5 Ways to Motivate Your Employees This Summer
5 Ways to Motivate Your Employees This Summer
by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
A few years ago, one of us (Chester) was coaching his son’s basketball team of 10 and 11 year olds. The team started the season by coming up with a list of collective goals including ‘We never criticize a teammate’ (after all, no one intends to mess up), ‘Everyone cheers’ (on the court and on the bench) and ‘Everyone scores’ (much more interesting than ‘Everyone plays’).
One of the team’s less-coordinated players was James, freshly emigrated from England. James had never played a game of basketball in his life. Without assistance, or a stepladder, he had little chance of scoring a basket, so Chester assigned his talented point guard, Patrick, the task of helping James succeed. “A great point guard makes others better,” Chester explained to Patrick. “And if you can help James score a basket, then you are really good.”
Patrick had benefited from experienced coaches to guide his practice, and now was ready to use his abilities to make his teammate successful.
Finally Patrick fed James the perfect pass and the young Englishman hit a shot. The team and stands went wild. James’ mom after the game had tears in her eyes. She was unable to express more than a simple, “thank you.” Neither mom nor son would ever forget the moment, and neither would Patrick, the point guard who made it happen. In that moment, he experienced the highest form of success: lifting yourself
by lifting others.
Leadership is about moments like this. It’s about making everyone around you better.
Let’s face it though; summer is a challenging time for every leader. Some employees can become distracted, leave early, spend hours planning vacations or weekend activities, socialize. This is the time great leaders step up and find ways to inspire, not require.
What follow are just a few ideas we’ve seen used by managers we’ve studied to keep employees motivated over the summer months. By no means is this an exhaustive list, just a few thought starters:
1. Appeal to their core motivators
Our employee Rachel had been with our firm for only seven months when we asked her to take the CEO of our parent company through a new training program our team had developed. She later admitted that she thought she was being given an
unpleasant task that we didn’t want to do. But as she began preparing for the presentation over the summer, she became increasingly excited about the opportunity. “I was being given the chance to present to the CEO—how many new employees get to do that?” she said. For Rachel, the presentation proved to be a great way to
engage her as she thought about it and prepared. Why? Because we knew one of her core motivators was “ownership,” another was “learning.” We wanted to her to feel a sense of ownership in the task, to push herself and learn something new, and Rachel got to see how much her work was valued by senior leadership.
2. Make a little noise.
Summer is a great time to introduce new traditions that you might not try at other
times of the year. One of Microsoft’s divisions once told us that every day in the summer they enjoy a game of “3 O’Clock Rock.” Every afternoon at three it’s someone’s turn to select a song from their digital collection and crank it up for all to hear. Teammates know that if they’ve got a phone call, they need to wrap it up before the 3- or 4-minute music break. Everyone stands up, sings along if they know the words, laugh, and relax while getting a glimpse into the personality of the song
3. Create a new award.
Employees at Budget Rent a Car in western Canada told us that late summer months of August and September are their busiest and most stressful months. So they
decided to see who could be the happiest person each week. At the end of each day employees’ cast votes. On Friday, the winner found balloons and other prizes at his or her desk. Employees said it helped morale and got people’s mind off the pressure they face. A happiness award might not work in your team, but summer is a great time to introduce a fun award that fits your culture and values.
4. Recognize their family.
We were in Michigan speaking to the leadership team of an automotive supply company. At one point, a vice president told us she recognized the families of employees who worked especially hard in the summer months. For example, she said, “Recently I had a team who had to work late for several weeks straight to put in a new software system. It was hard work, and I appreciated their great work. At the end of the period, on a Friday afternoon, I sent everyone’s families flowers and a specific note of thanks.” When one employee showed up for work on Monday morning, the boss asked him, “So, did your family get the flowers?” He nodded. “Yep. Now my wife wants me to work even harder for you.” Recognizing the families, spouses, partners or even
parents of your co-workers for their sacrifices is undoubtedly one of the most powerful (and largely untapped) motivational tools we have seen.
5. Let’s get physical, physical.
We’ve all told ourselves the same thing: If I only had an extra half hour a day I could lose this butt/gut. But time is precious before and after work to get the lawn mowed, dine with the loved ones, catch a ball game or so on. And America’s Got Talent isn’t going to watch itself, now is it? So, what’s the answer? Invite your team in thirty minutes earlier than normal two or three times a week over the summer to allow time for a walk or jog. Hold each other accountable by setting team goals for time spent working out, weight loss, or whatever goal you want to hit.