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DISTRIBUTED: How to Spark Self-Motivation in (Almost) Any Distributed Employee

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For countless decades, psychologists, geneticists and armchair scientists have debated about the impact of nature vs. nurture on human behavior. Although some research suggests characteristics like self-motivation and ambition are strictly inherited, we believe environment can also play a significant role in these traits. So while you may not be able to teach self-motivation to your team members, you can take steps to light the spark that already lies within…

โ€œAmbition is energy and determination,โ€ Dean Simonton, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis said in a TIME article. โ€œBut it calls for goals too. People with energy but no clear goals just dissipate themselves in one desultory project after the next.โ€

Light That Fire

Weโ€™ll be the first to admit that some employees just arenโ€™t as driven as others. But when a remote worker seems to be completely unmotivated, itโ€™s not necessarily his fault. He may be waning because his manager has failed to set clear expectations and deadlines for him. Often times, a little guidance is just the spark that an employee needs to light his fire.

Here at Intridea, if we notice a team member is fading, we make sure to give them explicit instructions and explain theyโ€™ll be held accountable for the quality of their work. By the same token, when an employee produces top-notch work, we shower them with praise.

We also ensure our employees understand their performance is measured by the actual work they produce; not the number of hours they work. Weโ€™ve found that newbie remote employees are often accustomed to the brick-and-mortar style of work, where clocking in and clocking out each day is good enough. Since thereโ€™s no need for a distributed worker to โ€œshow upโ€ at an office, itโ€™s all about the results they produce.

This is yet another reason to hire plenty of SMAIPs (Self-Motivated, Autonomous, Inquisitive People) for your team. (We discussed these highly desirable employees in our last two blogs.) These go-getters often serve as an inspiration for seemingly apathetic co-workers. No matter how indifferent they may seem, unmotivated employees will sit up and take notice when SMAIPs are consistently praised for their superior workโ€”and this could be just what it takes to kindle their self-motivation.

Reignite Workers with Motivational Phrases

Whether youโ€™re trying to motivate or congratulate employees, itโ€™s important to choose your words wisely. Here are a few phrases we at Intridea use to push team members to try harder or praise them for a job well done:

  • โ€œI know youโ€™re capable of more than this.โ€
  • โ€œIโ€™ve noticed you havenโ€™t been turning in your projects on time. Are you having any issues outside of work?โ€
  • โ€œIn the past month, your work hasnโ€™t been as high quality as what I usually see from you. Is there something blocking your way?โ€
  • โ€œIโ€™ve noticed youโ€™re falling behind on your projects. Can I help you prioritize?โ€
  • โ€œI can see youโ€™re swamped. How can I help?โ€
  • โ€œThe work you turned in on Monday was spot-on. Great job!โ€
  • โ€œIโ€™m proud of you. Keep up the good work!โ€
  • โ€œThanks for all your hard work. I really appreciate your efforts.โ€
  • โ€œWe couldnโ€™t have done it without you!โ€
  • โ€œAwesome job on that project! How did you do it?โ€

With the right words, plenty of encouragement and a clear set of goals, we believe you can inspire self-motivation in virtually any employeeโ€”even those who work from home in their PJโ€™s and fuzzy slippers.

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