Culture, Talent Management

How to Inspire and Motivate High Performance Employees

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To become an HPO (a High Performance Organization) it is a precondition to hire and retain the right employees. ]

These are people who have an incurable curiosity, want to be challenged, need to have responsibility and at the same time ask to be held accountable, and want to perform better — everywhere and anytime. These high performance employees perform better than the average employee, and because of that, contribute more to the effectiveness of the organization.

With this type of employees, an organization can transform into a true High Performance Organization.

But, you need to inspire them.

Higher performance through stretch goals

HPO employees want to be inspired by their managers to continuously perform better and achieve extraordinary results. They want to be kept on their toes and be challenged. They continuously want to develop themselves, to achieve the best they can, and because of this, contribute to the success of the organization.

Professor André de Waal

Employees of an HPO are quite extraordinary, and it requires focused attention of managers to keep these people interested in working at the organization.

HPO managers, therefore, consciously inspire their employees by giving them interesting work, challenging tasks and increased responsibilities; and stressing that they should be proud of their own achievements and those of the organization. They stimulate self-confidence, an entrepreneurial attitude, firmness, a can-do attitude, and a winning mindset in employees.

HPO managers raise the performance of their people and themselves by setting high standards and stretch goals. They let people feel they are part of a bigger picture and inspire them to achieve greatness as part of the organization. They possess a crusading enthusiasm and take time to win people over.

Recently I did an interview with Mikael Sørensen, general manager at Svenska Handelsbanken NL. Something he said about inspiration intrigued me:

I walk the talk because that talk is what attracted new employees to the bank. When I had job interviews with people before they started at the bank and I told them how we work, then that was what interested them in the bank. So it is important that when they come in, it actually works this way. And this congruency inspires them.”

How to get started inspiring employees

There are two main ways how you can inspire your employees: by changing your own behavior to be more inspirational, and by creating conditions for your employees that increase their motivation. Below are some ideas for both techniques.

Become an inspiring person yourself by doing the following:

  • Be passionate about the goals of the organization, show emotion, and generate enthusiasm for these in your employees.
  • Connect with your employees by showing real interest in them and finding out what motivates and inspires them, and actively looking for their ideas and opinions.
  • Be somewhat unconventional and take personal risks, by doing things differently and operating outside ‘normal’ organizational boundaries and outside your comfort zone, and letting your employees do the same.
  • Make sure inspirational moments are succeeded by follow on actions, so your employees see that you act upon your inspiration.
  • Be engaging and a team person, and regularly express to your employees it is all about “we” and not about “I”
  • Become a “storyteller” who is able to package messages in an appealing form that captivates employees.

How to motivate employees, too

Create motivational conditions for your employees, by doing the following:

  • Paint your employees an attractive picture of the future of the organization and their place in it and provide the rationale why certain goals have to be pursued.
  • Give your employees interesting and meaningful work that challenges and vitalizes them. This work should require them to do things differently, with more risk and uncertainty, which gets them out of their comfort zone.
  • Set stretch goals for your employees and give them more responsibilities and freedom to schedule their own work, while including the possibility of setbacks that they will have to overcome.
  • Provide your employees with the possibility to get into contact with the beneficiaries of their work, i.e. the customers, so they can see the results of their work.

So the big question is: how do you inspire and motivate employees to achieve extraordinary results? Do you have more ideas and tips?

In What Makes a High Performance Organization: Validated Factors of Competitive Advantage that Apply Worldwide, I will publish many more interviews and cases about inspiring your employees!

André de Waal, PhD, MBA, MSc, is Academic Director of theHPO Center, an organization which conducts research into high performance organizations. He is also Associate Professor of High Performance Organizations at the Maastricht School of Management, guest lecturer at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Erasmus University Rotterdam, and visiting fellow at Cranfield University (United Kingdom). André has conducted several years of scientific research, examining 290 international studies and analyzing studies in 50 countries involving over 1,470 profit, non-profit and government organizations.
  • Jump Rewards

    Great post!  Too often managers put their employees into two groups: those who get results and those who don’t.  There’s potential in virtually everyone, and the key is to draw out that potential. The employee who doesn’t get results may feel a lack of motivation.  Perhaps their efforts have been overlooked. 
    We all want to hire the “go-getters”, however, even the most driven employees can lose their motivation or become disengaged.  A good manager will put into practice some of the suggestions you made in this article. 
    For more suggestions, take a look at this whitepaper: Engaging Generation Y: 6 Building Blocks to a Motivated and Happy Workforce http://www.jumprewards.com/resources/white-papers/ 

  • http://www.humanrhythms.co.nz/ Mark

    Great article – for me, it seems we are painting a picture of the difference between leadership and management.

  • Ltilley

    Great post. Love It – key word “Inspire”

  • polarise

    There is something sleazy about inspiring employees *after* the company has started. Shouldn’t the inspiration reside in the vision that the organisation sets out to accomplish? The only reason a company should exist year-after-year is that it meets a real need in an a sincere manner. Anything else is sophistry and keeps pumping air into the bubble that the company represents. This is part of what makes working for many corporations such a painful experience because it takes several years to finally realise that the company is not sincere and that it is a waste of everyone’s time.