “What’s in it for them”? Money is only one piece of that puzzle (and not the most important) and the key to a happy and inspired workforce lies in being able to provide rich and multi-dimensional rewards, stretching and satisfying work and a happy office.

I am Piya Khanna, a Change expert and high performance coach with a background in Investment Banking and Foreign Exchange Change Management.

I help women who work in Banking to become more confident, get promoted, manage their bosses and co-workers better and get paid more.

Sign up for a FREE Strategy session at

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