Why It’s Always Easier (and Better) to Motivate Without Money

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Aug 18, 2010

Money is the easiest and least personal way to motivate people (if you have money). If you don’t, you need to get down to the real business of making people actually care about what they are working on.

In any economy, it’s important to focus on the non-financial motivators for three key reasons.

  1. Those are always within your control.
  2. They work better than money – people work for meaning, not money.
  3. People stay loyal with or without money if you bother do to this.

Here are some basic things I have found that work wonders for motivating my teams:

  1. Remove uncertainty about the work. The biggest de-motivator you can have is when people don’t know exactly what to work on or why it matters. Make sure you keep people engaged in meaningful work, and always connect the dots of why it matters. Just because you are waiting for answers from above, don’t keep your team waiting. Never pass uncertainty downward.
  2. Communicate a lot, on a regular cadence. Clear consistent communication from above is a magical motivator that so many leaders miss. You get huge points for leadership and credibility when you communicate well. People are always more motivated to work for people they know and respect, than invisible, or checked out leaders. Even if you are not checked out, if you fail to communicate regularly, you will appear to be checked out.
  3. Don’t guess what people care about, ask them! Personally ask each person that works for you. You’ll be amazed at the answers, and how many things you can do without money that will make a material difference to them.
  4. Say “Thank You.” Create a habit in your organization to recognize contributions. Don’t over complicate it with processes, nominations, reviews, and spreadsheets. Just make it clear to your staff that you want to know when anyone in your organization does something remarkable, and then have one of the executives say, “thank you.”

I’ll talk more about each of these and share some great stories about what really works (and what really pisses people off) in my FREE Webinar: Motivating Without Money on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

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