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How the Best Leaders Motivate Without Saying a Thing

Actions speak louder than words, especially in the world of workplace motivation.

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BY Jackelyn Ho - 02 Jul 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

To be a good leader, you must be a good motivator. Unfortunately, quoting past presidents and thought leaders aren't always going to cut it. To motivate others, you must be motivated yourself.

And like all good stories, you have to show, not tell.

Keep in mind, everyone receives motivation differently, but visual cues are the easiest to pick up on. Over the next few months, try implementing these subtle actions to get your team inspired.

Display open and positive body language when around the team.

If you're having a bad or frustrating day, the workplace is not where you want to show it. I'm not saying you have to fake positivity, but you do have to be open to conversation and critical thoughts. No one wants to approach a manager who keeps complaining about their personal life.

To show that you are engaged with your team, display these signs of positive body language:

  1. Uncross your arms, let them relax at your sides
  2. Face your entire body towards the person you are talking to
  3. Respond using facial cues instead of "mmhmmm" or "uh huh"
  4. Mirror your recipient's body language - a subtle cue that you are on the same page with them

These simple things will help your team feel like you understand them.

Eat lunch with the team.

I once worked with a company whose CEO found a direct correlation of motivation when she did or didn't eat with her direct reports.

Now, I'm not saying you have to do this every single day, but when you are present with your team outside of work, they come to see you as a real person, not just their manager. When they can tap into your human side, they will take your future requests and one-on-ones with more respect. Eating with the team shows that you are one with them.

Always be open.

This means: have an open door and have an open mind. A good leader may be busy, but they are always approachable. A team should always be able to reach their manager and not be afraid that they'll be shut down, ignored, or flat out rejected.

When your team feels like they can easily talk to you, they will feel internal motivation to do better because they know you are on their side.

Display trust.

This one is something that may take time to get to, but once you can reach a strong level of trust, a good employee will not take advantage of it. Instead, they will work hard to maintain it. Avoid micromanaging and backtracking your words. If you can entrust an employee to own and experience the benefits of a job well done, their motivation to continue along this path of growth will be exponential.

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