Removing Motivational Barriers

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely experiencing a bit of spring fever these days. The sun is out, the days are getting longer, leaves are appearing on trees, and I find myself sitting at my desk itching to get outside.

Granted, a little spring fever is really just a minor hindrance if that’s the only factor dragging down your level of motivation at the moment. How motivated you and your staff are at work on average is a much more complicated topic than just getting outside for a while. There are lots of great ideas out there for giving yourself, and your staff, a motivational boost.

But what if increasing motivation is less about adding to the level of motivation and more about removing barriers that might be blocking it? What if we can look for obstacles that are actually tamping down motivation and simply remove them?

A lot of what gets in the way of motivational energy is unique to our individual temperaments, inclinations, strengths and weaknesses.

If you know from experience that you’re at peak focus and creativity later in the day, it would behoove you to do what you can to avoid a role requiring to put your best foot forward every day at 6am. Likewise, if you really hate math, there’s not much in the world that will motivate you to go back to school and get an accounting degree.

Figuring out how to support our own motivation through understanding our strengths and mitigating our weaknesses is a personal journey that’s largely our individual responsibility. As leaders, the best thing we can do to encourage the development of intrinsic motivation is to support personal and professional development in as many ways as we can.

However, all the intrinsic motivation in the world won’t do us much good if the environment in which we work actually hampers our ability to be fully engaged or committed to doing good work.

Below are four common barriers that are within our power as leaders to remove from the work environment, thus liberating motivation and maximizing engagement:

1.Not listening. Not being listened to is frustrating in the least and completely demotivating at its worst. When people continuously feel that they are not being heard, the result is indifference, hostility, miscommunication, misunderstanding and repetitive errors.

Research shows that the average person remembers just 25% of what they hear. Developing the skills to listenreally listen – is not only the mark of a great leader, but will strengthen have a huge influence over the motivation of those around you.

2. Fostering confusion through lack of vision or clear purpose. A compelling vision is the cornerstone of every decision and the direct link between actions and strategic goals. When people feel connected to a clear, purpose-driven vision for why they come to work every day, actions and decisions becomes fueled with the motivation to support that reason.

The failure to create a defined vision leads to motivational barriers such as lack of focus and coordination, haphazard planning, and uncertain criteria for success and promotion.

3. A general lack of trust. Is it even possible to work hard for someone when you don’t trust them? I doubt it. Environments lacking trust and integrity lead to resentment, uncertainty, stress and defensiveness. As a general rule, employees and consumers want to invest their time and money in organizations that put a premium on truth and transparency.

As leaders, we must be forthright with sharing the truth about the organization’s current reality and where it’s heading. We must remove situations where our staff is shut-out from the truth, doing what we can to allow them to see how their work is a key contributor to that growth.

4. Lack of recognition, appreciation, and showing others that they matter. If you don’t feel that the work you do is valued and appreciated, it’s pretty hard to not feel apathetic, resentful and powerless. As leaders, it’s important to celebrate achievements and encourage a culture of gratitude.

In particular, cultivating a deep sense of gratitude can have a tremendously positive affect on motivation. Look for opportunities to recognize your people and reward their performance, even by just saying, “thank you.”

Regardless of whether your organization is large or small, how motivated your people are to come to work every day and give it their best is a huge contributor to success. It’s important for leaders to be aware of the level of engagement, understand the reasons behind a general lack of motivation, and do what it takes to eliminate barriers.

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.


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